At least one thing is clear for singer/songwriter Mark Currey of Little Rock – the community has his back. He has successfully raised the requested funds for his first solo recording with help from online contributors through his Kickstarter campaign. Through the years of singing other people’s songs, it’s always been Currey’s dream to record his own album. Now is the time, and we can expect the album’s release sometime late summer to early fall, he said.
Curry took a recording break to share what makes his music heart beat. By day he is a communications specialist for a research group at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Although, his first response was “singer/songwriter” when occupation was mentioned. He’s a self-described “storyteller searching for an honest expression of his Southern voice.”
He was a finalist in the Texas Heritage Songwriters’ Association’s 2015 Texas Songwriter U Competition. As a solo artist and with members of Monkhouse, you might have seen Currey on the stage with Billy Joe Shaver, Todd Snider, Wanda Jackson, Amanda Shires, Monte Montgomery, Rumer, Amy Garland, and The Salty Dogs.
The folk singer said music has been a part of his being ever since he can remember. “Pretty sure I started singing as soon as I started talking,” he said. “I have a very vague memory of performing Tommy Roe’s ‘Dizzy’ on the playground during recess when I was in kindergarten.”
The patriarchs in his life helped shape his music interests early on. “My dad played guitar all the time. My grandfather, too. I remember my dad playing ‘Laura’s Theme’ from Dr. Zhivago on a big red Hollow-Body Gibson – ‘Roly Poly,’ Cotton Fields Back Home,’ he had a great repertoire. My grandfather loved Jimmy Rogers and Hank Williams.”
Currey’s first album he owned was the Beatles’ “White” record. He received it from his uncle who lived next door and somehow managed to get several copies from a local store in Ft. Worth, Texas. “I’m still not certain whether any money changed hands,” he said.
“I still love the Beatles. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young were huge too. John Denver sort of taught me to play guitar. I also loved all the standard late 70’s arena rock bands. Journey, Kansas, Boston… that sort of thing.”
Storytellers, from musicians to fiction writers, inspire Currey, he said. “Great songwriters – Guy Clark more than most – inspire me. Townes Van Zandt, Dylan. Southern fiction has influenced my songwriting as much as anything. Larry Brown, William Gay, Ron Rash and older stuff too like Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner.”
Currey loves stories, especially sad ones, he said, noting that many of the songs he sings now had to wait to be written. It’s best the characters in the songs have passed, he said. “It’s just as well they never heard these songs about our family and their stories.”
Now he can authentically record and perform to do what he loves best – connecting with his audience. His favorite thing about performing live is seeing someone really get the story he’s telling through music. “I have had a few experiences where, after a set, somebody would approach me and ask about a particular song. ‘Was that true?” or ‘Was that character you?’ There is really nothing better.”
Connection and being heard are important needs for Currey. Music unites and certainly gives him a platform to be heard. He noted he would never want to play songs that are “just noise and don’t connect with a listener.” The sense of camaraderie among local musicians helps keep things fresh, said.
“I love that most of the local musicians I know seem to be pulling for one another. I know we all compete for gigs and attention but it never feels like that. I like that most of the local folks are really fans of all the other folks.”
One thing Currey would like to see more of in Little Rock is “listening room” type of opportunities. Being a solo singer/songwriter, he said, and having a limited interest in playing the “standard happy-hour cover sets,” he hopes for some spaces geared more toward songwriters and storytellers. “You see a lot of that in places like Austin or Nashville and I realize those are much larger cities, but I’d love to see more of that here.”