A 25-year-old blues-loving Englishman, Marcus Foster does not fall into the key demographic of fans of the "Twilight" supernatural romance franchise, most of whom are teens and almost all of whom are women.
He has found his life affected by the series, nonetheless. Four years ago, when "Twilight," the film based on the first book in author Stephenie Meyer's series about teen vampires and werewolves in the American Northwest, premiered to rapturous audiences, no one was more surprised than Foster to hear "Let Me Sign" on the soundtrack. The song was co-written by the then-unproven Foster with mates and fellow aspiring British troubadours Bobby Long and Robert Pattinson, the film's star.
"That was actually a bit of a joke," says Foster, a little reluctant to discuss his high school friend Pattinson or the song, sung by Pattinson in the film, that has grown beyond his humble intentions. "It wasn't like a serious song. ... Robert, for whatever reason, liked it and took it and made it into a serious song, which sounded great. We didn't even know it was going to be in the movie."
Foster still finds himself a part of the frenzy surrounding all things "Twilight." The tabloid media were abuzz last month when Pattinson and his co-star and assumed girlfriend Kristen Stewart were spied on a rare public date at Foster's Hotel Café gig in Los Angeles. But in the years since his sudden and unplanned thrusting into the spotlight, Foster has proven himself as an artist who doesn't need famous friends or mega-franchises to get his voice heard.
Following a threadbare American solo tour in the wake of "Twilight," Foster signed with Communion Records, the Geffen imprint of Mumford & Sons' Ben Lovett. Last fall, Foster released his debut full-length, Nameless Path. Since then, through appearances at South By Southwest and his recent shot on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," audiences who have never heard of Bella and Edward, the star-crossed protagonists in "Twilight," are slowly discovering him.
"People find me in lots of different ways," says Foster, whose current tour with another Brit and "Twilight" songwriter, Sam Bradley, stops tonight at Minglewood Hall's 1884 Lounge with an opening set by local Anne Schorr of Richard James & the Special Riders.
People who discover Foster often are surprised by what they find. Belying his own roots, Foster draws heavily on American blues and soul with a touch of Tom Waits thrown in.
Foster grew up in London, the son of an artist father and a doctor (though still creative) mother. Beginning piano lessons at 7, Foster developed antiquarian tastes at an early age, graduating from the Beatles and Dylan to the darker, more complex material of Waits, the sunshine harmonies of the Andrews Sisters, and the spiritual fervor of Arkansas' Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
"I listened to a lot of gospel music," he says. "When I was quite young, I became obsessed with old music and always trying to search and find new sounds. I think it's important for me to know as much as I can about the music that's gone on in the past because it was so good."
Though his sound is not as brooding as "Let Me Sign" might lead listeners to believe, those different textures give Foster's songs a distinct cinematic quality befitting an artist who put his music career on hold to finish his master's degree in art. Foster has shown his sculptures in several international shows and likes to fill the long stretches on the road by taking artistic photographs.
He is taking lots of pictures on his current tour, which spans the entire country to promote Nameless Path as well as a new limited-edition EP, available only at shows, called In the Town. After returning to Europe in the early summer, he hopes to return to the United States to cut another EP in Nashville and record a gospel record with Irish singer-songwriter Foy Vance in New York.
"Then I want to spend the next couple of months traveling around and writing songs," Foster says. "I get very inspired when I'm over here. So I might find a little room somewhere and write my next record here. Maybe in Memphis."
Marcus Foster with Sam Bradley and Anne Schorr
9 p.m. Friday at 1884 Lounge, 1555 Madison. (inside Minglewood Hall). Admission: $8, advance tickets available at minglewoodhall.com. For more information, call (901) 312-6058.