Mark Winters - 10 Questions Interview
Mark Winters is a Sugar Land, Texas based rock musician. Mark's positive perspective and influences from the people in his life, and a love for guitar drew him to music. He started his career playing cover songs with the support of a close friend and along the journey felt the urge to share his own original voice. Mark’s poetic style comes from his Grandmother who taught him how to write poetry and express himself. Mark combined his music and poetry to form his signature sound, rock with a positive vibe.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
My grandmother introduced me to writing poetry when I was a small child. She had a magical way of making most things that a young boy would otherwise find boring into an incredible journey. I found times in my adult life to express my feelings to my friends and family through small poems, it wasn't until I started learning to be a performer in my 3rd life (after my time as an engineer and healthcare entrepreneur) that I found a calling to share my original work in a musical context. I found it difficult to sing songs that I would have otherwise enjoyed if I didn't agree with the lyrics. It got me thinking about my positive life perspective, and how to share that through original lyrics and musical compositions.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
My good friends and I were playing a gig in a smaller bistro out on their patio. We had a nice crowd, folks were enjoying some wine and cheese, taking in a beautiful evening. Several cover requests came in, and one particular gentleman (a local attorney) asked for House of the Rising Sun. We promised to start the next set with that song, and as we finished another tune, we saw him leave, and come back with a Tambourine. Not sure that I have ever met someone who carried a Tambourine around in their car, but hey whatever works for you. As we started into the HOTRS, he started to play his Tambourine along with us, lightly at first, then more aggressively, then he started to dance about on the patio playing. As we were mid way through the song, he joined us on the stage, started playing his Aborigine rather loudly in my ear (out of time for sure). If that wasn't distracting enough, he started to sing along, stepped down in front of the band and sang so loudly on the final verse, you couldn't hear anyone else in the band (and we were all mic'd/amped up)! At one point, I thought he might hug me or give me a kiss. It was all pretty funny in hindsight, don't think I have ever been so distracted at a performance. To this day, we try to spot the "Tony" in the crowd....
What has been the high point of your music path?
Releasing my first album in September of last year was my greatest musical moment. It represented the culmination of a dream to share my original voice, and my #RockWithAPositiveVibve with the world. I had the pleasure of playing the full album live at the album release party, and was overjoyed at the support of my friends and families. It's quite addictive, and I can say I have truly found a passion in my life for music creation and performance.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
Songwriting for me usually starts with a concept, a idea or feeling. I take a thought like "finishing strong" and think about what the mind set feels like, and how I share it with others. From there, I general have a binge writing session to flesh out 80% of the lyrics. Then I will write a rhythm and chord framework and any related hooks that go with the theme. There is usually quite a bit of changes, sometimes the concept itself will pivot. I try to capture the creation in Logic Pro to help me curate it into a structure. It usually takes me the most time to "finish" a song from he 80% stage. I have several friends whose opinion I value that I have started socializing demo cuts of songs in process to get some feedback. My journey as a songwriter is short, so I usually have an open mind to creative input.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
As a new artist, the variety of skills that you have to develop professionally is quite large. You have to be able to write, and collaborate with other musicians in a digital world. Not many folks meet in a room and craft a song, its largely done in home studios and through collaboration tools. This requires you to learn some basic sound engineering concepts, and recording skills. In addition, you have to have an eye for photography, videography, social media, merchandising and genre branding. Its quite daunting, it would be far easier to just worry about the music and expression. Monetizing a project today really counts on mastery of the above skills to generate an audience that you can count on showing up to live shows regionally or nationally. If the music industry could offer an easier platform for people to share and connect with interested fans in a genre indie artists could more easily survive and grow. Without a label's marketing engine, its difficult to make inroads to a fan base.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
I really like what Kaleo is doing right now, such energy in their songs. I love their blues influence, and vocal tone. Surface Sounds has some great tunes on it. I would have loved to play with Prince or Tom Petty, but alas, those lights don't shine anymore.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
I have several people who play with the band, so our first rehearsal for a set of shows is usually half jam (my favorite part!) and half sound mixing for our IEM's and front of house mix, adjusting the ableton sessions and such. Then we usually have a full run once or twice before we are off to the races. Personally I work with a metronome pretty consistently for my parts and record and "grade" myself. I hate the recording part, but its essential imo to delivering a high quality product.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
From my first album, the song Copper Queen was my most challenging thus far. It has a key change, and a vocal melody that was difficult to write so that the lyrics could be delivered in a casual fashion given its beach rock vibe. It also has some pushes on the chord changes to create some wind-surfing movement. The lyrics I worked on right up to the final vocal takes. I think keeping things simple, vs overly poetic is my most difficult journey.
What's coming up in the future?
I have a new single coming out in May, and an album early next year. I was working on a tour for the end of spring, but that was put on hold with the COVID issues we are all facing. I have a live stream concert April 28th 8pm with R&R Studios (based here in Houston) and a show at Dan Electro's guitar bar May 2nd 8pm (unless the COVID assassin strikes again).
Tell us where fans can access your music?
For more information, visit Mark Winter's Website