My new album “The Medicine” is scheduled to be mastered on Tuesday of next week. After 6 months of hard work, 2 years of writing, and about a gallon of my own blood we’re almost finally done. During the process of this we’ve had many a life changing experience, including the birth of my beautiful son Jude and the untimely destruction of producer Elijah’s house by a ginormous tree (both on the same night actually).
If its OK with you (I guess kind of has to be) I’m going to be incredibly honest here for a second. I’m both incredibly excited and incredibly nervous right now. Excited because, and again excuse my honesty, I believe the songs on this album are some of the best Ive ever written and I know that this is certainly some of the best music our team has ever made. There is not one song that I wouldn’t listen to myself. I mean if I don’t like it then why should I expect any one else to like it?
So, how come at the same time can I be so nervouse? My team and I have put much of ourselves into this project. It really becomes a personal thing with us. Seriously it’s just the only way we know how to make music. My name is on the cover but this project belongs to them as much as it belongs to me. All this to say that whenever you present something to people I guess there is an opportunity for rejection. And it’s especially difficult when the work we’ve done is so personal in nature and has cost so much time, money, energy, blood, first born children, eternal souls etc…. Still the truth is anything worth doing involves a risk and usually the greatest reward come from the greatest risk.
I guess you never really know what to expect out of people either. Trying to please the public is like trying to shoot a man on a moving train. By the time you take aim he’s gone. People have ask me whether or not this album sounds much like the last one. I’ve been saying yes but then I recently took a listen to the “Song Inside the Sounds” for the first time in a year pr two and actually it sounds way different. But hey what’s the use in recording the same album twice? I mean we’re all changing. An album is like a photograph. I’m not the same person even one second before or after. By the time the flash clicks I’m at least one second older wiser and new. So is there another “How He Loves”, “Closer” or “Ashes and Flames”? Nope. I already wrote those songs but I have some new ones that I think are better.
The album as a whole is bigger sounding. We purposely made the last one a bit “Low Fi”. At the time I was tired of super “hyped” digital production. But this go around I really let Elijah mix like it was a commercial record. Its still not too polished and plenty loose. It’s just sonically huge. We also incorporated a lot of “room” on this project. We used no digital reverbs or effects on any of the instruments but instead we created all effects by multiple microphone placement throughout the tracking room and creating reverb chambers like they did in the old days.
As far as the content goes I realized early on that we really were telling a story. The album opens with the foreshadowing lines of Reckoning Day: “would you come live everybody, get up out of bed for the sound of the song unsung” . This first song, in a subtile Mark Twain kind of way, ended up pleading for the attention of the listener and then continues to outline the events to be expected. The idea is that somewhere in the process a reckoning must take place. Though not chronologically you can see this progression in the body of the album. The Medicine is about a reckoning in oneself, with life, and with death. It’s about blood on the promenade and the yawning of unlocked and unlatched graves. It’s about worship in the context of life where the world is both immeasurably wonderful and cruel at the same time. This is the world we live in, this is the world we worship in and I want to depict worship where it really happens, in the context of a reality outside of Disneyland. At the same time these songs are full of hope and wonder like nothing I’ve written before.
Each song has a purpose for the album and a special place in my heart. If there was anything I wasn’t excited about it wouldn’t have made it on the record but I do have some favorites.
The Medicine (the song) has been one of my favorite songs to play live over the last couple of years. It’s just a beautiful ruckus mess with definite elements of Springsteen and Southern Rock with a lil New York garage flavor. Skeleton Bones has this sweet gallup that’s almost folky but with a massive sweeping chorus. Carbon Ribs began as a song called Culver City Blues. I wrote it after an evening at he pier in Santa Monica. Couldn’t sleep so I just listened to the rhythm of the traffic outside my hotel room. It has this real 4 in the morning kind of charm to it. With Death in His Grave I was trying to write a song that sounded really old. There is an old folk tune about the death of the outlaw Jesse James. I took this idea and the theme of a poem by Steve Turner called The Day That Death Was Killed and wrote a story about the death of death. My wife Sarah and Molly Skaggs sang with me on this tune. One of my favorite moments on the album is the three part harmony on the bridge. Brings a tear to my eye. Belly of the Lion is a song about the treachery of mundane life and the pursuit of pacification. Ten Thousand is a song along the lines of older Dylan compositions like Desolation Row or Hard Rain. This song has a vivid imagery and tells like a story form an old revelator. Bringing the album to a close with the line “world, I have overcome you world”.
Here is the track listing for: “The Medicine”
Dress Us Up
Death in His Grave
Belly of the Lion
Out Of The Ground
The Medicine releases September 2008
Pre-order a copy at thejohnmark.com and download a free bonus track.
Or come pick one up at the CD Release Show Sept 6
The Visulite Theatre
1615 Elizabeth Ave.
Charlotte, NC, 28205