In the music industry, there tends to be a lot of politically correct talk in how artists handle themselves; meaning what songs they think will chart, how should they should conduct themselves socially, etc. But, you will find certain artist that really don’t follow guidelines to how they should be musically and just enjoy actually performing and being themselves. One that instantly comes to mind is Mark Allan Atwood. Atwood, who definitely doesn’t hold back on issues whether it’s Dallas Cowboys football, the music industry, or whatever is on his mind at the time. Atwood is just a regular guy, with absolutely no overblown ego, who makes his fans a part of not only his shows but his everyday life.
Mark Allan is truly the definition of a regular Joe and also is one of the best singer/songwriters this state has ever seen.
Let’s get to know the man himself..
1-Tell us a little bit about who you are.
MAA: Well that certainly depends on who you ask. Just a overgrown kid from Ennis, Texas, raised on good music and blessed with a voice by his mom, and the gift of gab, who’s lifelong love affair with singing and writing has led him to make a half-assed living at both. And a parent to a wonderful child, who loves me unconditionally, despite me not making enough money to shower her teenage self with goodies.
2-How did you decide to give music a try?
MAA: I’ve been singing as long as I can remember. My mother was a classically trained opera singer who even sang with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Music has been part of my life since I can recall. My mom, my father and my grandmother were all gifted writers. They were my influences in that regard. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do (except play quarterback for the Cowboys and be a championship caliber Formula One driver)
3-Who were your musical influences growing up?
MAA: Far too many to mention, if I were to try and list them all. But, some of the early highlights were Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, B.W. Stevenson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Guy Clark, Janis Joplin, Elton John/Bernie Taupin, The Stones, The Beatles, Led Zepplin, The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Browne.
4- Can you tell the fans about your musical style?
MAA: Well, I can try. I really don’t know what the hell to call my work, as far as genre classification goes. It’s definitely got touches of rock and country influences, as well as folk sensibilities at work in the lyrics. My pal, and gifted songwriter, Mike Ethan Messick, once called my music “Arena Honk.” I dig that. It fits.
5-How do you like to interact do with your fans?
MAA: If I was considerably higher on the food chain, it might be different, as those cats are so constantly bombarded by requests for their time, that they struggle to catch a breath of peace alone. But as a decisively D-List Texas artist, I enjoy, and have plenty of time and opportunity, to visit with and demonstrate my genuine appreciation for everyone who takes part of their busy lives to help support me. I am truly blessed in that department.
6-What was the first song you ever learned?
MAA: To sing all the way through, “500 Miles,” off the Peter, Paul and Mary Live album. To play on guitar and sing, Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.”
7-Can you tell fans what they should expect when attending one of your shows?
MAA: Now this question is easy. Yes, I can, happily. They can expect to hear a few hopefully funny jokes, songs about real life and real people and the real life consequences of the choices they make, a small number of covers, but each one being a song that is important to me personally, and they can expect someone who is as honest in his music and he is capable of being.
8-What is the one song that you love to perform live?
MAA: Well, to be truthful, if it’s a song I don’t love performing live (even if I wrote it) I just don’t do it. But if I had to pick a favorite, I’d give you three answers. “Ghost,” because it’s everyone’s favorite, “Strong Enough,” because it’s the best song I’ve ever written, and whatever is the newest one, because I need the practice.
9-Do you prefer to play small venues or bigger venues?
MAA: No actual preference, as each show, each crowd, and each room has it’s own unique vibe. I can say, however, that I’ve had just as much fun this past year, playing sold-out 2,000 seat theaters as I’ve had on a stage in a Stockyards honkytonk in front of seven people on a Sunday afternoon. If you only play where you’re comfortable, and you give a different effort in front of six people than you would in front of 6,000, you’re cheating yourself out of the experience. I try to never cheat myself out of experiences.
10-If you could perform with anyone right now who would it be?
MAA: Willie, Kris, Jackson and The Boss. I’ll open. For free. Set it up.
11-What is your process for picking songs that may go on a album?
MAA: I let Adam Odor do it. Is there another way? I keed, I keed. No, but really…..Seriously, for me an album is a journey, not just a collection of songs all thrown together to make enough minutes of music to call it a full-length album. If it fits, it goes on. If it doesn’t, it won’t. There have been examples on all four of my albums of songs that I originally planned to put on them, that didn’t MAA 5make the cut. Some have appeared on later records and some are still waiting for the right fit.
12- Do you write your own material?
