Marc Martel is the lead singer of Queen Extravaganza, the brainchild of Roger Taylor (Queen drummer.) Currently, they’re on tour-performing ‘A Night At The Opera’, on par with being the official Queen tribute band. Here, Marc took time out to answer a few of our questions-with a little help from Jordy Van De Bunt (Queen facts-click here to view) and Amanda Perkins. Their questions are highlighted in blue.
Hello Marc,Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Growing up, did you want to be a musician?
Yes. I discovered that I was good at music very young, but I never thought it was a reasonable thing to pursue as a career because I didn’t know anyone personally who was doing it for a living. It wasn’t until my 3rd year of college, when I started my first band, that I realized music could be something long-term for me.
What was the first record you bought?
First record I ever bought with my own money was Milli Vanilli “Girl You Know It’s True” in 1989, on cassette, when I was 12. The irony is not lost on me.
How did you audition to become part of Queen Extravaganza?
I auditioned like all the original members did – through an online competition held by Roger Taylor and his team. There were 3 stages to the audition. For the first two, I submitted a video of me singing a Queen song (Somebody To Love, and Crazy Little Thing called Love). Once I was chosen as a finalist, I was flown out to L.A. for the 3rd and final stage of the audition, where I met Roger for the first time. Around 25 musicians were chosen for the final audition, and they split us up into different “bands,” taking turns performing in front of Roger, his manager Jim Beach, and Queen keys man, Spike Edney. The final lineup was announced a few days later in December, 2011.
How did it feel to be directed and produced by Roger Taylor?
For me, the main thing is that it gave a stamp of legitimacy to what we are doing. As an artist, I honestly never imagined myself being in a tribute act, but if I ever were to join one, it would have had to be Queen. When I first looked into the contest, it was clearly a very official thing, which I thought made it different. Roger made it clear that he wanted this to be unlike any tribute act around. If anyone knows what a Queen show should look like, it’s the actual members of Queen! In the beginning, Roger was very intentional about the QE being a modern homage to the music and career of Queen – not an imitation – and I could easily get on board with that. There would be no dressing up in costumes or wigs or pretending to be Queen. We were asked to be ourselves, bringing our own personalities to the show, yet still remaining painstakingly faithful to the music and spirit of Queen. Also it was hilarious to see Roger react with uncontainable joy whenever we would get something spot-on in rehearsals!
Has it been at all intimidating, being a part of the official Queen Tribute band?
Not really. It was a little nerve-wracking the first time performing in front of Roger, of course. And I know Queen fans are very serious about there favourite band, and that it’s a very high standard to live up to. But as a musician, I think you reach a point in your confidence where you decide either you can do this, or you can’t. Maybe it’s because I’ve been doing this for long enough where I’m confident in my ability. Also, Roger and the team have expressed time and time again how pleased they are with how things have come together. As long as they are happy, it’s hard to feel intimidated in front of any crowd. The great thing about the QE is that we in the band are portraying ourselves as fans of Queen as much as anyone coming to see the show. So it really feels like we are, in a sense, in the same boat as our audience every night.
Have you ever found yourself wondering how far Queen Extravaganza would go?
Yes. At the beginning, especially. There was a sense of newness and expectation, but wondering if it would be one tour, and then done, and wondering how it would be received by fans. But we’ve since proved ourselves time and time again, and every one of the 120+ shows we’ve put on so far has been a huge success. The sound we bring as a band is unmatched. We sound like Queen. We have the best musician for the job in every position – and we have a blast performing together. I hope this keeps going on for many years as a part of Queen’s true legacy.
What is your favourite thing about being able to perform for a living?
It is quite a thing to entertain and play music for a living. I cherish that and do not take it for granted. My favourite thing is the wide scope of experiences I get to have by traveling all over the world, seeing places I would have otherwise never seen, and connecting with new audiences every time we get on stage. It is a rich life, in the sense that I’m privileged to get a wide view of this world’s diversity, and yet get to see people of all walks of life come together every night and unite under one sound. Pretty rock and roll, if you ask me.
How did it feel in the beginning when you first started Queen Extravaganza versus how you feel about it now after touring the world?
At first it felt like this huge carnival of new experiences and new people. The band and the show looked a lot different back then. We came out of the blocks well-rehearsed with a huge, bombastic show, and it’s been quite a journey to get to where we are now as a band. The idea at first was for the QE to be a multi-vocalist band with 2 guitar players to replicate Queen huge harmonic vocal sound, as well as Brian May’s complex guitar layers. But during the first tour, Roger realized that the musicians he hired were even more capable than he’d originally believed, and that the show might be even more impressive with less musicians covering more ground. So a lot more harmonies were assigned to our instrumentalists, instead of having extra lead vocalists on the road. It really feels like a proper, seasoned rock band at this point, and we feel comfortable in front of any size of crowd, no matter where in the world.
How do you feel about how far Queen Extravaganza has gotten through the years?
I’m super proud of how far we’ve come – especially as this current formation. I had very few expectations at the beginning. I was just honored to be a part of something so cool, having no idea where it would take me. We’ve been to 3 continents so far, and are about to hit our 4th, Australia, in October. We’ve won over crowds – not to mention skeptics – all across the globe. We’ve come a long way since our very first show in Quebec City in 2012. So far it has been a great ride, and I’m always looking forward to the next tour.
Can we expect an extravaganza of a performance?
That’s the plan! Every time. Come to a show, and come say hi afterwards and let me know if it was a big enough extravaganza for you!
Are there any plans for a Queen Extravaganza tour album?
Not that I know of. Our goal is to really shine a spotlight on Queen’s catalogue and career. They’ve done all the recording for us already! The QE is really about the live experience.
Do you have any plans for a solo album?
I actually have a new album out right now that is available on iTunes. It’s called “Impersonator.” (Yes, that is tongue-in-cheek.) All original songs. And there’s lots there for Queen fans to sink their teeth into.
For anyone who wishes to follow in your footsteps, do you have any advice?
I’ll say what I always say to someone who dreams of doing what I do. Bloom where you’re planted. It’s easy for us musicians to get disillusioned and discouraged when we don’t initially reach the goals we dream about. But if you look hard, I promise you can find opportunities all around you to perfect your craft. Practice. A lot. Get out there and put in the time, even if it’s a small coffee shop, or friend get-together, or regularly posting YouTube videos. And maybe most importantly, keep friends who aren’t afraid to tell you the truth about what you’re naturally good at, and what needs work.
On that note, I’m off too book tickets to see Queen Extravaganza-see if they are as big as an extravaganza as they say! (I’m sure they are-they’ve proved it time and time again.) Thank you very much Marc, for answering questions for the three of us! (To book tickets, click here.)