Music may be Marc Scherer’s passion, but it’s not the only way he makes a living.
For Marc Scherer, life has always been about timing. It’s been about meeting people at the most opportunistic time. But there have been some misses along the way, too. Scherer is the type of person who makes the most of every chance he gets.
It started when he was 14. One day, he was riding in the car with his sister’s friend, and he started singing along with the radio. Blown away by what she thought was pumping through the speakers, the friend turned down the volume and discovered the velvet tones were coming from her passenger.
“That was you?” she asked Scherer.
She rushed Scherer over to the house of a friend who just happened to be looking for a singer for his band. “I found your guy,” she said as the group was rehearsing in the basement. Scherer was hired on the spot.
The rest, as the saying goes, is history. Scherer had found his calling. “It didn’t take me long to realize that I liked all the attention I got performing on stage,” he says.
Scherer grew up in the Chicago area but moved around during his early years. His parents and immigrant grandparents lived in Bellwood, but Scherer also spent time living with grandparents in Arkansas and for one year stayed with cousins in Freeport, Ill., before coming back to Chicago and graduating from Proviso West High School. These days, Scherer lives in Gurnee.
Scherer was on the fast track. At 17, he became the lead singer for LoveCraft, a label-signed psychedelic rock group from Chicago. “We played all over Europe and the U.S. in the late 1970s and ’80s, opening for legendary acts like Jefferson Starship and Pink Floyd,” he says. “It was psychedelic rock meets power pop rock.”
Since then, he’s worked on album projects with some of the most talented people in the music industry, including Jim Peterik of the Ides of March, formerly of Survivor and of 38 Special fame.
When LoveCraft broke up, Scherer turned to another passion – designing award-winning jewelry – that eventually became his full-time job. “Early on, it was a way to pay the bills,” he says.
It turned out Scherer was as good at designing jewelry as he was belting out songs, so he opened his own jewelry store. Scherer started designing pieces for celebrities he met along the way, including Peterik, who sports a Marc Scherer original necklace featuring an ancient walrus tooth ensconced in silver. He also dons a serpentine snake ring that is big enough to “put an eye” out. “He’s very talented,” says Peterik.
Over time, word spread about Scherer’s talents. He’s participated in competitions with designers from around the world, and his work has been on display as part of a collection at The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. These days, Scherer works for MJ Miller & Co. in Barrington.
“I was an overachiever,” he says. “I’ve always loved music, but when I was young I spent my time dreaming about rocks and fossils. I’d find a beautiful gem inside, and now I make pieces for celebrities and movie stars. I’ve been fortunate to live out two of my dreams.”
Musically speaking, Scherer says he’s mostly self-taught – sans a few private voice lessons from a professor at Elmhurst College. Asked about that experience, Scherer jokes, “On an amplifier, that training went out the window.”
“I can’t lay claim to studying a life of music,” he admits. “Training is a two-edge sword. First, it depends on who does the training. It gives you control and power but can constrict you in a certain way. You have to paint within the lines. The key is training your ear and learning to breathe. Whatever I have is a gift. Over time I’ve asked really big-name singers like Bill Champlin, from the band Chicago, ‘What do you think? Should I get voice lessons?’ They say, ‘Don’t change anything. You’ve got it.’”
While mastering his jewelry designs, Scherer never strayed far from his gift for song and eventually found himself back in the recording studio where, every few years, he would run into Peterik, who owned the recording studio where Scherer was working.
Peterik remembers an even earlier encounter with Scherer. “He was always showing up at our Survivor shows,” Peterik says. “He said if you ever need a singer, let me know. He wasn’t shy about it. He sent me a tape of his band, and I said, ‘Is that you?’ I was blown away.”
Scherer picks up the story from here.
“Years later we bumped into each other on various studio projects,” Scherer says. “He kept asking for my phone number and promptly lost it twice. Many years later the drummer from the Lovin Spoonful suggested we use Jim’s studio for a project called ‘Arc of Ages.’ Jim popped in and asked if he could borrow me for an album he was working on, and he asked me for my number again. I told him he already lost it twice so he should give me his. He did and he invited me to his World Stage show, during which we firmed up that album.”
“That’s true,” Peterik admits. “Every time I wanted to find his number it was gone. But I got to settle the score and work with Marc many years later. It just goes to show that it’s never too late.”
Throughout his legendary career, Peterik has always had a knack for finding great vocalists, and he’s worked with some of the best – Jimi Jamison, Toby Hitchcock and Sammy Hagar to name a few. Scherer, he says, is right there with the best of them.
“With some singers the voice just rings and you can’t put your finger on it,” he says. “Some have mush mouth, and you can’t understand the lyrics. With Marc you understand every lyric. When he sings a Jim Peterik song it blows my mind.”
