IN a little over a week…
Hertfordshire-based singer-songwriter Mark Sullivan hits the road with Emma Stevens, Megan O’Neill and James Fredholm. He is looking forward to the gigs, and no surprise – it is part of his In the Round Tour and is the start of a wonderful string of gigs. In fact; the young songwriter plays at a few great London venues and has a lot to be pleased about. His new single, Slip into Your Head, is out shortly - and is among his strongest work yet. I ask about the song’s creation and spending time in the hometown of Bruce Springsteen; what the legendary American means to him and other artists who compel his sounds.
I ask Sullivan about his music and the artists that inspired him; whether there are going to be other gigs – and whether there are any new artists we should all be aware of.
Hi, Mark. How are you? How has your week been?
I’m doing well, thank you. My week has been great.
Finalising everything for the new single and upcoming U.K. tour has been hectic - but really exciting.
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Mark Sullivan and I’m a guitarist/singer-songwriter from Stevenage. I have been playing the guitar since I was fourteen - and singing since I was about twenty-two.
I like junk food and a lot of things that are bad for you - but I’m also a big fan of good food.
Slip into Your Head is the new track. What inspired the song?
Slip into Your Head is about when you love someone and you are prepared to do anything you can for them - physically and emotionally. It’s quite a deep song: it’s very different to my normal style of writing and that’s why I like it.
I feel it captures my message very well in the track.
You spent time in the U.S. and created the song in the hometown of Bruce Springsteen. Why was that part of the world somewhere you wanted to go to?
I was lucky enough to be able to work with Grammy-nominated producer Steve Greenwell on my E.P., Still Good for Nothing (available on Spotify) – and, also, this brand-new track (Slip into Your Head). I’m a massive Springsteen fan. It just so happened that Steve is from the same place as Mr. Springsteen himself. The town of Asbury Park is steeped in musical history and just being there was special - but also; to be able to write and record there was amazing and inspirational. Most nights there is live music - and some of the acts I got to see was a massive part of the experience.
It was a very special place. I’d recommend going there to anyone!
Is Springsteen someone you idolise and look up to as a songwriter and artist?
Yes, definitely! The man is a genius!
The whole town loves the guy as well. Everywhere you go in the town there will be a photo of him on a wall, in a restaurant, (somewhere) eating there - or they’ll be a personal note written by him, framed on the wall. In the studio, I was in recording and there was one of his flight cases that he had given to someone. I couldn’t believe my eyes!
What a legend of an artist that guy really is.
Is there going to be an E.P. or album approaching? Any more music coming later this year/next?
I am currently recording at the moment - having come back from America with lots of new hotel-room-written songs. I also have another song in the wings waiting - that we recorded in the U.S. - to be released in January (after Slip into Your Head comes out on 27th October). There will be another U.K. tour and a brand-new E.P. in April 2018.
So…a lot is happening and I’m really excited about what’s ahead.
Who are the artists you grew up listening to and influenced your music?
The first that comes to mind is The Beatles and Motown.
My mum and dad used to listen to it when I was a kid. As I started to play an instrument, I started to discover a whole world of music that I’m still discovering today. Some of my massive influences been Jimi Hendrix, Donny Hathaway; John Mayer, The Rolling Stones; Red Hot Chili Peppers, Reef; Bob Marley, Jeff Buckley; Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton…
I couldn’t list them all because there are too many - but there’s a few for you.
Can you easily explain what music means to you and the advantages of being a songwriter? Is it something you feel born to do?
Music is everything to me.
It has helped me through bad times: it’s also created great memories for me. I feel it pulsing through my veins and it’s what I believe I am here to do. I am doing it and I will continue doing until I can’t do it anymore. It’s something I have to do.
You can’t really explain why: I just feel compelled to do it; to perform, to write; to create music and make my music connect with people in the same way that music has connected with me throughout my life.
IN THIS PHOTO: St. Paul and The Broken Bones
Who are new acts you recommend we check out?
St. Paul and The Broken Bones. I would go and listen to these guys, immediately! I watched them live at Cornbury Music Festival earlier this year and they blew me away!
If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
Blood Sugar Sex Magik by the Red Hot Chili Peppers has definitely got to be one!
This album was a massive part of my musical maturity. Musically, this album pushed the boundaries and still sounds massive today!
Continuum by John Mayer
This album, for me, is a great journey from start to finish. John’s guitar-work is a triumph - and the album reminds me a good time in my life.
Grace by Jeff Buckley
If you haven’t heard this I would recommend listening to it. This guy’s voice and songwriting is from another planet. He has soul that Soul singers haven’t got!
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
All I can really say is just believe in what you do and keep working hard.
Social media has to be active with good content and you have to have some good songs. However, music is subjective: what I like may not be what someone else likes.
Just be true to yourself.
On 27th of October, you perform as part of the In The Round Tour with Emma Stevens and Megan O’Neill. Is that the first time you would have played with them? Is that date one you are looking forward to?
The single is out on the 27th October - two days after the last tour date. Yes, I am very excited to perform with both of these great artists. I’m really looking forward to 13th October when we will be stopping in London on the tour to perform at The Slaughtered Lamb in Clerkenwell (tickets can be purchased here).
What other dates do you have approaching and any you are especially looking forward to?
There a couple!
The first is on the U.K. tour to and it’s at The StabIes in Milton Keynes. This venue is incredible. The second is supporting a great artist called Joe Dolman at St. Pancreas Old Church on 6th November. I’ve wanted to play this venue for a while now - so I am really excited for this one too.
You have played so many gigs in your career so far. Is touring something you really enjoy and what is it about the road that speaks to you?
Yes, I love touring. You get to play to different audiences with people who don’t know your music; plus, you get to see different parts of the world.
It’s very tiring but, at the same time, very rewarding.
How is the rest of the year looking? Will you have time to relax outside of music?
The rest of this year is looking very busy - but, also, incredibly exciting.
I’m ready now to hit the road again (this year) and get out there! No time for time off yet, I’m afraid. The way I see it is I get to play music and do what I’ve always dreamt of doing - so I don’t need a holiday...yet?!
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Ok. Thanks for having me! Please can you play Freedom by Jimi Hendrix
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