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Marc Norman kicks his muse into overdrive

Chris Hansen Orf

Get Out Magazine, November 10, 2005

November 10, 2005

Marc Norman knows he looks like Christopher Knight. The Tempe singer/songwriter is a dead ringer for the former “Brady Bunch” kid and current reality-TV boob, and he doesn't exactly discourage the mistaken identity.

He was seen accepting compliments at a wedding in Malibu, Calif., recently, although he declined to discuss his “former acting career” with the guests assembled, citing a “difficult childhood” for not dishing on his fellow “Brady” kids.

“Hey, man, whatever works,” says the ebullient, energetic Norman of the misguided recognition. “Any attention is good attention, right?”


Norman, a wildly prolific songwriter who fronts at least three Valley bands — the great Ghetto Cowgirl, Velvet Elvis and Marc Norman and The Saboteurs of Musical Integrity — never figured he'd become a musician while growing up in the wealthy L.A. suburb of Palos Verdes.

“I grew up a totally spoiled brat,” Norman laughs. “I only became poor when I turned into a musician — that's when it turned around for me. Then I understood what Top Ramen really was.”

He became a musician while he attended Arizona State University (“It always starts as majoring in business and ends as a communications major for people like me,” he laughs) and spent time in the clubs that once housed the venerable Tempe music scene along Mill Avenue in the early 1990s.

“I saw the Gin Blossoms play in what was once Chuy's,” says Norman. “And in that moment, seeing (then-Blossoms guitarist Doug) Hopkins playing with such fury and vengeance, he's the one guy who's responsible for me becoming a musician — not the Stones, not the Beatles — Doug Hopkins.”

Norman, a self-confessed jock as a kid, was a closet drummer before seeing Hopkins and the Gin Blossoms and deciding to form a band and step out front on vocals.

“I had opera singers on both sides of the family, and I couldn't figure out why I didn't sing, because everybody in my family sang,” Norman says.

“What it is with most singers is fear — it's like you sing perfect in the shower but you can't do it in front of anybody, and that's the fear. I was driving back and forth from L.A. a lot singing with the radio, and one day I was just singing and hitting notes, and then I was over the fear.”

With no band experience, Norman quickly put together a group called the Hatfields, then began to see success on the Tempe scene with his next band, Sledville. With the subsequent Ghetto Cowgirl, Norman became one of the best frontmen in Tempe, his frenzied stage presence and booming voice making the band a must-see live act, and the two CDs the band recorded were met with critical acclaim. Norman's tune “Same Sad Story” charted at No. 43 in Get Out's Top 50 local rock songs of all time earlier this year.


Norman had the foresight a few years ago to realize that TV and film was a good way for an indie band like Ghetto Cowgirl to get their songs in front of the public, and now the songwriter can live off royalties without having to toil in a day job.

“I got ‘Breathe' into ‘One Tree Hill,' ‘Thing Like That' got into ‘Summerland,' and so did ‘Don't Care,' and then I got ‘Rock Pig,' ‘Thing Like That' and ‘Excuses for Losers' into that movie ‘Good Advice' with Charlie Sheen and Rosanna Arquette — dude, that movie was on Cinemax today,” Norman laughs. “It's been on a zillion times — I've been getting royalty checks on this for, like, two years. When it was on today, I was like, ‘There's another $32.50!'

“The major (labels) used to charge up the (expletive) to use their songs,” Norman says. “So I got Ghetto Cowgirl songs in there, but now the majors are practically giving their stuff away, so you really have to catch a show on the way up. I don't think I could get Ghetto Cowgirl into ‘One Tree Hill' now — it's too popular.”

Norman's film and TV work had him spending time in L.A., where he hooked up with Gin Blossoms member and L.A. resident Jesse Valenzuela, and the two began working together on a record.

The EP features Norman and Valenzuela's terrific vocal harmonies, and it's the jangliest work Norman has ever recorded, eschewing Ghetto Cowgirl's patented crunch pop in favor of a smoother, almost alt-country feel.

“I was back in L.A. a few years ago and Jesse and I started writing songs and recording them,” he says. “He got back with the Gin Blossoms and got really busy, so I told him I was going to release it as an EP and he said, ‘Yeah, right on.' I'm really very pleased with it.”


Always a prolific songwriter, Norman has been on a tear of late, even writing eight songs in one night for a new band he's starting called, appropriately, Straight 8.

“I was wanting to start something called Straight 8, and I was thinking, ‘What if, in 24 hours, I could pull off eight songs?' ” Norman says. “I just kept going and I got to four, then I had to hit the hay, then I got up and did the other four.

“The last one, I had fifteen minutes left before the 24-hour deadline, and I wrote it in 13 minutes. It was like, ‘I'm on a tear, this song is filler, three-chord killer,' and the song kicks ass,” Norman laughs. “I got it all done on deadline.”

Norman even put aside his aversion to day jobs when he took on the role of creative director for February's “Rock 'n' The Seas” concert cruise from L.A. to Ensenada, Mexico, grabbing Valley bands such as the Gin Blossoms, the Black Moods, Ghetto Cowgirl and the Pistoleros as well as national acts such as the Tubes and former Valley singer/songwriter Stephen Ashbrook to perform on the cruise.

“That's gonna be unbelievable,” Norman says of the event. “We've already sold out of the executive suites and the second tier of suites.
“There'll be a waiting list to get on for sure as we get closer.”

Marc Norman and the Saboteurs of Musical Integrity CD release party
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Where: Monkey Pants Bar & Grill, 3223 S. Mill Ave, Tempe
How much: Free
Info: (480) 377-8100