Conversation Starter: Chuck Marshall Unites Local Music Community on "Fans With Bands" Podcast
For Chuck Marshall, a regular morning routine inspired a new creative pursuit.
“I really wasn’t on the podcast train until the pandemic came," said Marshall, who works in IT at Michigan Medicine. "I started thinking about how I couldn’t go to shows and how it was fine for me to be talking to a band and asking them questions, but wouldn’t it be fun if fans could chime in with questions or be there and listen?
“The pandemic kinda helped with that because we were using Zoom, and I was like, ‘Oh, I could do a Zoom with this person.’ I realized Zoom records separate tracks of audio, so I could clean it up and get it all nice.”
With Zoom at his disposal, Marshall launched Fans With Bands, a podcast that brings artists and fans together to discuss music, life, and other topics. The goal is to create an engaging platform for sharing stories and building a sense of community within the local music scene.
“It’s helped give a better sense of [artists] as people as opposed to it just being, ‘Hey, I met you at this show, and I enjoy your music.’ Instead, we’ve been able to actually have a conversation with them and get some of their background,” said Marshall, who celebrated the podcast’s one-year anniversary in October. “I try to make it super-light by asking things like, ‘Hey, what was your first album?’”
To date, Marshall has released about 40 Fans With Bands episodes featuring Laith Al-Saadi, Judy Banker, Warhorses, Recorruptor, The DayNites, and other artists. Most episodes include fans alongside Marshall asking questions about band origins, current releases, live shows, and favorite pizza toppings.
“I kinda rely on the bands to go and encourage their fans to call in. Some people aren’t as comfortable talking and just want to listen, and that happens quite a bit,” Marshall said. “Some fans are super-engaged, and it’s almost like family reunions. We have bands with fans who are actually family across the country, and they go, ‘Oh, we can talk to these people.’ That’s really fun, too.”
Marshall’s latest episode features Detroit blues-rock quartet The Lucid Furs, who discuss their new album, Damn! That Was Easy, along with their most recent tour, childhood elementary school experiences, and favorite brownie ingredients. The band first appeared on the podcast in January.
“They’re very appreciative of the local scene and the other bands that make music with them, plus the people that support them," Marshall said. "They’re really talented, and I think they’re doing the work that they need."
Marshall also notes the amount of work it takes to schedule, record, edit, and release each Fans With Bands episode. He balances a busy podcast schedule with photographing live shows, writing for his Life in Michigan blog, and contributing articles to other national music publications.
“I had to tee up all these interviews and had no idea how much work it was going to be," he said. "It was this whole learning experience to get the interview set up, run the interview, get it ready and get it onto the podcast service. At first, I was like, ‘I’ll do one every week,’ but I’ve quickly gotten into one every other week or maybe one every three weeks.”
Outside of his podcast, Marshall is a musician and longtime music fan. After growing up in Detroit and Pinckney, he started playing guitar at age 18 and formed the metal band Battalion in 1989. The group disbanded several years later, but Marshall continued to jam with friends until developing tendonitis in his hand.
At that time, he switched to live music photography and launched the Life in Michigan blog with Brenda Sodt Marshall in 2010. For more than a decade, the pair have captured their statewide adventures at local shows, breweries, festivals, and parks. They’ve also documented some national and international travels.
“We just wanted to promote our state and share what we were doing,” said Marshall, who’s inspired by Elton John, Black Sabbath, and Iron Maiden. “It’s been this huge vehicle for us to meet other people and put some of my love of music in there. Brenda wanted to write, and I wanted to take photographs, so we combined forces and started from there.”
With a growing blog and podcast following, Marshall will continue focusing on both projects in 2022. He’s also working on new Fans With Bands episodes that will spotlight Detroit metal acts Salvation’s End, Theandric, and 1000 Yard Stare.
“Ultimately, the long-term goal is to integrate Fans With Bands with Life in Michigan, so you can get to either one from a website standpoint. We’ve started the second season, and we’ve got a bunch of bands coming up that we’ll be talking to,” Marshall said.
“Every couple weeks we want to get a new episode out, keep spreading the word, and hopefully, people will listen. If nothing else, it’s just fun to talk with these guys.”
Lori Stratton is an Ann Arbor-based writer and editor of strattonsetlist.com.