Johnny Marr is an English guitarist, keyboardist, harmonica player and singer, and is best known as the man behind the music of The Smiths. In 2006, Marr became a member of Modest Mouse.
Like many Mancunians – including his bandmates in The Smiths – Marr is of Irish Catholic descent; his parents emigrated from County Kildare to Manchester in the 1950s. He attended St Augustines RC Grammar School, which then merged with other schools to form a Comprehensive School. Marr started out as a football player, being approached by Nottingham Forest F.C. and also having had trials with Manchester City F.C., whom he supports. In an interview with FourFourTwo magazine, Marr said that “I was good enough for City, but they didn’t follow up because I was probably the only player out there wearing eyeliner.”.
In 1982, Marr began writing songs with Morrissey, after they formed The Smiths. To complete the lineup, they recruited Mike Joyce on drums and Dale Hibbert on bass guitar. After two gigs, Hibbert was replaced by Marr’s friend Andy Rourke. By then, Morrissey had dropped his first name and Maher had changed his name to Marr to avoid confusion with the Buzzcocks drummer.
Having achieved commercial and critical success with landmark albums such as The Queen is Dead, The Smiths were soon stars in the UK and Ireland, but did not have the same degree of success elsewhere.
2014 saw Johnny Marr enjoy a rapturous start to his solo career following the critical acclaim (including the honour of being named as NME’s Godlike Genius) that greeted his Top 10 debut solo album ‘The Messenger’. His shows were celebrated for his ability to combine the best of his new material with select highlights from The Smiths plus others from his extensive back catalogue.
Johnny Marr’s upwards trajectory continued unabated with the release of his second solo album ‘Playland’ (October 2014) on Warners. Work on ‘Playland’ commenced in London in Spring 2014 as soon as the year of touring in support of ‘The Messenger’ had come to a close. It found Marr continuing the creative connection that was forged on ‘The Messenger’ with collaborator and co-producer Doviak as well as the other musicians who had performed on the album and accompanying tour.
As Johnny states: "When The Messenger came out I kept on writing. I liked that the band had a momentum going on tour and a connection with the audience, and I thought that energy would be good to capture on the new record."
Written around a common theme of “songs that move at the speed of life,” ‘Playland’ captures much of the spirit that made ‘The Messenger’ so memorable with energetic, post-punk songwriting complemented by Johnny Marr’s characteristic guitar style, thought-provoking lyrical ideas and poised vocal phrasing. "It's important to sound like your environment and on this record that's London and Manchester,” he adds. “The feeling of the cities and the people make it into the music."
Johnny Marr’s highest profile performance of 2014 came when he performed at the New York premiere of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. His contributions to the film’s soundtrack (scored by Hans Zimmer) included a songwriting collaboration with Pharrell Williams, while he also performed the closing credits theme song ‘It’s On Again’ with Alicia Keys and Kendrick Lamar on New York’s The Tonight Show.