It’s like after a first date and you’re sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring! I am giddy in anticipation for the call from Mark Chesnutt today about his new single “When The Lights Go Out (Tracie’s song)”.
The single is #40 on the charts and this was Mark’s first time to write a song in a while. He was presented with the first line, “When the lights go out…” and says, “the song just happened, I didn’t have any plans about what I was going to write when I went into this writing station with Roger Springer and Jimmy Richie ‘cause those two guys are pros, they write hits all the time. I hadn’t written with Roger in years so it was the first time I had gotten together with them and tried to really actually write, so I didn’t have any ideas to bring to the writing station at all. And, so I just figured I’ll just show up and somebody will have something and I can just help contribute.”
Mark’s 23 years of experience in the big scene of country music and touring, all came through when writing this song and he says, “I just automatically thought about stage lights, and then just came right out with the “crowd goes away” and it just kinda kept goin’. And then the words just kept comin’ out and I think what happened was, subconsciously I was just thinking about what it was like. I guess the melody made that happen. It just started comin’ out and just started talkin’ about bein’ on the road, and when you’re out on the road and naturally the show is over, and the only thing that really matters is gettin’ back home”
Mark continues with “It’s just something that I know about; being out there and being somebody else and then coming home to Tracie who really knows me more than anybody else.”
As a native to Beaumont, Texas, Mark will be performing in Rockport, Texas October 11 for Seafair, and had said “we’re not on any big tours right now and that’s fine with me because I did a lot of that and I had a lot of fun, I learned a lot. I was in front of just thousands of people every night. The biggest one I ever did was the George Straight festival. I did a whole summer of that and that was really great. I was in some big venues with some good friends. But I really like the toned down atmosphere myself, I’m a little more comfortable being out there by myself and not with half a dozen other acts. I like being able to let the schedule go at my leisure, set my own pace. Playing the venues I’m doing on my own now are just a lot more fun.”
Even though he enjoys the local honky tonks and Texas bars, Mark has traveled all over the globe. He has played honky tonks in Germany, Switzerland and Japan and says the difference to him when he plays at home is that he “knew everybody that came thru the door and If I didn’t know them, before the end of the night, I did. And I miss that a lot the same ol’ group of friends always around me all the time, it was real comfortable.”
George Jones, among many others including Merle Haggard, George Straight, Waylon and Willie, Charlie Pride, Elvis Presley and Mark’s father Bob, were all strong influences in his passion for music.
Going back in time today, to his high school days, Mark described he was into rock and roll and played drums in a rock band and sang at local rock shows. The 8 track tapes in his car then, played KISS, George Straight, George Jones, Aerosmith, ZZ Top, Van Halen, and Waylon and Willie. A true inspired musician.
The music industry, like anything else these days, fluctuates and changes. Mark started his own record label Nada Dinero Records, and after being on nine different labels throughout his career, explains that this is the way to get his music out there. Mark says, “well, we can do that ourselves especially with today’s technology we don’t need a label at all. We can pretty much do our own music, pay for it ourselves, maybe get an investor to work with us and maybe some sponsorships or endorsements, something. And get at least, if not a whole album, something different out every now and then. In today’s world you don’t need a complete cd anyway you can put a single out and a year or two later put an album out.” He plans on possibly making more live recordings like the first record released through Nada Dinero, on March 6, 2012 – Live: From the Big D. He explains that he is bias of his music and doesn’t really like to listen to the live stuff, the only reason the album was released was because they had the material recorded for years for play back for the band. Interesting to hear from a man who has been entertaining for 23 years! I hope to see more live records released. They’re relatable to the fact, that if you miss out on the show, it makes you feel like you were there! He’d rather work on his new record, however, that features the single “When the Lights Go Out (Tracie’s Song)”. Originally planned to release this summer but has been pushed back, Mark wants to get the diehard fans some new music.
