|Fredericksburg Songwriters' Showcase||Mark Humphreys|
Mark Humphreys began writing songs while still in high school. "When I was a little kid I loved music and would write songs in my head," he says. "The problem was, I thought that in order to write songs you had to know how to write sheet music--and I was way too lazy to learn that!" Then a friend who played the guitar showed Mark what chords are. "It was like a door opened and everything I ever dreamed of was possible. That summer I locked myself in a room with a piano and a book of chords and taught myself how to write songs, and I've been doing it ever since."
Gradually, Humphreys' musical style grew and evolved (he even taught himself to write the dreaded sheet music!). From his early twenties to his mid-thirties he wrote nearly 200 songs.
In the mid-1980s, he and fellow songwriter Rob Dobbins formed the rock band
Motel Six, which played the Los Angeles club scene through 1986, at which point
Humphreys grew disillusioned with the music business. "At the time, very
few people were going out to hear new music," he says. "It was very
frustrating working so hard for such little reward. Also, I really got fed up
with trying to get a record deal. The record industry puts up walls at every
turn, and I just felt I was constantly trying to jump over new ones. It was
time for a break."
That "break" lasted longer than anyone anticipated. Over the next
seven years, Humphreys went through a period of intense personal turmoil, and
at one point even considered giving up music altogether to go to law school.
"I actually applied to take the LSAT (the law school entry exam),"
he recalls, "but when I actually had the test in front of me, I knew I
was kidding myself. This was not what I was supposed to be doing. The trouble
was, I was so caught up with the notion of 'being comfortable' and having 'security'
that I made everything in my life difficult. I lost sight of the one thing that
was always easy, always rewarding--writing songs. Instead, I worked at an unfulfilling
job during the day and at night drowned my dreams in an ocean of self-doubt
and alcohol. Mostly alcohol."
Finally becoming sober in 1990, Humphreys began the long process of finding
his music again. By the end of 1992 he had laid down basic tracks for seven
new songs at his home recording studio, but he was still uncertain about how
to proceed with his career. Then, in late December 1992, just a few days before
New Year's Day, lightning struck.
"I was sitting in my apartment, staring blankly at the recording console,
and literally, just like that, out of the blue, it was like the Hand of God
or something pushed me up out of my seat, over to the console. I promptly erased
all of the tracks I disliked. I called and made an appointment at a local musicians'
contact service, and within a week I had hired the musicians I needed to properly
finish recording the songs I had started, and within a month I had written and
recorded three additional songs, completing the album. From that point on, it's
funny, I can't explain why my big 'moment of clarity' happened in that one particular,
spectacular instant, but I've just kept moving forward, and I haven't stopped
to this day."
In August 1993 Humphreys launched his own record label, Trough Records, and
his first album, A
Lust and a Longing (Catalogue No. TRCP 1011) was officially released August
27 of that year. It received a wide amount of airplay on college radio, and
gave Humphreys the encouragement to begin performing live again.
Since then events have progressed rapidly. By June 1995, when Trough Records
released Humphreys' second album, Angelenos
(Catalogue No. TRCP 1022), he was becoming recognized as one of the most
promising singer/songwriters on the L.A. "acoustic underground" scene.
In September 1995 he was selected as one of 20 finalists at the Napa Valley
Music Festival's Emerging Songwriter Showcase. Angelenos received critical acclaim
and even more radio airplay than the first album.
Just prior to the release of Angelenos, Humphreys made the biggest leap of faith of his life--he decided to go on the road and focus his energy on his musical career. He became his own booking agent, manager and publicist. Since that time, he has toured constantly, in all regions of the United States. And while his path has a been difficult one at times, the rewards have been beyond his wildest expectations.
"It's funny," says Humphreys, "I always thought that happiness
was an abstract notion. And yet, here I am, having given up the security of
a full-time job; flying by the seat of my pants--and for the first time in my
life I can say flat out that I'm happy. Really happy. Because I'm finally doing
exactly what I was born to do. It's been amazing."
In 1997 Humphreys turned his experiences--the frustrations and the joys--into
music and lyrics in his third album, Leap
Day (Catalogue No. TRCP 1033). The album "deals openly with the 'struggles,'
for lack of a better word," he says, "and the redemption that can
come from living through them. I think many people my age (Humphreys is now
44) have experienced similar difficulties, with career, with family, and have
come out the other end with renewed perspective and faith. I know that's what's
happened to me and a lot of my friends, and I think the overall positive tone
of the record speaks to the optimism that can be discovered through the process
of just living day-to-day."
Humphreys' recordings have won critical acclaim from major publications (see
his Press Clippings and Album Reviews page) and he has played at such prestigious
venues as the 1997 Live Oak Music Festival main stage.
Beginning in the summer of 1997, Humphreys expanded the scope of Trough Records, signing several unique and diverse performing songwriters from Southern California to non-exclusive record contracts. Those artists - - Andrew Lorand, Puppets of Castro, Lisa Johnson, Tim Tedrow and John-Michael Kaye, David Piper, Rod Smear and Phil Ward - - have released a steady stream of CDs since then, and have had their recordings played on radio stations from coast-to-coast and around the world.
In 1999 Humphreys released his fourth album, SONGS AT THE MOON (TRCP 1044), which was recorded live at a house concert and features a full six-piece acoustic band playing some of Humphreys' finest tunes which, at the time, had not yet been recorded..
"I just wanted to get on record some of the old, almost-forgotten songs
that I've brought back to life on the road," he says. "I spend a lot
of time alone when touring, and sometimes an old song comes back to me. When
this happens I often begin re-working it until it becomes new again. Songs at
the Moon is a collection of those songs."
2001 was a busy year for Humphreys. In addition to his touring schedule and
work on new songs, he married his true love, Melissa, in October. They now live
in suburban Los Angeles. "I didn't think I'd ever find anyone to share
my life, especially since I'm on the road so much," Humphreys says, "but
Melissa is an artist herself, and she understands what I'm doing. She is my
home now, and the balance that provides is immeasurable. Having her in my life
makes everything more meaningful."
In 2002 Humphreys plans on completing his fifth album and he'll be touring again all over the United States.
put together (with info & pics from Bob
Gramann ) by Ernest Ackermann.
Send rants/rave to above mentioned Ackermann
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