Q&A With Rising Star Mark Cline Bates

From Los Angeles to Nashville to Hurricane, West Virginia, Mark is making waves.


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Hurricane’s Mark Cline Bates lived in Los Angeles for two years, performing in clubs and taking in everything the big city had to offer. Now that he’s back home, he’s had time to reflect on what it all means while bringing his down-home tunes back to fans, friends, and family. His new self-titled (and third) album comes out in November 2014 and was recorded in Nashville at Beech House Recordings. The album was produced by Mark Nevers (Alan Jackson, George Jones, John Anderson).

The push and pull of struggle to move forward—with career, with relationships, with one’s environment—is a theme that permeates throughout the new album. It’s what Mark calls the “reoccurring mantra” of the underdog trying to beat the odds, whether in “Just Keep Looking Ahead,” “If I Don’t Win,” or the opening song, “Closer.” The more amusing “But I Love You,” one of his most requested concert songs, is based on a true story about a colorful character that drifted in and out of Bates’ life. Meanwhile, he describes “Bigger Things” as “the purgatory of a dying relationship,” when it’s over but both sides are almost too paralyzed to move.

Mark recently took time to talk to WV Living about his career thus far and what the future may hold.     

What was it like performing in Los Angeles?

Los Angeles is a pretty big city and there is a steep learning curve for new artists who come into town. I was lucky enough to fall into a really great community of creative people after moving there and ended up having a ball. I enjoyed performing in the clubs in Los Angeles and, more times than not, the audiences were really great to play for as well. I’ve found in my travels that I always have a great time if the club has a PA system, a stage, and an audience that wants to be entertained. I will be playing shows all up and down the southeast coast, the midwest, Nashville, and Texas in the coming months and am excited to get this new record out there to folks.

What was it like coming back to West Virginia?

I have a lot of roots in West Virginia and being a couple thousand miles away from them was a challenge at times. Coming back to the East Coast felt right at the time, and it made more sense for my career as well. I split my time between Nashville and the farm in West Virginia right now. The farm is only five hours from Nashville, eight hours from New York City, eight hours from Chicago, and eight hours from Atlanta. It’s pretty easy to tour from that hub. West Virginia will always be my home.

What experiences did you draw from for this album?

I think these songs all come from my struggle to find the American dream. It’s a harder thing to grab a hold of these days, but that doesn't stop me from trying. I think my determination and stubbornness are the anthems of the record that a lot of struggling folks can relate to. Especially in my home state of West Virginia. 

What inspires you musically?

My grandfather was a Pentecostal preacher and a wonderful singer. He passed away a couple of years ago, but I can still hear his voice every Sunday morning when we have song service at church. Another huge influence is my Nanna, and she has been playing the piano for more than 60 years at the church. She plays by ear and is as good as anyone I have ever heard. She taught me countless southern gospel hymns, and I learn from her every time I listen to her play the piano.

Has your perspective on music changed from your first album to now? 

I have experienced a whole lot of life since the first record and I think the best way to capture things is to live through them. It’s hard to write about life you haven't lived. I’m lucky enough now to have a deep well to draw from.

What are your expectations for your upcoming tour?

I want to get the record out there because I’m proud of what we built. I hope we can spread the word and get some believers out there. The most important goal, though, is to make every audience feel a little better than they did before coming out to the show.

After your album comes out in November, what are your plans?

I'll be touring off the new album for the year. November is just the beginning of a long haul, and I couldn't be more excited!

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