Photo: Will Foley
Hurricane native Mark Bates returns to West Virginia with his new record, “Night Songs,” and a new outlook on his own musical career. Bates performs at the Creekside Café in Hurricane Saturday night.
Reposted from The Huntington Herald-Dispatch
There’s a great story behind the inspiration for “Lucinda,” one of the songs on Mark Bates’ recently released sophomore effort “Night Songs.”
There’s also a hilarious one.
Bates, the 24-year old Hurricane native and L.A. resident, returns to West Virginia for a show at the Creekside Café in Hurricane Saturday with his second record in tow, having fun playing music again.
Bates, like so many other aspiring musicians, went to Nashville a few years ago with big dreams that were crushed in short order. Despite releasing his solo debut, the Americana-heavy CD “Down The Narrow” in 2010, Bates didn’t realize his dreams as so many hope to.
“Really, the Nashville thing, I call it a constructive failure,” the singer-songwriter said over the phone. “It was great to come out and get beat around, you know?”
Bates returned to West Virginia and took a most unexpected career turn: he enrolled in the West Virginia State Police Academy as a cadet. After more than two months, and a call from L.A. about making music again, Bates drove off one fateful night.
“The night I quit the police academy, it was a Sunday night, and Lucinda Williams was playing Mountain Stage. My mother was there, and she’s a huge fan, and so am I. So I drove straight off the hill, which is what they call the academy up there, and met my mother at Mountain Stage.
“I’d never seen her live but always wanted to,” Bates said of Williams, who he lists as an influence, among Tom Petty, Springsteen, and Tom Waits. “So it was kind of a magical thing. I went home, and the next day I wrote that song.”
Hearing Bates sing “I’m in love with Lucinda,” over and over, the obvious question would be: ‘You got a thing for Lucinda Williams?’
“It’s really not about her at all to be honest,” he said with a big laugh. “She was kind of on my mind, and the syllables of her name just sounded good, and how they rolled was a nice fit. But her involvement with [“Night Songs” producer] Eric [Liljestrand] was the reason I met with him; he produced some records for her that I really liked.
“It’s pretty funny, Eric, when we recorded that song, he said ‘Just be sure when you talk to her, just tell her that song’s not about her. You don’t want to freak her out,’” he said laughing. “I’ve got to be careful because I’ll see her out from time to time and her husband’s usually with her.”
Bates actually did meet Williams at the release show for “Night Songs” out in L.A.
“She ended up coming to the release show, and I got to meet her, and she hung out and was great. She was super nice to my family, and I got to introduce her to my mom, which was the coolest thing.”
Comparing the response to his music in L.A. as opposed to Nashville, Bates said it was like night and day.
“Instantly it just felt better,” he said. “The reception to what I was doing was great. So I was able to get a decent little following, and find a niche for what I was doing. So it’s been great.”
Bates said despite the warm welcome in L.A., and critical praise for the new record, most musicians, these days, need to be D.I.Y and totally self-sufficient.
“It’s a pretty tough business, especially right now. With the deconstruction of the music industry, it’s been difficult to figure out which angles you should take. The response [to “Night Songs”] has been good, we haven’t had any bad reviews, and people seem to be enjoying it. It’s still early in the process; we’re still having reviews come in and we’re trying to talk to some industry people.
“At this point my favorite labels are kind of on the way out. My dream was to get on Lost Highway Records. My publicist Mike [Farley] was talking with them, and they’re pretty much done, and it’s sad. At this point there’s opportunity in the demise of the industry, you just have to do it on your own, and that’s what I’ve been trying learn to do these past few years. It’s possible but difficult.”
For Bates, raised on church music, a mutually reinforcing, symbiotic relationship exists between music and family.
“I’ve got a great family, and we’re very close, and that’s a constant thing and the way I was raised. The people that build you are really the ones that matter…It has more to do with them than it does with me.
“It’s always very important for me to extend gratitude in the liner notes to my nanna, and to my grandfather, who has recently passed away. He was a preacher in the church that I was raised in. I try to never take that for granted. They’re very important to me.”
Bates said having fun playing music again, coming back to West Virginia with a new record, is what it’s all about.
“I’m having fun playing music again, so I enjoy it wherever I am. I think the songs show I’m definitely homesick. I’m excited to get back.”
After saying he plans on moving back to the Mountain State later this year, Bates added he thinks he’s going to stick with the songwriting thing this time.
“I’m going to continue to play music and regardless of what I do. I’ll never quit again. I realize I’ve spent too much time and effort to make things happen.”
IF YOU GO:
Mark Bates w/Clark Paterson
Where: Creekside Café, 3380 Teays Valley Road, Hurricane
When: 10 p.m. Saturday
Related: Mark Bates returns home for Live on the Levee, Empty Glass shows (June 2010 Gazz article)
Mark Bates: “Lucinda”