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Kerry “2 Smooth” Marshall Jr.

The Man Behind the Music & His Keys to Success

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Playing  guitar since age 11, Kerry “2 Smooth” Marshall Jr. always dreamed of playing in the big leagues. Mission accomplished: on Monday, September 21st, he leaves for Dubai to play as the lead guitarists for superstar Jason Derulo. The two just returned from MTV Royal Stage Live in Malaysia and Kerry is set to play alongside Ledisi during the month of October. Do not be deceived, Mr. Marshall is not an overnight sensation; he has spent the past few years playing for mega superstars like Tyrese Gibson, Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child, Raheem, Chrisette Michelle, Leela James and more. So what are his secrets of success?

  • Prayer:  Always pray and seek God for any decision you would make
  • Dedication: Kerry, who has played since age 11, is a perfectionist at heart. He studied other artists and always looked for ways to perfect his craft. After receiving his first taste of what it was like to play professionally, he used that to motivate him to pursue his dreams.
  • Believe: know that you can make it work; believe in your ability. A lot of people will tell you no, to let the dream go and get a regular 9 to 5.
  • Have a financial plan in place before making your big move: success does not happen overnight; the larger the stage/playing field you envision, the greater the difference between the life you have and the one you strive for.

Kerry received a call several years ago to play on the BET awards. He was told that if he moved to Los Angeles (L.A.) things would really take off for him. Yet, the culture and living expenses were vastly different between Birmingham AL and Los Angeles. (In Birmingham, he played a gig and got paid; in L.A. he had to wait for invoices which could take several weeks.) Despite his talent, network and vision, Kerry knew that he would fail without a solid financial plan to sustain him while he built a media buzz in L.A.

All it takes is just a few minutes talking to Kerry “2 Smooth” Marshall to see why he is in high demand: he understands the business.

If you don’t take care of the business of music, you will be a good musician just singing at the house. That is why you hear a lot of great local artists and wonder why they haven’t made it big. It is not all about playing; it is a business and you have to look at the full 360 spectrum. You must please your audience, listen to what they like, see what your clients want–if it is just you, you must do the work even if it is exhausting.

The days where you just get picked up on Youtube and have success are gone out the window. Musicians are everywhere: there is always someone that looks like or sounds like you. If they don’t know you, they can go with someone locally and get them up to speed. How do you stand out? It doesn’t take a weird hair color; it could be something as simple as professionalism or being on time, or knowing the material when you come to rehearsal (instead of learning it). Personality wise, how do you gel with others on the team? The higher the level of success, the less it is about your talent but how well you get along with others.

A long time ago his Birmingham mentor asked him: what’s the difference between you and any other guitar player? He couldn’t answer that; he immediately thought about the superficial but his mentor told him you have to think deeper than that. His mentor eventually shared the  answer: there is nothing; if you don’t brand yourself, you are no different than anyone from across the world–you are nameless.

Thinking about what he said, Kerry started using his childhood nickname-2 Smooth–to brand himself. He realized he was a product like Coke: Coke is everywhere; you might not like it, but you recognize it when you see it. He started creating Youtube videos; playing catchy songs he thought people liked and asked people to share them.

Best lesson learned: remember, they can’t see your vision; if it is your vision, keep working at it. Don’t exhaust yourself by trying to tell or sell them the dream–just live the dream. If you see one person do it, believe you can do it: what makes them better than you?

When I thanked him for taking the time to share his story and words of inspiration, he returned the sentiment and ended with may you be blessed in everything you touch, think about and set our mind to do. Kerry “2 Smooth” Marshall Jr.: not only a gifted and talented artist but a true class act.

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