In 1999, Marc Velasco sent Sony Music Philippines a 10-song demo and completely forgot about it. Despite the record company’s desperate efforts to locate him, Marc had virtually disappeared. Two years later, Perf De Castro, album producer, walked into the same office, and announced “I’m producing this album for this guy… “
Marc knew at age eight that music was going to be his life. He was prodigious on the guitar and piano at age 10. This phenomenon he thanks his genes for. “My father not only played guitar, he also played and made his own flute. Everyone sings and plays an instrument. Hindi uso sa amin ang karaoke.” he laughingly states. At age ten, he performed at an Easter party sponsored by a local hotel, where he won prize money- and free entrance to the hotel swimming pool for one year. To the ten-year old, the latter meant more.
Born 02 June, Marc epitomizes a true Gemini—the childlike and mischievous appearance, the intense gaze suddenly turning to joyful banter, plus the snappy repartee of pure wit. Typically Gemini, he is the rare breed of both art and science.
Undeniably a consummate artist, Marc is a whiz kid of equal proportions. Graduating salutatorian of the Ateneo de Zamboanga grade school class got him a scholarship to the prestigious Philippine Science High School, where he spent three years of test tubes and lab rats sans music. Called home by the illness of a dear aunt, Marc returned to the arms of his alma mater, landing in the Berchmans Honor Class Batch of 1982-83. Garnering an NCEE score of 99+% made him a member of club 99.
At the age of 17, he became High School Assistant Prefect of Discipline. Having earned a degree of AB-Economics from Ateneo de Zamboanga, he continued with Ateneo de Manila extension classes where he finished a Mass Communications-Journalism degree.
Though he discovered he could write songs at fourteen, schooling and science placed music on a space warp. However, Marc has once again been prolific after going back home.
In college, he played snare drums then saxophone for the Ateneo Brass Band. In his late teens, he sported waist-length hair and played in a folk-rock band called “Camerado” which even became locally famous.
Having done the rock-star act, Marc then yearned for a wider version of music. His search would introduce him to fusion. “Jazz is more complicated. It presents more challenges. It is very technical and dynamic” he says.
His musical influences are eclectic- Kenny Rankin, James Taylor, Joe Satriani, Sting. The list continues with Al Dimeola, and Jimi Hendrix—with Tito Mina and Bong Gabriel. Freddie Aguilar, Pinoy music local icon, is not just a fan of Marc’s but is instrumental in the latter’s decision to supplant himself in Manila, Their great friendship started during a show in Zamboanga, where Marc front-acted for the other. “Actually, the first song I wrote that was recorded was “TAMA NA”, sung by Freddie, ”Marc says.
In 1990, Marc was a finalist in the first Earth Day Song Festival with ”Right After the War”, music and lyrics he wrote himself. An album featuring the ten finalists was recorded and produced by the Pambansang Koalisyon ng Musikong Pilipino (PAKOMPIL) Artist Foundation, which was released in Europe and Japan. Marc became PAKOMPIL’s membership committee Officer-in-charge in 1991.
Musical productions also play an influential role in his art, having written and produced and performed in a number of them. Playing session guitar to some local bands, like Advent Call, After Image and to solo performances of Coritha, Wency Cornejo, and Lloyd Umali, has enabled Marc to explore and help cultivate the rich and developing future of Pinoy music.
Marc chose the album songs out of “over a hundred” he has penned. And though he admits having gone a few months without writing a single song, most of the time the spark of inspiration just gushes in. Not surprisingly, Marc always packs his performances with torrential impromptu jams.
Marc never envisioned himself as a recording artist. Currently ensconced in the midst of Sony Music Philippines marketing blitz, Marc has retained his self-depreciating sense of humor. He sees his album simply as a vessel by which he can deliver his art. The artist-songwriter-singer-musician can actually be humble-never mind that his carrier single, “TANGING IKAW”, is a masterpiece of artistic proportions. And if you’re in a good mood, consider “PAGKAIN”, the album’s first track as food for thought.
Of the album, he says “all the songs have been pre-tested”. When I perform them during shows, they elicited the best reaction, the greatest emotion from the audience. They tell me what they really liked. The choices are impeccable, sparing Sony Music the task. Apparently, radio stations think the same, with K-LITE, DWLS, and DWTM according the first single very encouraging airplay.
The songs ANGEL, SWEET GRACE and CANTANIMINI are simply beautiful. ANGEL is one of the album’s surprises, a laid-back standard jazz tune, so unbelievably heavenly. CANTANIMINI, originally written in English,. features a mean harp. Sung in Pilipino, the lyrics simply transcend the music. Marc Velasco’s music is as vast and encompassing, rich and masterful in Pilipino, as it is in English.
“Every mix on the album, every song, I argued with Perf. “Clash talaga kami!”. Basically, I was the problem when it came to production. He really pressured me into perfection.
Marc, who prefers to be called a folk-singer, lives the life of a true-blue troubadour. Traveling across the globe has expanded his vision, nurtured his empathy with people, strengthened his socio-political convictions, purified his view of the world, and glorified his existence as a human being. Everything in him just harmonizes beautifully into music.