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Independent Lens: Mark Cline Bates – Roughstock Interview

11.04.14

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Get to know this rising singer/songwriter through our latest independent lens feature.

A little while back, RoughStock had the chance to sit down and chat with independent singer/songwriter Mark Cline Bates about his just-released (November 4, 2014) self-titled album. We learned a little bit more about where he’s from (Hurricane, West Virginia) and how growing up in a musical family embedded the need to bring the music to the people.

RoughStock: How did you get your start?

Mark Cline Bates: I started out when I was 13 and was raised in a Pentacostal Church. Music was pretty prevalent. My grandfather was a preacher and a great musician. So when I was 13, he said ‘it was time to start serving the lord.’ I was terrible but he was definitely the beginning of the process. My Nana was a piano player too, so the family was musical.

The songs that we sang were these really old songs that came from the early 1900s, pre-Hank Williams but the lyrics were more poetic than you would think. They are these fire and brimstone, poor man’s poetry. I was drawn to the dark poetry, the characters of those songs. That got me eventually into songwriting.

RS: When you started writing is that why gravitated to country music and rootsy fare?

M.C.B. I think so. I was always drawn to George Jones and Johnny Cash. They were kinda the Gospel, aside of the actual Gospel.

RS: And they’ve sang plenty of Gospel songs too…

M.C.B: They sang Gospel but then the drinking songs and everything else. It’s all wrapped together. I was attracted to that an early age, after singing 100s of those songs, I picked up the guitar later, at age 18, and started writing them.

RS: How would you describe your album?

I think the new record is a country record. It was recorded in Nashville. Mark Nevers produced it and we had a great team of people that have played on a lot of records. I wanted it to be a country record but there’s a little rock-n-roll in it but it’s American country music.

It sort of documents my move from Los Angeles to my family’s farm in West Virginia, a farm which has been in the family for over 100 years. The record comes from that, from coming back home and coming full circle. I think the last 8 years have been a bumpy road for me. It’s been a lot of fun, a lot of hard work and a lot of ups and downs. I’ve known a lot of people, when I started, who aren’t doing this anymore because there’s…

RS: It’s not for the faint of heart…

It’s not. There’s a brutality to the nature of the business. But I’ve stuck around and kept going because I love it and cannot imagine anything else. We’re finally starting to get some traction and things are going really well. It’s a labor of love but I’m ready to go.

RS: So when you went back to home, after being in LA, did some of your friends give you any ‘crap?’

No, not really. It was more like how is it there? What’s it like there? Tell us more…

My goal as a musician is to do something genuine. I don’t make negative comments about the genre or where it’s heading. My goal is to document the American landscape and if I can kind of dictate the status of the American dream…

RS: It’s changed too, a lot would rather rent than buy a house now…

M.C.B.: That’s true but where I’m from, there’s a lot of people losing work so getting back to the record, I’m trying to fight the good fight and tell those stories and think about what I can contribute.

RS: What one word best describes Country music to you?

M.C.B.: I call it “Salvation.” It’s the thing that’s always there when I come back to it. It’s like my dog. It’s got me out of a lot of jams.

You can order Mark Cline Bates’ self-titled album on iTunes

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