A finalist in the Texas Heritage Songwriters' Association's 2015 Texas Songwriter U Competition, Mark Currey is a Little Rock singer-songwriter whose roots run through North Texas and Southeast Arkansas. Inspired by roots rock, classic country, folk and Americana music as well as southern gothic literature, Mark is a storyteller searching for an honest expression of his own southern voice which is evident on his latest album, Tarrant County. Here, Currey answers his Essential 8 talking about the album, meeting one of his heroes, and more.
Did you have a musical mentor? If so, who was it and how did they influence you?
My grandfather. He gave me my first guitar and taught me G, C, and D. He loved Hank Williams and Jimmy Rodgers. I was never around him when we did not pull out the guitars and sing and play; right up until he died. I also have an old Martin acoustic that was, at different times, in both his and my father’s possession.
With “All I Needed”, what was the “a-ha” moment when you knew the song was completed and perfect?
My wife of over 30 years jokingly reminded me that I write a lot of sad songs and that maybe I should write something so folks wouldn’t worry about our marriage! I wrote the song pretty quickly but it didn’t come fully into focus until I decided to change the final chorus. The previous choruses were past tense… looking back. I decided to switch the last chorus to the present tense. That’s when I knew. The song closes the record and every show I have played for the last 3 or 4 years.
What’s the story behind your album’s title?
I was born in Ft. Worth, Texas (Tarrant County) and even though my mom moved us to Arkansas after they divorced, my dad lived there until he died. My story starts there and in so many ways remains connected to that place. “Tarrant County” is the second track on the record and always seemed like the obvious album title. The album cover is a picture of the old Dallas/Ft. Worth Turnpike that closed in 1978.
Where do you draw inspiration from when writing?
Other songwriters/storytellers. Songwriters like Guy Clark, Townes, Rodney Crowell, and Radney Foster. But other southern storytelling as well. Writers like Larry Brown, Ron Rash and Wiley Cash… and folks I have recently discovered like Shari Smith, Harrison Scott Key and J.C. Sasser.
Do you write about personal experience, the experience of others, observations, made-up stories, something else or a combination?
The songs on this record are all pretty personal. I think part of the reason I waited so late to make my first record was that I needed to give myself permission to mine some pretty painful stuff to find these songs. Some of the stories are very autobiographical and others use my story as a starting place but they are all based on my story or on the stories of folks who matter to me.
Favorite (or first) concert you have ever attended?
I saw Gillian Welch and David Rawlings when they toured after the release of “Revival”. It remains the most pure musical experience I have ever witnessed.
Have you met any of your heroes? If so, how did it go?
Yeah. I met Radney Foster a couple of years ago at a songwriting workshop in Austin. Radney and Foster & Lloyd were pretty important to me early on. I remember seeing their videos in the 80s and seeing this guy with long hair and a dangly earring playing country music with a little 60s rock influence and thought “wow… that’s something I can relate to”. I grew up with Haggard and Jones but kinda pushed that stuff away as a kid. Hearing Foster & Lloyd and then Radney’s solo work sort of re-opened that door for me. Meeting Radney was amazing and his insight into storytelling and songwriting helped me get a handle on the kinds of songs I wanted to write. We did a showcase at the Saxon Pub later and, after I played one of my songs, I heard Radney yell “HELL YEAH!” from the bar. Outside of my family… not sure anything better has ever happened to me.
Is there a recent release you cannot stop listening to?
Rodney Crowell’s “Close Ties” is an amazing record. I still can’t listen to “It Ain’t Over Yet” without getting weepy.
For more information