Mark Bates returns home for Live on the Levee, Empty Glass shows

Hurricane native Mark Bates is in Charleston for two shows this weekend. The singer/songwriter will be playing shows with his former band, Lonely Town.

Reposted from The Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Forbidden love. Disillusion. Isolation. Losing your way, and finding your way back home.

These are a few of the themes permeating Mark Bates’ recently released 11-song Americana album, “Down The Narrow.”

This weekend, the 22-year old Hurricane native returns to West Virginia from Nashville, where he moved in July of 2009, for a pair of shows in Charleston. He’ll get to catch up with family and jam with his friends in his former band, Lonely Town.

In recent months, Bates, who lists Townes Van Zandt as one of his main influences, has played shows in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, St. Louis and last weekend, the city that influences him the most, New Orleans.

“I actually just got back into Nashville this evening from New Orleans and will be heading to Hurricane tomorrow morning,” Bates said Sunday night. “We played a neat venue on Saturday evening near the Garden District. Everything went really well until they refused to pay us at the end of the evening. After some careful persuasion, they took care of us.”

Bates said that New Orleans has indeed put a spell on him.

“I always end up in New Orleans when I’m trying to generate movement in my life. The city has this raw energy that is intermingled with tragedy, sin and some of the finest music in the world. You can walk down Bourbon Street and see hookers standing outside waving the lost in, or you can take a trip to the swamp and see some of the most beautiful topography and wildlife imaginable. Like most of my favorite things, New Orleans is a contradiction. It’s a creative gold mine.”

Traveling across the country to all these shows, Bates has been getting to know his car a little better.

“I’ve put 10,000 miles on my car in the past two months, so the Prius and I have a pretty healthy relationship together,” he said.

In addition to inspiration following Bates all over the country, calamity seems to, as well. He was in Encinitas, Calif., near San Diego, for the Easter Day 7.2 magnitude earthquake and got hit by the recent Nashville floods.

“We had a few feet of water in our basement and lost our hot-water tank, but other than that we were unscathed. A lot folks weren’t as fortunate as we were. It was pretty tragic to drive through some of our bordering neighborhoods; a lot of ruined houses and livelihoods.”

Ruined lives, sin and tragedy are what seem to influence the characters in Bates’ songs the most. Although his lonely days in Sissonville (where he wrote the songs for “Down the Narrow“) are in the past, that painful well of creativity will always be there, he said, like the devil on his shoulder.

“It’s like a wild dog that someone’s fed once or twice. It may disappear for a few months, but it always comes back. Everyone has creative low points, but it’s a constantly shifting platform. I wait my turn, and it always comes back around for me.”

Mark Bates
With Ghost Fleet
WHEN: 11 p.m. Friday
WHERE: The Empty Glass, 410 Elizabeth St.
COST: $6

With Sons of Bill
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Haddad Riverfront Park
COST: Free

--- photo: Ryan Newman

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