Kevin Duffy: Marcus Tracy out to conquer the field of music

It's weird to hear Marcus Tracy talk about "making it" because, let's be honest, he already has. It's weird to hear him in the background because he's spent his life in the forefront.

It's weird to hear him say, "There are thousands of people out there doing what I'm doing," because, this whole time, Marcus Tracy has done things few ever could.

And it's funny to hear this: Shawn Melton, a music production student at Berklee College of Music in Boston, took online courses with a classmate named Marcus Tracy.

"I didn't realize it was him at the time," Melton says, "but I actually played him on FIFA for Playstation."

Yes, Marcus Tracy is in a video game. Yes, he was an All-American soccer player at Newtown High in 2004. He was the Final Four MVP and the National Player of the Year at Wake Forest. After a stint in Denmark, he was a steal for the San Jose Earthquakes in an MLS lottery that saw eight teams vying for his rights.

But none of that has to do with Marcus Tracy The Musician. He's an athlete AND a musician, not an athlete trying his hand in music. It's an important distinction.

"I don't know if I exactly fit that stereotype of someone who's randomly trying to jump into rapping," Tracy says. "Music is something I've been doing my whole life."

We'll start with Marcus Tracy The Athlete, among the most prolific in Connecticut's history.

At Newtown, Tracy was all-state in three unrelated sports -- soccer, basketball and track. His 400-meter dash times, after a single spring of training, were a few seconds shy of Olympic level. His college soccer teammate at Wake Forest, Sam Cronin, once told ESPN that Tracy's "athleticism is unparalleled, really."

Following college, Tracy inked a three-year deal with the Danish Club Aalborg BK, where, quickly, his unparalleled athleticism was limited by severe tendinitis in both knees. He had three surgeries, and didn't play a team game from Nov. 2009 to May 2013, his debut with the Earthquakes.

This is where music comes in.

While sitting out, Tracy had more free time than he ever wanted, and he had enough money to pay for online classes. He enrolled at Berklee, completing five 12-week online courses to earn a professional certificate in music production. It was the next step in a venture that began a decade ago in Newtown.

"It was fun starting out," Tracy says, "and we realized how cool the creative process was."

Midway through high school, Tracy joined up with his older brother, Ryan, and his best friend, Anthony Santella, to form a group called "Nonymous." They all brought years of musical experience -- Tracy on the piano and saxophone, his brother on the piano and trumpet, and Santella on the trumpet, too. They made original beats -- mostly hip-hop and electronic -- and rapped.

The group still exists today, but with each member in a different corner of the country, it's difficult to collaborate. So Tracy, living in San Jose, recently launched a solo project called "Touch Ethos." His soccer training typically goes from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30, giving him ample time to pursue a passion that, he hopes, can become his post-soccer career.

Santella calls his stuff "soulful." Melton calls it "real," a reprieve from the "lyrical garbage" that sells.

"He's got a gift, man," Melton says. "I hope he's able to use it."

To be clear, Tracy is not a rapper, although he can rap. He just doesn't love doing it. He prefers working behind the scenes, sculpting the "emotional timeline" of a song, delving into the music creation process. That's where he belongs.

He can't truly categorize himself as a producer, his beats ranging from hip-hop to electronic to orchestral. He can say, though, that his songs are driven by emotion, reflective of "Ethos," a Greek word for the "guiding beliefs" that characterize a community.

"Being able to capture an emotion or convey emotion, that's what music is all about," Tracy says.

Last December, days after the Sandy Hook shootings, Nonymous sought out local artists Courtney Preis, Rob Frangione and Joe Greenfield, teaming up for the an original tribute song "We'll Be Alright." The track opens with Barack Obama's speech over a beat that captures the mood, and continues with Preis' lyrics, "What do I see? The world that I've known falling out from underneath."

"It was very real, the way the whole thing came together," Tracy says. "Everything that went into it -- the sound, the message -- it was all just very organic."

Tracy has always had a "deep, worldly view," Santella says. He's an exception to the athlete-to-musician stereotype, perhaps because he became a musician around the same time he became an athlete. And curiously, he never uses his name in athletics to market himself musically.

He's not Marcus Tracy The Producer. He's Touch Ethos.

"I think he wants to prove himself in a different forum," Santella says, "and not just get recognized because he's a pro soccer player."

This next phase of Marcus Tracy's life will be about proving himself. After a three-year absence from organized soccer, his knees aren't quite 100 percent. His speed, that unparalleled athleticism, isn't quite there yet. This season, he's appeared in just five games and hasn't scored.

So Marcus Tracy The Athlete, at 26 years old, has a little ways to go.

It's funny: Tracy never dreamed of becoming a pro soccer player, never considered it a real possibility until his sophomore year of college. He played for the same reason he played sax and piano -- he liked it. He was just dominant at Newtown, which led to a scholarship to Wake Forest, which led to a pro contract in Denmark, which led him to San Jose today. That's the progression in sports.

In music, nothing is linear. The grind can pay off any day or last forever.

"There are thousands of people out there doing what I'm doing," Tracy says. "It takes some luck. You have to not fear getting yourself out there. You have to hope that the right eyes or ears fall upon your work and give you one small opportunity and hopefully the recognition will lead to something else."

Tracy chuckles, wishing there was a more straightforward answer, a clearer path to defying astronomical odds in two separate worlds.

"I mean, that's really it," he says.; @KevinRDuffy | To listen to Tracy's work, visit and