We all have met people who have made a significant change or occurrence in our lives; as for me, one of those people was Mark A. James. After meeting him at just thirteen, he was an artistic inspiration by introducing me to new music and life concepts. We grew up together at a time of constant change; within ourselves and around us. 5 years later, it is an honor to be able to interview and write about him as a songwriter and musician.
When I first met Mark he had long dark hair past his shoulders, skinny jeans, vest over a graphic tee and high-tops apparel. Most definitely a ’90s child. It was always curious to me how he was raised; born in Long Island, New York and surrounded by the influence of ‘rock and roll’ and alternative rock music. But something else that interested me was that he was the singer of a Gospel group. There was an endless amount of layers that you could find beneath the surface of just his apparel. Music has a good way of showing that. Speaking of, the thing I love most about Mark as an artist is his music is so honest and raw to the core. He can make anyone cry with his depressing captive lyrics, but in the same way he can make anyone laugh.
Mark’s musical journey has been a long winding one. From Gospel to Pop Punk to in his words, “whatever this is.” He settles on a folk songwriter vibe drawing from Vance Joy and James Bay as a way to define his music. But what encourages this drastic change from Gospel to songwriter? According to him, it’s a “restart and new beginning.”
If anything, what and/or who has influenced your writing?
“Well, that’s a very exciting question because I draw from a lot of places. But musically, a lot of it comes from deeper respect for Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Lyrically, a lot is influenced by newer artists. I’m actually a huge Kanye fan, and Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy. I draw a lot of inspiration from being around art and writers. Everything that I write comes from a feeling I get while being out and doing something,” Mark explains.
Within the past couple months, Mark has released a demo in hope for an EP in the near future. I’ve had the opportunity to listen to each song as well as watch most of his performances either live or on his YouTube channel. One in particular I find myself in favor of is called Actress. And so I ask, ‘where did this song come from?’
“When I release my EP, funnily enough I feel Actress will probably end up being the single. I like to keep things a little bit vague and open for interpretation… But Actress, I wrote about a person I was talking to at the time, who was portraying themselves as somebody totally different. I knew they were not who they said they were, but I was still trying to work with that; ‘You could be real with me and I could probably be better for you.’ It sounds a little more upbeat than the other songs, but its still just as depressing,” He says lightly with a chuckle. I join in with him because it is true, many songs on his demo are depressing.
There has been many people, including myself, who have experienced Mark James’ music live and ultimately leave with a heavy heart. Even if you are the happiest person in the world, you can’t help but feel as if the song was about you and feel engulfed in the sadness. As horrible as these statements may sound, according to him, it is the best of compliments to feel something in response to his songs. He goes on to say “but I’m not a sad person. I just feel like sadness is one of the best emotions to write about.”
Another reason why I find Mark to be an inspiration is the pursuance of his career choice. Moving forward and pursuing a music career is not easy. In fact, some would say it is the most difficult of all career choices.
Surely there are times when you lack motivation to continue or you just feel stuck? What makes you not want to go get a regular job and become say, a lawyer?
“Grandmother! Nah I’m just kidding… First of all, well I never wanted to be a lawyer. Second of all, the motivation comes from how I just want to create constantly… I’m also very fortunate to be able to make this career as my job. I have a lot of friends who are songwriters and musicians too, so it’s cool to be in that creative community. I also have a lot of support from my mother and friends.”
So what is he doing now and what can we expect? Does this EP have a name? When will it come out? Well, the name is still in the making. He’s hoping that in the next couple months it will be announced. Mark also has been very fortunate to tour with 4 Door Theatre in the past year and a half. He plans to travel the world a bit more, write about it, and get a little adventurous in writing some happy songs.
Mark’s Social Media