We touched on the fact that there had been a time lapse between “Bubba Shot the Jukebox” and songs from that era and his new release. Mark explains he’s been working. “That’s what people don’t understand. And I don’t get that. I don’t know why people think if you don’t have a new album out or a new hit song on the radio that you’re just sittin’ at home. That’s not the case at all. We work because we have to and also it’s a way of life for country music, and it’s always been that way.” He’s toured constantly throughout the years, covering Billy Bobs in Ft. Worth a couple times a year, the Rodeo in San Antonio, Denver and also does shows in Canada.
As a long time artist, I was curious if he had any traditions or rituals before performing. Mark says, “Well, no not really. I like to listen to music a lot while I’m getting ready to go out on stage, and I like to listen to my favorite stuff and it could be anybody from Johnny Bush to Aerosmith, it just depends on the mood. A lot of times these buses that we’re leasing, a lot of times the sound system won’t work very well, so sometimes I’m stuck. I don’t want head phones in, I want the music blaring. So sometimes I just have to do without. We’re always just cuttin’ up and talkin’ and everybody in the band just sittin’ around and talkin’ or maybe watchin’ tv and laughin’ and sometimes we’re singing. Sometimes we’ll have a guitar out singin’ and just pretty much relaxing, drinkin some beers and getting ready to honky tonk.”
Mark, a family man himself, was raised by a man he describes as a “strong, strong man” and his words of wisdom for those with dreams of up and coming into the industry, start here: “The biggest mistake I made was quitting school. I quit high school when I was a junior and I’ve regretted that ever since. I’m glad for the fact that it gave me more time, I jumped right on the music. I mean I dedicated myself. But, I had a daddy there to keep his boot up my ass too! He said, ‘you’re not gonna lay around the house. If you’re gonna play music for a living on the weekends; at night and during the day, you’re gonna have to get a job.’ So I worked day jobs and I sang at nights until I got established enough to where I didn’t have to have day jobs anymore. But if it hadn’t been for my daddy there with that boot up my ass, I probably woulda ended up, not with anything. Because he was a strong, strong man and he kept me focused and kept me on the right track. And I didn’t screw up, because of him, because he disciplined me. He made sure that I was not gonna get out there and be like thousands of other guys who get into the drinkin’ and the drugs and the women. He said ‘don’t get married, don’t get into any trouble with anybody and have to get married or anything, you’ll never get a career going that way. You get married; have a family after you get a career going.’ Those are the things that made the biggest influence on me. But, you do have to get out there and play your music, and you do have to meet as many musicians and singers as you can and you have to really be dedicated to it. And, if you’re wanting to do it for money or fame you need to go ahead and quit now and figure out something else to do because even if you achieve that goal of being rich and famous the rich part only lasts so long, for most of us. Not everybody can have the career that George Straight has.”
Mark and Tracie have been married since 1999 and have three boys. Casey, Mark’s middle son, is walking in his exact footsteps. He’s in school, working a full time job and following the path laid out by his dad and grandfather, singing in hometown restaurants and family venues down in the their hometown of Beaumont, Texas. His older son, Waylon, is playing around with the hard rock, drumming and playing guitar.
Mark’s family is involved in St. Jude’s Hospital charity along with hosting shows benefiting Wounded Warriors and a local abused women and children shelter, located in his home town.
Mark, born and raised in Beaumont, planted his roots and doesn’t plan on ever leaving because its home. And knowing that his friends and family are close by is what makes him the happiest. He is also an avid fisherman and never wanted to be landlocked in Nashville, away from the coast. Having plans with his buddy today to hit the water and do some fishing on The Sabine, Mark is a great All American country star who will forever live through his love for country music. Don’t forget to check out his new single. “When The Lights Go Out (Tracie’s Song)” and go hang out with him in Rockport, TX, October 11 at SeaFair. We will see him there!
Words by Amber Phelps
Show Info: 39th Annual Seafair, Rockpot - Fulton Friday October 11th, 2013
Festival Grounds next to Rockport Harbor 5pm