Mark Sanders is a songwriter with unique outlooks on common themes of life and music. His songs are all easily relatable to your own life. I’ve known Mark for several years and he gets better each time I hear him. “Guide Me Home” is his new album, pick up a copy today. With this new record Mark has stepped up to the plate and hit a home run. Find out more about Mark with this edition of 20 Questions
1. What’s new with Mark Sanders?
Things are so great right now. We are finally starting down that long road that I’ve been waiting on the on-ramp for. Touring and selling cd’s once seemed so far out of reach for me, now it’s happening and it’s a surreal feeling. Unbelievable things have happened this year and it has proven to be our breakthrough year. We play Gruene Hall in September as well as Floore’s, two places I’ve always wanted to play. Not to mention the many shows we’ve played with Cory and we will be opening up for Ragweed later this summer. It’s amazing how far we’ve come in a year. I’m very blessed to say the least.
2. How many colleges did you attend before arriving in San Marcos, at my alma mater, Southwest Texas State University? And what was your major? What made you choose SWT and stay?
Funny story, I originally went to Texas, then TCU, then up to Connecticut for a semester and lived with my dad, then down here to SWT. I chose Southwest because they were one of the few schools that would still have me! That and a lot of my friends are here. I study advertising.
3. Name association:
–Peter Dawson– One of the nicest guys I know. Always has a kind word and encourages you with an anecdote that you can relate to. One of the best voices in this business and their stage show is rockin’.
–Ryan Turner-Bout’ time this guy got out there. We used to hang over at Randy’s house all the time and I’d hear his stuff and wonder why he wasn’t out there, now he finally is.
–Randy Rogers-My mentor, so to speak. He was the guy who gave me my first opening slot about 3 ½ years ago. Since then he’s done so much to help me get out there and be seen. He’s come so far and I sometimes can’t believe he’s gotten so far in such a short time. His band IS the hottest and best around right now and I’m proud to say they’re my friends.
–Cory Morrow-Thanks to an introduction by my good friend Dave Lytle, Cory and I have grown from acquaintances to friends. He and his band have always given us little guys help and more importantly the benefit of the doubt. We’ve gotten in front of so many crowds because of this guys it’s ridiculous. They’ve been such a huge help.
–Jack Ingram-One of my heroes in the business. He’s quite an entertainer and I love his sound. Only met him once and it was quite an extravaganza.
–Fred Andrews of Honeybrowne-Talk about a helluva nice guy. I’ve know Fred for about 5 years now and every since I met him he’s told me to go after what I wanted to do in this business. Always helpful, always friendly and before Anne, always partying, but who can blame him these days!
–Jason Boland-Always been a fan and recently got to play a show with them and they were awesome guys. Great experience and I look forward to playing with them more.
–Brandon Rhyder-Known him for a while. I love his songwriting and charisma. He’s gone acoustic mostly now and I think he shines when his voice and songwriting on prominently on display. Great guy.
4. The talented Keith Davis produced your cd. Describe the working relationship and dynamics you had in the studio with him.
It was a long road and it’s finally done. I‘ve gone through and committed all the rookie mistakes and Keith helped me through them. I’m happy with the product and want everyone to get on board with us!
5. What was your first paying gig? Where was it? How much did you make?
It was in 2001. Green Parrot in San Marcos, a song swap with Randy Rogers and Drew Cowan. We probably made $12 between the 3 of us, but we did get free beer!
6. Have you heard any of your songs on the radio? If so, how cool was it the first time you heard yourself on the radio?
Just on XM a while back. We had a demo we released about a 1 ½ years ago and they used to spin that on there a little bit. And of course on the KTSW the SWT radio station! But our album just came out, so hopefully very soon!
7. Stories behind the songs off your new album, “Guide Me Home”:
–321– Everyone from a small town dreams of getting out of it when you’re young. This is a string of events blended together that happened to me describing how you feel when you’re young, on fire and ready to get away from small town life.
–Couldn’t Stay– Sometimes it’s harder to say goodbye then to live unhappily with someone you love. But it has to be done. You can’t always make the person you love happy, so let them go.
–Lone Star– I found someone that I truly cared for and at the end of those long weeks/weekends on the road I knew she’d be there. And when you’re in love that person is the only one you think about, hence the only star in you sky, then “you’ll guide me home my Lone Star”.
–Waco– When I first started traveling a whole lot I needed an outlet to explain how I felt about being away from home so much.
–Littlle Girl-I was in the running for a girl a while back and I knew that I was right for her, so I wrote this song for her and I guess I was right!
