Tells RDBC about how after being Burned at the Crossroads he's Still Alive & Well
Story by D. Collin Hudson
One of the first things you're likely to notice about Mark Allan Atwood is his clearly recognizable voice. When you hear one of his songs like "Honkytonk Blues" or "I'm Trouble" (which for my money are Texas Country classics), you know right away exactly who it is that you're listening to. "I get asked all the time," he said, "people that I meet that don't know me through music find out what I do for a living and naturally will ask what kind of music I play." He continued, "I usually start out by saying, 'I guess it's country. But that really depends on your definition of country.' "
Musicians are often placed in the peculiar position of having to use certain labels to describe their music; like naming genres or sub-genres they may fit into, or by even taking the risky step of comparing themselves to other artists. "It's a hard question to answer," Atwood admitted. "If I was doing Bro Country," he continued, "I could just say, 'Hey, I do Florida Georgia Line type stuff.' But I don't have a good, all-inclusive genre that I can say 'this is what I do and this is all you all you need to know about me as an artist.' I really don't have any round holes like that to put this square peg into."
Atwood describes his influences as old school country from his dad, 70's hard-driving rock from his mom, and gravitating to songwriters like Kris Kristofferson, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, and B.W. Stevenson as a kid, and how his music is really a mixture of all those influences. But as far as where his interest was sparked in making his own music, he says that all came from his mother. She began singing as a youngster, spent time performing with different bands over the years, and eventually ended up a vocal soloist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. "I was one of those kids that was always singing all the time,” he said.
During our interview I also realized that this outspoken renegade Texas troubadour has a musical past that I knew nothing about, and that our paths had actually crossed many years earlier. MAA recalled his first time singing in public being in front of a packed house at Richardson North Junior High when he was in the 7th grade (the same school district I went to a few years later), how we both grew up listening to D/FW mega rock stations Q102 and even the old KZEW, that he had gotten his start playing around Lower Greenville Avenue in Dallas, where I misspent a fair amount of my youth, and additionally that he had also performed many times at some of the local venues I grew up frequenting in both Dallas (The Basement, Dallas City Limits, On The Rocks) and Austin (The Back Room). I also learned that during that time he fronted two different hard rock bands (Wasteland and Wild Child) that I had actually seen him perform with all those years ago, and that with those two bands he had performed with real some rock heavyweights like Dokken, Great White, Kings X, Slaughter, Tesla, Vince Neil, and Zakk Wylde. "The only difference between me and Kevin Fowler on this," (once a member of Austin metal hero outfit, Dangerous Toys) Atwood laughed, "is that I will talk about mine, he won't talk about his."
But after nearly two decades of pursuing his musical dreams, Atwood took a long break from the music business. He told of how it was simply a case of feeling burned out and not liking some of the things that were rapidly changing in the music game, and needing to take a break; take the time to reconnect with his family and friends. However, when he came back into the music business a few years later, he felt like some of the things that had changed by then could be positive ones for him this time around. "When I went away in the mid to late 1990's," MAA recalled, "there was no Texas Country or Red Dirt scene to speak of outside of Stillwater or Lubbock. A few pockets here and there, but nothing like it is now. But when I came back in 2004 I had friends turning me on to some of this stuff and I was like 'Wow, this is perfect for me!' I grew up on country. I love country music." He continued, "Red Headed Stranger was the first album I ever bought with my own money. This is the kind of music I started writing as a kid and played for years and years before I did the metal thing, which was a fun distraction for ten years, but I don't know in hindsight if I am really Texas Country or not. That part of me is always going to come through in my work but I think because my voice is little different and because of some of my rock influences, that some people don’t think I really fit into the whole Texas Country thing."
He also shared with me that multiple Grammy Award winning producer, Adam Odor, had called him up recently to say, "It's time to make another Atwood record." MAA explained, "The will and the desire is there, and the material is definitely there, but the backing and some other things still need to be worked out." The singles “Loser” and “One Horse” (a duet with Bart Crow) from 2013's Alive & Well have a enjoyed a good amount of airplay since they were released and both broke well into the top 50 songs in the Texas regional radio charts. In fact, "Crazy About Me" was the fourth consecutive single (including "Cheating Song") from Alive & Well to break into the Top 50, with three of them breaking into the Top 30.
"Perhaps what I do is not Texas Country, or Red Dirt?" Atwood remarked, "I think it's more Americana but some of the Americana people say I'm 'too country.' So I don't really know. You listen to it and then you tell me. I don't really enjoy classifying my work but apparently you have to in order to target some sort of a fan base and market that will spin your stuff, so you can attracts new fans and new listeners to your work."
MAA talked about being damn proud of the many awards he has won throughout his music career (including Texas Music Association's Rising Star Award - 2010 / My Texan Award - 2012 / Male Vocalist of the Year - 2013) and the two Mark Allan Atwood & Brimstone records he made with Adam Odor, Burned at The Crossroads and Alive & Well, and how although he is cautious of not becoming creatively complacent or stagnant that he is very comfortable making the kind of music that he makes these days. "Now I get to make whatever kind of music that I want, and this is it." Atwood explained, "Some people say I'm Texas Country and some say I'm Americana, but whatever you call this music scene of ours, for me, this is it."
As far as what 2015 holds for Mark Allan Atwood he says he is super excited that this could be his best year yet. "Atwood & Nunn (with longtime Brimstone member and creative partner, Matt Nunn) will be putting out a couple of new singles this summer," MAA said, "and we're writing more every day. We'll also be booking some more acoustic duo type shows that we've been playing for about three or four months now, and people have been eating it up! What we're doing," he explained, "is performing some more stripped down versions of these songs where you can really hear the vocal harmonies. Plus, Matt plays a lot of different instruments, so we're incorporating that. We've also got some full band shows on the books complete with the screaming guitars and pounding drums." Then his tone turned more serious, "but this Atwood & Nunn format we're doing together really lends itself to presenting the songs better than anything we have ever done. And my side project The Horsemen, with Robby White and Jeff Hopson, has taken on a life of it's own. So far there has been a big buzz about this show. So between Atwood & Nunn and The Horsemen," MAA happily reported, "2015 is looking like it's going to be the best year I've had, maybe ever!"