Johnny Marr has spent years playing guitar as a hired gun for acts The The, Modest Mouse, the Cribs, and, most recently, Dinosaur Jr., but now the former Smiths guitarist is finally releasing his first solo album. The Messenger is due in February 26, 2013 on Sire/ADA and is described in a press release as "Marr’s musical vision exactly as he imagined, featuring his signature guitar and vocals front and center on a sound which mixes elements of angular art rock, indie and rock n’ roll."
“The underlying idea of the record is my experience of living in Britain,” Marr said in a press release. “When you’re away from your home city you’re more compelled to write about it, whether that’s because you’re homesick or you’ve got more objectivity, I don’t know. Growing up in the city influences you, and as I’ve grown older I’ve continued to see beauty, energy and stories in it.”
The former Smith wrote, produced, and mixed the album himself, relocating from Portland, where he's been based since 2005, to Manchester and Berlin to record. Frank Artwright at Abbey Road Studios, who worked on the Smiths’ box set Complete, remastered the album. The complete 12-song track list is not yet available, but Marr recently described the song "Lockdown" as being inspired by English seaside towns such as Rhyl: "I read a snidey book about the worst places to live in Britain and Rhyl was in it," he said. "I thought the author misunderstood those places so I tried to imagine what it would be like being somewhere like that on a cold Wednesday night in November."
In an interview with the NME, Marr admitted the collection is a bit overdue: "It is late in the day to be making my debut," the guitarist said. "I didn't want to be in someone else's band at this point. In the past I might have been reluctant to stand up front, and I've been lucky enough to be in bands with great singers, so it wasn't necessary. But this is my band now, and the frontman in my band has to play guitar. I do both."
Marr was recently honored at the 2012 Q Awards, where he was dubbed a Q Hero. When talking to the Sun, Marr said of the distinction, "It's nice to be liked — I've been in a couple of rooms where people who I really respect have got awards like that and I've been happy to stand up and applaud it. To be on the receiving end of that is pretty cool."