Everybody knows that in college, it’s the jocks and the musicians who get the girls. Mark Russell was both. Playing lacrosse at his university in Florida, Mark’s friends didn’t even know he sang, at first: “I was sitting in my dorm room with my guitar, singing quietly to myself when my roommates walked in. They had never heard me – I didn’t have any confidence in my voice – so they started making me go around door-to-door in the girls’ dorm: ‘Can I sing for you?’ I was still kinda quiet and shy with it, though”. You’d never guess that now. After having multiple songs featured on hit MTV shows “The Real World” and “Warren the Ape”, being featured on HitsDailyDouble and JustinTimberlake.com, and playing with Jon McLaughlin, Hanson, Avril Lavigne and One Republic, Mark’s definitely come out of his shell.
Mark’s powerhouse vocals soar on songs like the hopeful “Close My Eyes”, heartbreaking “Miles Away” and purposeful “September”. We get the quiet, sensitive side on the Mark’s initial release, “Dance”, quirky and fun “She-Devil” and sweet, sentimental ballad “I’m Still Feeling You”. Mark’s wide range of influences show themselves on the naughty “Get Your Freak Out”, country-born “Hell or High Water” and club song “AYO”. “I love Maroon5 and One Republic, Ryan Cabrera and Matt Nathanson, Lil Wayne and Chris Brown”, Mark says of his taste in music. “I’m all across the board, but I don’t see that as a bad thing.”
Mark actually raps a bit on “Dance”, the One Republic-esque debut release from his upcoming EP. “It was one of those things that just came up in the studio and for a minute we were like, ‘Wait, should I really be rapping on a song?’ but it just fit and afterwards we couldn’t think of the song without it”. In “Dance”, a sweet piano and clean drums move the story of a boyfriend who thinks his girlfriend might be cheating on him, comparing himself to the new guy: “Can he dance the way I dance / Move the way I move / Stay up all night just to talk to you / Can he do like I do”.
From the pure tones of “Dance” to the messier “Close My Eyes”, Mark’s vocals tie everything together. “I close my eyes / See you in my dreams / When it’s my dream I can be anything / And tonight you’re all I need / I close my eyes and see you in my dreams”. Duel melodies on the chorus and bridge are reminiscent of Hall & Oates or Simon & Garfunkel, supported by full, roaring drums and guitars that are anything but dated. The chorus melodies soar, bringing us to that dream state where we can see what Mark sees in his dreams, being with the one we love from afar.
“Miles Away” and “September” continue to show off Mark’s compelling vocals with strong choruses and tender verses. Written with ASCAP songwriter of the year Dan Muckala (Backstreet Boys, Nick Lachey), “Miles Away” battles the hardships of growing distance in a relationship, both physical and emotional. “September” brings back some of the fun, acoustic guitar-driven elements of the best of 90’s rock, particularly in the staccato repetition in the verse “We’ve finally fallen into love now / luh-uh-uh-uh-ove right now”.
Mark shows another dimension in his softer ballads, like “I’m Still Feeling You”, written with renowned Nashville-based songwriter Reggie Hamm (American Idol / David Cook). “I love Nashville”, says Mark. “There’s so many talented people in this really very small community, and everyone’s friendly and just wants to write some great music.” Also while in Nashville, Mark wrote “Hell or High Water”, an uptempo, country-inspired rock song about the lengths you’ll go to get a “love like that”, with gold-certified artists Amanda and Tyler Wilkinson.
Turning the page from compassionate love songs, we get probably a more honest tale of love lost in the lightly picked acoustic “She-Devil”, where Mark shows off his poignant falsetto range. “She ain’t the devil, no / but she reached right out and stole my soul / She ain’t the devil, no / so beautiful you’d never even know / she made me eat the apple / but she ain’t the devil”.
Mark co-wrote “She-Devil” and debut release “Dance” with boyband-er turned producer Justin Thorne, as he did naughty dance song “Get Your Freak Out”, a lively anthem that will make girls of all ages want to turn loose. “Play a role / You can be my girl scout / down the pole / it’s time to earn your badge now / I’ll never tell / Your mom will never find out / We can get your freak out”. “AYO”, another Nashville-born tune, is another dance song about letting go and just having fun that we’ll be sure to hear remixed in the clubs on a Friday night.
“At the end of the day I just want to make music that I’d like to listen to”, Mark says, “and I listen to all different kinds of music. It all has a bit of me in it so hopefully it all works together. I think the fans like it, and that’s all that matters to me”.
“Making My Mark: Mark Russell Profile”