Singing into a Tennis Racket | Mark Nelson [Musician Interview]

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Who inspired you to make music?

My influences are wide and varied.

The Beatles influenced me enormously and from an early age, as did The Who, The Kinks and late 60’s pop and rock and psychedelia. As a three-year-old I used to wonder around singing into a tennis racket pretending to be on top of the Pops. I wrote my first song on the piano when I was seven. I basically wanted to be a Beatle.

I am also hugely influenced by ballad artists like Nick Drake and Ralph McTell as well as more contemporary solo artists such as Graham Coxon and Jon Allen amongst many others.

What is your creative process like? Do you start with lyrics? Instruments? Concept?

I tend to get ideas noodling on the guitar or when I’m out walking or doing the washing up. Often I get the complete song at once musically, with a selection of lyrics. Once I think an idea is good enough I’ll sit down and concentrate on getting the lyrics right to match the mood of the song. I write songs both for my acoustic blues band and pop ballads for myself. Love is obviously a powerful recurring theme. Falling in and out of love, losing love, reminiscing about love, feeling bitter about love and feeling triumphant about love. My latest single “Lost Love in a Day” released through Animal Farm Music is one such song about love and regret. I also write about other themes on human existence such as bad luck, the bottom falling out of your world, greed, stupidity and, occasionally, current topics such as Syria or the state of the planet.

What do you feel is the best song you have released/written and why?

I have quite a few songs that I am particularly proud of. I guess one of them, “A Wish”, is a particular favourite because the lyrics and the melody blend so well together. It’s an easy song in some ways to play and a hard song to sing as it’s quite emotional. Like most of my songs the guitar riff came first then the melody and then finally the lyrics; the words dictated by the mood of the music. It’s a song about longing and remembering someone and the good times with that person who is now gone. However, there is ambiguity in there as you’re never sure if the subject of the song has left the singer or has died.

What is the best advice you’ve been given?

‘Don’t give up!’ I was born with one arm and my life could’ve gone two ways I chose the soldier on route. I think my parents raised me very well they had no experience of raising a child, let alone a child with a disability. I was encouraged never to give up and it’s stuck with me throughout life. I always wanted to be a popstar and I had original songs in my head but I couldn’t play an instrument until I was in my early teens and so had no means of realising these songs. I didn’t give up and eventually found a way of playing guitar one-handed using my thumb to strum and pick. I was in a rock band for 20 years striving for success – we almost made it a few times but we never gave up. I then became a solo artist and I still haven’t given up on the dream of becoming a successful songwriter and musician. Don’t give up!

If you could be any kind of cookie, what would it be and why? (Most important question)

A dark chocolate hobnob. The hobnob is an exquisite biscuit full of flavour and texture and dark chocolate is an acquired taste but to me it’s exotic, velvety and bitter sweet. Just about sums me up!

How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business?

Being able to promote your music on the Internet has opened up so many doors and avenues for artists who might never have got the chance to expose their music to the world. It is still very hard though to build up solid fan bases and know how best to get your music into as many ears as you can. It takes skills, money and time as well as a fair deal of luck to reach the upper echelons of the music business.

If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?

Most music artists these days need to invest not just time but also money into their music to get it out there, money that most musicians don’t have. Either they are young and on low wages or they are old with fat mortgages. If there could be a better means of recognising and promoting, and particularly investing in, talent that would be a great thing. Very few industry people are able to take risks in artists these days and so we need to find a way of facilitating this risk taking to allow artists to grow.

What is the most useless talent you have?

I can do a good impersonation of birds tweeting.

When you’re done with music, what do you want people to think when they talk about you and your work?

Firstly I will never be done with music, only when I shake off this mortal coil will I be done with music and even then I’ll be playing my harp in the clouds!
I would love for people to enjoy my songs when I’m gone, to be able to derive pleasure from listening to the work I’ve done. I hope my songs will last forever and I hope they might inspire others to write and sing.

What is your most recent project/upcoming project?

I currently have this brand new single out now “Lost Love in a Day” produced by Animal Farm Music and another one coming out at a later date. I’m working on producing my blues band’s new album of original blues songs and I’m also about to start my own 70s funk/punk album project. I’m also quite keen to learn more piano licks as I hear a lot of piano in my songs. So quite a lot in the pipeline really!

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