Belmont University student Reese Marshall, 22, was resigned to learning to play the guitar his parents gifted him when he was just 7 years old.
However, a California family vacation one summer and a little encouragement from a famous relative to play drums changed the course of Marshall’s musical journey by the time he was 10.
“I met him and was kind of star-struck for the first time,” Marshall said of meeting Travis Barker, most notably drummer of rock band Blink 182 turned producer. Marshall’s uncle on his mother’s side is married to Barker’s sister.
“But he was super cool with all of us. He really encouraged me to get started on drums,” Marshall said.
After heeding Barker’s suggestion, the Indiana native has become a pro himself behind the drum kit, playing with local alternative punk rock band Sugar in the Gas Tank, although Marshall reveals that he doesn’t really enjoy the limelight that comes with being on stage. The good-looking and well-spoken student will try and convince you that he’s actually bashful.
The four-piece band is made up of Belmont students.
Marshall, an audio engineering major, and Luke Dapuzzo, 20, lead singer and guitarist, formed the Nashville-based band in 2019 after the two students met at orientation. Marshall was in the gym playing air drums when Dapuzzo invited him to talk about forming a band.
“Do you want to start a band?” Dapuzzo asked Marshall. The two hung out and quickly realized they had similar interests in music, from bands such as Green Day and Blink 182 to various pop punk bands.
“I’m not really a drummer, but I agreed to it,” Marshall said. “I love music, I love writing and creating music, but I just don’t like the attention that being on stage brings.”
Except for Marshall, all the other band members are music business majors. Completing the quartet are lead guitarist CJ Christianson, 20, and bass player Jack Samter, 20.
When the guys were ready to start staging concerts, the coronavirus pandemic interrupted the launch of their live shows. Within two months of forming the band, Sugar in the Gas Tank moved forward with the release of its 10-song debut album, “Here’s to New Beginnings,” in March 2020.
Marshall, who has a creative hand in the band’s songwriting process, said the group’s sophomore project is just about ready to be released. The lead single from the project, “On My Own,” is already amassing big streaming numbers and excitement with fans and local radio support, gauging from online chatter.
After crowd mandates lifted, Sugar in the Gas Tank hit the road, touring regionally, playing in clubs for enthusiastic crowds and opening for established national touring acts as well. Its first official gig as a band was at The End, a venue on Elliston Place near Belmont’s campus.
The guys kicked off their live shows after the shutdown with a performance at Belmont’s Battle of the Bands in front of the biggest assembled crowd for the event, the band said. Most recently, Sugar in the Gas Tank played in front of a sold-out crowd when opening for The Offspring at Brooklyn Bowl, a newer concert venue downtown.
“We’ve been pretty much booked up and have been asked to open shows for well-known acts and even headline our own concerts,” Marshall said. “I thought it would be a fun little hobby to do on the side, but it quickly became our primary focus along with school.”
Come January, Marshall will take a break from the band and school for a year when he deploys to an undisclosed location with the Army National Guard, a special branch of the military he joined as a high school junior. He signed up for a six-year contract, completed advanced individual training and will be a specialist rank responsible for transportation logistics.
“I’m excited, it’s a cool opportunity. But, at the same time, it kind of sucks because the time that I’m leaving, everything is starting to take off in my life. Leaving that behind and not know what I’ll be coming back to,” Marshall said.
He’s discussed his pending absence with the band members, and they have found a substitute backup drummer. Time will tell if the position remains available for Marshall when he returns from duty.
“If it works out for the replacement drummer and they want him to stay, then that’s great. I just want to be a part of their music, engineering and producing them and writing for them. I don’t want to ever completely depart from the band,” he said.
Marshall’s decision to join the Guard was twofold. He figured it was a great way to pay for his college education. Seeing his parents already burdened with college loans for his older sister and brother, Marshall couldn’t imagine adding his tuition debt on them. He’s known his destination was Nashville ever since, as an 8-year-old, he Googled “best music schools” and picked Belmont over UCLA.
Although he did not attend college on the West Coast, Marshall knows he will eventually end up working in Los Angeles. With an audio engineering degree, he knows his goals are endless in the music business.
He has a head start, already completing engineering and mixing internships at Barker’s Calabasas, California-based DTA Records recording studio and Blink 182 producer and Goldfinger member John Feldman’s Foxy Studios, working with popular acts such as Blink 182, Korn and Machine Gun Kelly.
Meantime, there’s still time to catch Marshall playing with the band. Sugar in the Gas Tank will headline a show Oct. 20 at The End, and play at Badfest Music Festival on Saturday, Oct. 30, at The End.