–Sober-I think everyone knows the meaning behind this song, just listen to it!
8. What are your expectations for the new cd?
I’m hoping to sell enough copies to become a new household name in this crazy business. I know people will relate once they hear the music, and that’s what it’s all about.
9. Weirdest proposition from a fan.
Everything has been pretty tame so far, I’m still waiting for my “weird fan” story!
10. What do you think differentiates you from the hordes of other singer/songwriters in the Texas/Red Dirt music scene?
A lot of people are in it to be in it. I really believe that my songs have something to say. I feel this way and I know at least one other person out there feels the same way, this, differentiates our music from everyone else’s. Plus we rock!
11. Favorite touring memory of the following towns/clubs:
–Ft. Worth– Woody’s almost every time. That place is THE place to be in Fort Worth, Texas!
–New Braunfels– It’s a toss-up between Saenger and RRIH…both are awesome and I always have a blast at both.
–Houston– Usually the Firehouse, but these Sam Houston Race Park shows have been awesome, the Cory show was my favorite so far, but Ragweed is just 3 short weeks away!
–Dallas– Adair’s baby, the most fun time in Deep Ellum.
–Cheatham St.- Opening up for Randy Rogers for the first time with my full band. It was surreal and I was the most nervous I’ve ever been.
–Woody’s– Playing with Wade and the boys with Creager around the corner at the Horseman, and then staying up until daylight at the infamous “La Quinta”!!
–Executive Surf Club– Played there with Cory, quite an experience and can’t wait to go back.
12. Related to that last question, you’ve been fortunate enough to play the Sam Houston Race Park every Friday this summer and open up for some pretty big names. How’d that come about? And if you were a headliner coming in there who’s a young band that you’d like to support your show?
We played with Cory back in March and the talent coordinator/event manager Terry liked us and the way we interacted with the horses. He told us that night they would be having a summer series with one band and told me he’d be in touch, and sure enough he did.
13. What inspires you? Not necessarily just musically, but in life in general.
People who live life for others. I’m a huge fan of the all American family, dad and/or mom works for the family and gives all they have to make them happy. I love it; it just shows how close families can actually be. Families inspire me as well.
14. Not that we endorse violence but what mainstream country star deserves the biggest smack in the mouth?
Never would I bash anyone in this business, but it’s a toss-up between Toby Ketih and Big & Rich. Those guys should drive off a cliff.
15. What’s the most rock star thing you’ve done to a hotel room?
Partied until sunrise and then proceeded to allow about 20 people to sleep in a double room
16. What advice can you give aspiring singer/songwriters that are just starting out.
Be ready for lots of work without reward, you might start off hot, but the cream rises to the top and it takes time no matter what. Don’t get frustrated and persevere, it doesn’t happen overnight. I see a lot of guys trying to do it right now and my advice is, just work through the hard times because the good times are so much more special.
17. You do a nice selection of covers from a range of artists during your shows. Which are your favorites to play? And how do you determine what covers your band would sound good performing?
Dragonfly by Matt Powell, Pink Houses/Night Moves by Johnny Cougar and Bob Seger, and Copperhead Road by Steve Earle are my favorites to play live. We decide as a band mostly what covers we’d like to do. We throw songs back and forth and the best ones get picked.
18. The last of Mark Sanders:
–Last prank you pulled– All the weekends run together, but last week the band left me at the club and I had to walk to the hotel by myself, after getting paid, their excuse, “we were tired of waiting”.
–Last book you read– The Runaway Jury, John Grisham
–Last cd/s you purchased– The Darkness- “Permission to Land”, Lynyrd Skynyrd– “Greatest Hits”, and Van Morrison — “Moondance”
–Last movie you saw in the theater– Anchorman, twice. It was hilarious no matter what people say!
19. Favorite George Strait song.
80 Proof Bottle of Tear Stopper
20. Compare/contrast the music being produced by you and your peers with the stuff the major labels are releasing to the market.
I just believe in true story telling. That’s why a lot of my heroes are Americana singers. I believe that music w/ out a message is just notes, not a song. Look at people who are awesome storytellers such as Ray Wylie, John Mellancamp, Steve Earle, Townes and Ryan Adams to name a few. These guys exemplify what music is about to me. I try to emulate these guys with my songwriting. They may be major label, but they are still doing what I love.
What we’re putting out is more of that Americana feel on a consistent basis. Everyone in this genre sings about what they know which makes them storytellers by default, not just faces singing songs that were written by someone else who might have meant those words at one time.