Peterik started writing and producing Scherer’s debut album, “Risk Everything” which was released in 2015. Reviews were favorable, describing the album as both Survivor-inspired and Styx-influenced.
“‘Risk Everything’ has brought out some of the finest songwriting of Jim Peterik’s phenomenal career, enhanced by Scherer’s powerful, off-the-chain, melodic rock tenor,” wrote one reviewer.
Scherer and Peterik not only have synergy but a mutual admiration for each other’s work. Scherer calls Peterik a friend, mentor and sounding board. “Marc is like a brother to me,” adds Peterik. Scherer says working with Peterik has made him a better singer and writer.
Peterik thinks so highly of Scherer he brought him along as a special guest of Pride of Lions (a Peterik band) when they headlined at Frontiers Rock Festival II in Milano, Italy, a few years ago.
“I see Jim as the conductor of the orchestra,” Scherer says. “He hears the violin, the bass, and he wants it in a certain way, in phrasing and such. His ear is tuned to clean tenor voices. It’s a real blessing to work with someone of his stature.”
In 2013, Scherer and Peterik teamed up on a song called “Newtown (You’re Not Alone),” an emotional tribute to those impacted by the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The song was recorded at Peterik’s Burr Ridge studios. Scherer co-wrote the song and sang lead vocals with Peterik on guitar and backup vocals. Joe Jammer, who’s a studio guitarist for Mick Jagger, Joe Cocker and Ringo Starr, also played guitar for the song. All proceeds from song downloads went to United Way’s Sandy Hook School Support Fund.
The song moved Scherer because he had two young children in school at the time and they appeared in the video.
“It was a heartfelt thing,” he says. “We were in Jim’s home studio, and he just came in, sat at the piano and we wrote this song. Sometimes there are things in the news that just move you. Jim said, ‘I have this idea,’ and in typical Jim Peterik fashion it came together quickly. No grass grows under his feet.”
The duo paired up again a few years later on a second album that Peterik co-wrote and produced. “Battle Zone” features Scherer on vocals and Jennifer Batten on guitar. Batten is a highly regarded guitarist best known for her work with Jeff Beck and the late Michael Jackson.
“The best part about the project was getting a call from Marc not long after I did the first sessions in Chicago,” Batten says. “He told me he felt my playing on the record felt like another voice, so he wanted me to be a bigger part of it. It was the least amount of stress I’ve ever experienced doing a record because I didn’t have to make a million decisions like I do on my solo records.”
“I really love Marc’s voice,” she adds. “I’ve had sessions where the quality is all over the map, but when I heard Marc’s voice and the quality of the song writing, I knew I’d have to bring my A game. I am partial to singers with a higher range. It really stands out as more powerful in the mix.”
While there has been much success along the way, there have been missed opportunities at the same time. There have been instances where, with a break here or there, Scherer’s career might have taken another turn. When Survivor was looking for a replacement singer, for example, there were rumors that Scherer could be that guy. Instead, they hired Jimi Jamison.
“Sure, my career could have gone in different directions,” Scherer says. “But now you’re looking in the rearview mirror instead of looking ahead. Survivor would have been a great one. My voice would have fit. But they ended up with Jimi, one of the best voices ever. Maybe I would have been more financially stable in Survivor, but maybe something bad might have happened, too. Jim and I have reconnected and done some great stuff together. There’s always a chance for something else.”
Being a musician during a global pandemic hasn’t been easy. Touring acts have had to find other creative ways to earn a living over the past 1 ½ years. Fortunately for Scherer, his full-time job has kept him on solid ground.
“COVID has changed everything,” he says. “Luckily, I’ve had this balancing act between music and jewelry. While it’s been a slow time for music it’s been an important time for designing beautiful jewelry. I’ve been fortunate to find a kind spirit in Mike Miller, who is one of the most prominent high-end luxury jewelers in the country.”
Away from work Scherer, who is divorced, spends much of his free time with his two teenage children. “Family is important to me,” he says. “I’m blessed to have extended family – my musical friends, my jewelry friends – who have all touched my life in so many ways.”
While he doesn’t currently have a band, Scherer still gets called for a recording session here and there. He also works to stay healthy and keep in shape. “It’s not a rock ‘n’ roll story but you have to do certain things to continue singing.”
Scherer doesn’t know when the next door will open, but he’ll be ready when the time comes. Both Peterik and Batten are open to working with him on future projects.
“Music is like the mob,” Scherer jokes. “You think you’re out, but not really. It kind of pulls you back in. I stopped thinking about music as a source of income. It’s just something that I love to do.”