If you’ve been to see a concert in and around Rock City, chances are good that you’ve seen Mark Colbert.
Rather, you’ve heard the work of Mark Colbert. You see, there’s usually a mixing board between he and the public, and that’s just fine with him. He’s worked live sound in and around Little Rock for over twenty years and has no plans to stop any time soon.
For the last six years, Colbert has been the resident house sound engineer at Rev Room. “For the last two or three years, it’s been my room exclusively. I [also] fill in [occasionally] at South on Main and [do] the occasional gig at White Water.”
A drummer at heart, Colbert picked up the sticks when he was around nine years old. Encouraged by his parents, he was able to turn his interest in music into a successful career, joining his first professional band in 1996 and touring full time until 2000.
When his band broke up, he evolved from a musician into a recording engineering. “I was always the guy [in the band] that could figure out how to turn knobs and move faders and make things sound good,” Colbert said. “I apparently had a natural aptitude [for] it and maybe some talent but the bottom line is, I worked hard at it to figure out what made things work.”
Colbert left for Nashville to pursue engineering and was able to land an internship which ended up being rather short lived. “I took trash out, swept floors, got coffee and drinks for the clientele for two weeks, and walked up [to the door] that third week and the door was locked.”
Instead of staying in Tennessee, Colbert opted to return to Little Rock, and was able to land work immediately, doing sound production with two different companies. “I’ve always been drawn back by family but I would say that the creative community in this town is a tight-knit group,” he said. “I feel like there is a lot of camaraderie and a lot less competition than there is [compared to] other cities.”
By chance, he ran into David Hodges, who had just left Evanescence, and the two expressed an interest in working together. This mutual interest bore two things: the band Trading Yesterday and Colbert’s career as a sound engineer. Their demo “was recorded in the kitchen of a two bedroom apartment” in West Little Rock that Colbert and Hodges shared.
Upon its release, they were immediately signed to Epic Records, and moved to LA to record their major label debut. Unfortunately, the music industry was in the midst of enormous change, and for many reasons, the album was never released. But that wasn’t the end of Colbert’s story. He decided to leave musician work entirely in favor of recording engineering, in addition to his work in live sound.
“I got back here and immediately found a niche that I fit into. When I left Little Rock, I knew the creative landscape pretty well…but when I got back I feel like [the number of great artists] had tripled or quadrupled,” Colbert explained. Working at Rev Room exposed him to all kinds of talented people playing all kinds of different types of music. “Most folks in Little Rock have no idea the level of talent we have. You’ll sit next to somebody at a lunch counter and you’ll never know that the dude’s an incredible guitar player. Or the chick walking through the grocery store is one of the best vocalists you’ve ever heard in your life. Or the guy who’s your personal trainer is one of the best rappers in the south.”
Spurred by his exposure to Little Rock’s talented pool of musicians, Colbert has entered into a partnership with Bryan Frazier and opened a recording studio called Capital View Studio. Though they’ve not been in existence very long, there are already very exciting things coming down the pipeline.
Metal band Sumokem is recording at the studio, as well as singer-songwriter Mark Currey, whose sessions have just started. Local favorite John Burnette has a record that is very near completion. “I honestly believe this record will be something that’s going to change John’s life; we have spent so much time and effort on this thing, and there’s so many elements, and it’s something that I’m very proud of artistically.”
Keep your eyes on Colbert, he’s not going anywhere soon. Next time you’re at the Rev Room give Little Rock’s favorite sound-guy a nod.