MAA: Yes, I do. The vast majority of it, in fact, for better or worse. Most of it I write by myself but there are also a few wonderful co-writes. Although it’s important to note that on the last album two of the four radio singles, all of which have had some modicum of chart success, were written entirely by friends (One Horse, by Heath Childs and Crazy About Me, by Mike Ethan Messick), which has never happened before. Hey, a good song is a good song. Also, 2014 was the year of the co-write for me. I wrote many songs with many other talented songwriters that will all be included on my next album (which is scheduled to start recording the day after my next mega Lotto win).
13-What inspires you to write a song?
MAA: Not trying to sound trite, but life. Every single aspect of it. The sound of my tires on the asphalt on a hot day when the radio is off and the windows are down, can (and has) led directly to a melody line. But not as poetically, so has the sound of a dryer. A gorgeous view. A witty quip by friends or family. A bolt of lyrical magic out of the clear blue. The news. My worldview. The world view of others. Never limit your sources of inspiration.
14-If you could record one song what would it be?
MAA: By someone else? Well, I’m dying to record Willis Alan Ramsey’s “Ballad of Spider John” and Guy Clark’s “Dublin Blues,” both of which I frequently play live, at acoustic shows.
15-When making your first album did you try to pattern it after any particular album you have heard and blend it with your own style?
MAA: For many years, in a lot of different studios, I recorded songs here and there, or pieces and parts for others, or even EPs and demos with former bands of my own back in the day, but my first full-length solo album was one helluva learning experience. I didn’t pattern it after anything, but I was going for a particular sound (think 70’s cosmic cowboy, Texas outlaw country type stuff) and I think we nailed it. It contains a few warts, as many first albums do, and isn’t exactly how I would record those songs now (sonically speaking, as well as arrangement wise), but overall I stand behind it 100%.
16-Is there one artist that you are a current fan of?
MAA: No, not one. A freaking ton of ‘em. There’s some bunk, cheesy junk infiltrating the Texas Country scene these days, but there are also some seriously-talented songwriters putting out some epic music on this scene. And no, I won’t give a public list of which ones are which. I will say if you were to buy the recent albums by Courtney Patton, Josh Grider, American Aquarium or Turnpike Troubadours, you would be doing yourself a favor.
17- Are you signed exclusively with anyone right now?
MAA: Not exclusively, no. I have been a friend and client of Dillon Steen’s, on the booking side of Steen Entertainment, for many years, and remain so to this day. These days, I am primarily associated with the chock-full of talent roster at Texas Tones Entertainment, owned by Candice Wagner. TTE also handles my radio promotions and my management. I am also a booking agent for other TTE bands.
18-What would you say is the biggest highlight of your career thus far?
MAA: Man, I tell ya, I’m damn near embarrassed by all the highlights I can lay claim to. It’s blind luck, I’m sure. There are a ton of people way better than I am, who aren’t as lucky, but are even more deserving. I’m not stupid, nor ungrateful, and I’ve been at this long enough to know how fortunate I am to have had even a slice of what good I’ve stumbled into. From the amazing writers I got to hang with when I was getting my start, to opening for some of the biggest names in rock in the whole world, to getting compliments as a writer from people I don’t feel worthy to compare my work to, to sitting around in a room all night jamming with THE best guitarist on the planet, to playing sold out big venues, to being lucky enough that one of the best humans on earth, Walt Wilkins, calls me a friend, I am truly a blessed individual. Music and the people who make it, have been very good to me. The bad ones, (and there’s been no shortage of those) notwithstanding. 🙂
19-Where can fans go to find out more about you?
MAA: There’s the obligatory website, www.markallanatwood.com, plus I’m all over social media (again, for better or worse).
20-Where can fans purchase your music?
MAA: All the usual suspects (not one interview passes ever, without at least one Casablanca reference), like CD Baby, Amazon, iTunes, Rhapsody. But, if you want to really support Texas music and the people who make it, and those who support the people who make it the most, I suggest MyTexasMusic.com and LoneStarMusic.com
21-What is on the horizon for you?
MAA: I would LOVE to release two albums in 2015. I have a full live album with Brimstone in the can and enough tunes to get a new studio album out. Also, the new act, Atwood & Nunn, which my longtime bassist and friend Matt Nunn and I started at the end of 2014, is really taking off and I am looking forward to big things in that format in the very near and long-term future.
Folks. let me tell ya’ll this man has talent that should be mentioned in the same sentence as Walt Wilkins, Guy Clark, Kris Kristofferson. Ya’ll get out and catch Atwood/Nunn or Atwood solo, and I guarantee you will be hooked. — Will McPherson