We are delighted to welcome Mark Elliott to Divine Magazine. Mark is a Nashville-based singer, songwriter, author, and the principal vocalist/guitarist for the Americana band Runaway Home. He has written for some of Nashville’s top publishing houses, including Sony-Tree, Maypop, and Bluewater Music. He’s a winner of the coveted Kerrville New Folk Award and has had songs covered by both indie and major label artists.
Getting to know Mark
As a kid, were you ever frightened of a monster under the bed, or in the cupboard?
No, as a kid I was always more afraid that there weren’t monsters under my bed, or that the dark woods hid nothing but daytime, and that space might end at the last star I could see. Believing in things is far-less scary than discovering that there’s nothing to believe in.
What Makes You nostalgic?
I love being in the state of nostalgia. As a writer, I could live there. Some of my nostalgia portals are, any song from the seventies, breakfast for dinner, the smell of pines tress, and the movie, “Jeremiah Johnson.”
If you had to describe yourself as a flavor, what would it be?
I’m one part peanut butter and one part Lagavulin Scotch
If you were talking to a younger version of you, what advice would you give yourself?
I think I’d ask the younger me for advice instead of giving it. I’m, older, bigger, and wiser than the younger me, but I’m in a business that runs on dream equity. I’d ask the younger me if I could borrow some, because I know for sure he has some to spare.
Do you have any lucky charms, item, or traditions?
One of my long-time traditions/rituals: I never put on my show shirt until 5 minutes before I walk on stage. Once the shirt goes on, I’m fired up and ready to go. It’s all about good luck and energy management.
With the pandemic, how have you found a way to get your music and your message out there?
Over the last few years, income for a singer-songwriter has shifted back to live gigs, where for many years I could make a blue-collar living as a staff songwriter, with a draw and the occasional cut and single. However, with the pandemic of course, there has been no touring, and only scattered local and regional gigs. What that has done to overall income, combined with the effects of streaming income versus terrestrial radio and mechanical income, has been nothing short of devastating.
Ironically, there are more ways than ever of getting music in front of people. One of my favorite platforms is Facebook live shows. It took a while, but my audience learned to embrace those like a real concert, hooking it up to their big screens and home theater systems. Virtual concerts, with the ability to tip the artist, are about the only thing I know of that bridges the gap between just getting your music in front of new listeners and generating some income. Even when touring returns, I think virtual concerts are here to stay.
Was anyone else involved in writing, recording, or producing the songs?
Many of these new-project songs I’ve written with my good pal, Gabe Burdulis. Gabe and I have had a standing midnight Tuesday night writing session for at least 5 years, so we have quite a catalog together. I produced Gabe’s Late Night Drive EP a few years ago, so he’s returning the favor. Gabe is a wonderful young guitarist and has a great mind for production. He’s teaching this old dog new tricks. I wrote my new single, “Talk to Yourself” with long-time pal Melody Guy, and it features a killer slide guitar solo by Gabe.
Have you written songs for any other artists?
I’ve been lucky to have written songs for many other independent and major artists. I’ve had some hits and misses, but always feel honored when someone records something I‘ve written. Two of my favorite major cuts are “Making Ends Meet,” written with Jamie Klee for Chris Le Doux’s “Whatcha’ Gonna’ Do with A Cowboy” album. And “Every Man for Himself” written with Tim Johnson for Neal McCoy’s 24-7-365 album.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
I’ve had two pieces of wonderful advice, both from my early mentor, the legendary singer-songwriter, Tom Paxton. His first, “Inspiration and Discipline connect at the hip,” bore itself out through all my publishing deals. The more disciplined you are about writing every day, the more inspired you’ll be. The second, “Disappointment makes you bitter or better,” he gave me at The Birchmere the night before I left Washington, DC, to write for Cherry Lane Music in Nashville. I wrote that quote on a piece of cardboard when I moved into my first apartment. I soon added my own piece of advice to it, “Less hook more song!” And though I’ve had to dig it out of the trash many times over the years, it still hangs on my refrigerator today.
What’s next for you?
I just cut the bones for another four singles with my good friend and producer, Gabe Burdulis back at the helm. I’m going to continue to release singles through the next few quarters, with the next one due out late April, and then I may combine them all onto good old-fashioned vinyl by summer’s end.
On the author front, I am finishing two books, a sci-fi/historical fiction novel with co-author Joe Johnston and a memoir of my twenty-year part-time job as a counselor on an inpatient adolescent psychiatric unit. I’m also publishing essays and poems to my profile on medium.com
Mark’s book, The Sons of Starmount: Memoir of a Ten-Year-Old Boy, is out in paperback and audiobook https://markelliottcreative.com/store#! and his new single, “Talk to Yourself,” is OUT NOW on all platforms.
Stream Talk To Yourself https://soulspazm.ffm.to/talktoyourself