Grammy® nominated arranger/composer Carl Marsh has been an integral part of the North American recording industry for over 3 decades. He began his musical career at the age of five on piano, adding bassoon, recorder and guitar by age twelve. By the time he reached the age of twenty he was proficient on over thirty instruments.
Carl’s early influences were eclectic: Blood Sweat and Tears, Charlie Patton, Maurice Ravel, The Beatles and Nat King Cole. He developed his pop abilities by playing in some of the most popular bands in Memphis, Tennessee , where the blues and R&B are staples of everyday life.
Carl’s classical life as a bassoonist was marked by numerous early awards, climaxing in 1972, when he was tapped to study with Bernard Garfield, principal bassoonist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Almost simultaneously, about 150 miles away in New York, he was being signed as a recording artist (vocalist) to Arista Records in New York by the legendary Clive Davis.
This musical “cross-training”, a three-way simultaneous development of classical, pop and rhythm and blues, began to develop into its own unique style....a style that began to find success in the studios around town. This ability to draw from pop, rhythm and blues and classical roots continues to give Carl’s work a richness and depth that is uncommon in music today.
Around that time (the 70s) in the Memphis studios, he worked for Steve Cropper (“Sittin’ On the Dock Of The Bay, In the Midnight Hour, Knock On Wood”), and Leon Russell (Mad Dogs and Englishmen). During later years in Memphis he arranged and played on thousands of recording sessions, putting his touch on every genera imaginable: pop-rock-r&b-blues-dance-folk-world-classical. He had become a sought-after keyboardist/arranger, a musical chameleon who was completely at ease on a wide musical playground. At the legendary Ardent studios, Carl was an integral part of the 3 highly acclaimed albums recorded by the seminal american rock band Big Star. Other clients were R&B notables The Staple Singers, Sam and Dave, the Bar-Kays and folk/country artist John Prine. As an outgrowth of his success in Memphis, other paths followed: in Los Angeles there were projects with José Feliciano, Johnny Mathis, Tom Jones,The Temptations and Mel Torme. In Muscle Shoals he recorded with the famed Muscle Shoals Rhythm section and the legendary James Brown and Isaac Hayes. In London he played and wrote for Joe Cocker. In Montreal and Paris his clientele includes the Cirque du Soleil, Diane Tell, Roch Voisin and Axel Red. For his work with Canadian Artist Jim Corcoran he has won numerous awards, including a Felix (french Canadian Grammy) for Album of the Year (1984) and a Juno Award (Canadian Grammy) for Francophone Album of the Year (2006).
Based in Nashville since 1986, Carl has expanded his client roster for his string and orchestra arrangements to include such country artists as Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, Trisha Yearwood, Wynonna, Vince Gill and Willie Nelson. On the rock side, he has been an integral part of the success of ZZ Top in the late 80s and early nineties, and has contributed to projects of REM, Bonjovi and Bad Company.
In the area of Contempory Christian Music Carl’s client list is a veritable who’s-who, starting in the 70s with Degarmo and Key, Petra and Twila Paris and continuing up to the present with Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Mercy Me, Third Day and Point of Grace.
At the same time that Carl has been active as an arranger/orchestrator, he has also been successful as a songwriter. Once again his songwriting credits are eclectic :the seminal New Orleans funk band The Meters, the legendary R&B duet Sam and Dave, and Multi-Platinum artists The Spinners, ZZ Top, The Jeff Healy Band and french artist Axel Red.
It has been said that there is a certain “sound” that one can find in Carl Marsh’s orchestral arrangements, from the simplicity of his string quartets to the grandeur of his arrangements for 80+ piece symphonic orchestra. Some of his clients say that his writing makes an orchestra “groove”. Others say that his orchestras “rock”. No doubt this is from the extensive development of his eclectic roots. Whatever this attribute is, it has contributed to over 200 Gold and Platinum records, and numerous Grammy® nominations.
At present, Carl is regularly writing for, and working with orchestras in Nashville, Montreal, Prague and London, and frequently conducts his arrangements for orchestra in the famous Abbey Road studios.
The 2000s find Carl Marsh as active as ever in the North American music scene, As a composer he has recently had works premiered by Orchestra Nashville, and as an arranger/conductor for some of Nashville’s best known artists his works are performed by orchestras across North America.
Even with all his accomplishments, he still loves to reach out for new musical experiences. When asked what continues to keep his orchestrations fresh and vital, Carl cites his curiosity, which has always driven him to better understand the emotional language of music, and which constantly challenges him to keep exploring the possibilities of the modern orchestra.
For more credits please see Carl’s Discography page.