In Conversation With Mark Dawson

Interview
Mark Dawson
Lead Singer, Bassist
Grass Roots, Solo
December 2016

Mark Dawson is no stranger to our humble website. We first interviewed Mark back in 2012. Mark for those who may be unaware is the lead singer and bassist for The Grass Roots. Mark is also the on-air host of “making noise with Mark Dawson” on WOGR radio. Recently he also released another solo album entitled Off The Grid. We recently had the opportunity to chat with him and he gave us an update on everything he is currently working on.

Rock Show Critique: Lets start with Off The Grid. How did it come about and how did the recording process go?

Mark Dawson: It kind of came about right after the first of the year. I had a creative burst where I started to get a lot of song ideas. One idea led to another. It had been a couple years since I did Making Noise. I got a few ideas here, a few ideas there, the next thing I know I’m five songs in. Before I knew it I thought wow maybe I should think about putting this into a CD. So I began to record. Frankly I was leaning towards an acoustic record, basically just a voice and a guitar. That was kind of how I started. The first song I recorded was “June Hymn”. When the end of February rolled around I was into full swing by then. I was on the Flower Power Cruise and I met a guy that produced Mark Lindsay’s last three albums and also the Cowsills and the Left Banke. We just happened to be chatting as he was actually playing with Mark Lindsay on this cruise. We chatted for a few brief moments and I didn’t realize who he was at the time. Fast forward to June I got a call from him. He asked if I was still working on that record? I remember you now. We struck up a partnership there. Once I got involved with Rick Reil, the tone of the whole thing changed. Now I want drums and keyboards. It became a full blown project. I was really inspired by Rick’s words and thoughts. That’s how it began.

RSC: So it was mainly you and Rick that played on the album?

MD: I played everything on the album. The exception being Rick played the drums and a guest drummer on one song for the Orlando area here. Scott May from the Ides Of March play guitar on “Another One Of Those Days”. All the voices are all me.

RSC: Did you write all the songs with the exception of “Solitary Man”?

MD: No I didn’t. I had some co-writing help on a couple of songs. On “Authors Of Love” my wife wrote the lyrics. On Valentine’s Day she laid those words on my piano and she said “What do you think of those for a song about us”? I looked them over and said that was beautiful. I put music to her Valentine’s Day message. My friend Harold Rubin gave me a set of lyrics that he had written and I incorporated them into the song “Loveland”. So he gave me the idea and I gave him co-writing credit. Of course the song “June Hymn” is written by Colin Meloy. Colin is just an amazing song writer. Colin is the lead singer from the Portland, Oregon band The Decemberists.

RSC: How did you arrive at the title Off The Grid?

MD: That came out of a song lyric. The very first track “Another One Of Those Days”. Sometimes you have a day planned and everything you think should happen goes the other way. It was a line that I used in the song where I was reaching a frustrating point metaphorically I guess. I wrote the line “I just gotta get off the grid and grab what is mine”. That leads into the chorus of the song. It doesn’t mean anything. Musically, I hadn’t recorded anything for a couple of years. I just grabbed it from the lyric of what turned out to be the opening track. We weren’t sure till the end what was going to open the record.

RSC: Are you doing any shows down in Florida where you are playing some solo material?

MD: I’ve been doing some house concerts. When I do a house concert I play my solo material. I also add stories and songs from that later 60s genre. Of course I’ll do some Grass Roots and I’ll throw in stories from people I know like The Cowsills, Herman’s Hermits and Three Dog Night. It varies from house concert to house concert. I try to interact with all the guests that are there. Whatever we feel like hearing but I certainly feature my solo material.

RSC: Although the Grass Roots didn’t play on this past year’s Happy Together Tour, you were still an instrumental part of the tour. How did that opportunity come about and will you be playing on the 2017 tour?

MD: To answer the second part of your question first, I certainly hope so. I had such a good time. It was nice to be on stage with all my favorite artists and a great band of course and just do what I do. Your mindset changes every 25 minutes. It was really a lot of fun.
The way that came to be is I know all those people on the tour very well including the promotion staff. The guy they had used for years had a family commitment change. As we all know that’s a pretty grueling schedule. You cram 56 dates into a 90 day period. We estimate we travel about 43,000 of actual road travel. So he was able to do the first part of the tour. Then Greg Smith who is Ted Nugent’s regular touring bass player jumped in and did a bunch of dates. The Grass Roots had a busy June so I couldn’t even jump in for a few of those dates. Finally after June passed I had a fairly wide open schedule. I came in and did the last 40 or so dates. I also jumped around and had to grab a cab and a flight and another cab to go to a Grass Roots show. I get done with that then have to get back to the Happy Together tour the next day. That was a little harrowing to say the least. It beats sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring to get some work. I certainly hope it comes up again.

RSC: Will there be any more printings of the book “Even More Noise” you released last year?

MD: We have talked about reissuing the book. That was my wife. That was totally her idea. I’m not smart enough to think of that. One day she said “some of those things you post on Facebook and Twitter, they’re funny”. I said “You think so?” You should see the ones I don’t put on Facebook. I have this spreadsheet of probably 2000 different things I said over the past couple of years. She said let me go through it to see what I think is funny. Then you can go through those. Long story short and four months went by she got it down to 500. Eventually we got it down to 138 pages or whatever it is. We self published it. Publishing a CD is one thing that’s expensive. But a book really is expensive. It sold right away. We had a limited run of 400 copies and they were gone. I didn’t feel we’d sell 400 more right away. We’re thinking about re-releasing again in spring. Maybe throw in a deluxe version. We’re always looking at something. We’ve done hot sauce before. It’s fun and interactive with the fans. It’s not about a big money making venture. We just enjoy sharing these things with fans. It becomes a topic of conversation when we run into these folks. It’s great we just have fun with it.

RSC: Back to the Grass Roots any ideas of any possible new recordings?

MD: That has been talked about for the last five years. I don’t think that’s going to happen. We have the great classic songs. I would certainly love to at least have a new live recording because the band has evolved into a little different sound. We still replicate the classics in a very honorable way. It would be nice to catch that on a recording. There is a lot involved and I just don’t know if that will happen. Again get those cards and letters in. It would surely be a great thing I just don’t see it on the agenda for this year.

A very big Tahnk You to Mark for his time. You can find out more about Mark Dawson at the links below:

Official Website- www.markdawson.us

Official Facebook- Dawson Bass

Official Twitter- @dawsonbass

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About Joseph Suto

Location: Buffalo, NY Photographer/Reviewer
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