“Music is about expression, escape, moving others, collaborating, gifting the best parts of you & reaching deep into the quiet thoughts of your soul. Living a dream far beyond his years John Mark Nelson reminds us ‘You have to love everything more than it’s going to love you back’ and that may be the glue that binds his heart to the music he entrusts to all who join in.”
– Fresh Independence
Name: John Mark Nelson
Where are you writing this: Minneapolis, MN
Home is where your story begins, please tell us a little about yours.
I grew up in Minnesota, about 25 miles southwest of Minneapolis. I am the youngest of three. I have an older brother and sister. My family is really close, and gets along swimmingly. I am really thankful for the childhood I had, and understand its positive influence on my life now.
Best describe your musical style.
I write what could probably be best described as pop music, influenced by genres like folk, rock, and classical. The structures of the songs that I write are not too sophisticated, but my artistic voice lies in the orchestration. I love the way instruments interact and get just as much joy from recording and layering songs as I do writing melodies and lyrics.
How would you say music found you?
I grew up in a pretty musical family. My dad is a piano player and my mom sings, so it was a pretty common language around the house. Music found me when I was quite young, before I can even remember, and has stuck with me ever since.
Did you sing at your high school graduation?
I did not. I graduated in a class of nearly 900 kids and was by no means popular.
Any format for bringing a song to life?
Melody – Accompaniment – Arrangement – Orchestration – Lyrics
It is a wonderful thing to have gained the early support from The Current 89.3 How did they become believers in your work?
I had posted some of my compositions to a bandcamp site while I was in high school, and the local music staff at 89.3 came across it. It’s really an amazing thing to live in a city with a radio station that actively seeks out local music.
Tell us about your band members, how you came together and how they contribute to all that you do.
I started out by playing with a group composed primarily of classmates at my high school. However, after we graduated, many of them went out of state for school. I met my current bass player, Benjamin Kelly, at a Christmas Eve gig where I was playing drums and he was playing bass. We immediately became friends and I told him that I had beed writing some songs and wanted to put a band together. He introduced me to my drummer, Nate Babbs, and the rest of the lineup fell in to place in a similar manner. I now work regularly with guitarists Steve Bosmans, and Matt Patrick, and singer-songwriter Kara Laudon contributes her lovely voice and keyboard skills.
I can’t stress enough how much these individuals mean to me. We all need people in our lives that believe in us and encourage us in all that we do. These people fill that role in my life and it means the world to me. I couldn’t do what I do without them.
Who is the genius behind your ideas and experimental types of recording and capturing sounds.
I self-produced and recorded my first two projects, so the ideas for recording and arranging came from somewhere within my head. For ‘Sings The Moon’ I had the great privilege of giving up a little bit of that control, and producing the record along with co-producer Matt Patrick. Matt owns a beautiful studio in Northeast Minneapolis called ‘The Library’, where we tracked and mixed the record. Matt was an incredible resource for creative and experimental record methods. We tracked a guitar through a pair of walkie-talkies, sent my voice through an old radio speaker, and dropped buckets of bolts and screws to make percussion.
Being so young and having ‘everything’ ahead of you, do you have a vision for your chosen career path?
I want to also sustain a fascination and love for the art of creating music. Over the next years, I would love that to manifest itself in continuing to write ‘John Mark Nelson’ songs, co-writing with other inspiring artists, producing for other songwriters, and possibly branching into composing and film scoring.
My dream marquee would read:
Sufjan Stevens with special guests: Little Dragon, The Shins and MUTEMATH
It would be a pretty chaotic night.
The greatest book ever written is:
I can’t claim to know the answer to that, but I recently read a great collection of poems and essays called “My Bright Abyss” by Christian Wiman.
My favorite movie is:
It’s between these three: The Darjeeling Limited, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Lost in Translation.
John Mark Nelson is hosting a dinner party!
Which album is on replay? Carole King: Tapestry
What is on the menu? Salmon, Steamed Broccoli, Brown Rice
4 people on the guest list past or present that would make it a memorable evening.
What game will you play?
Aside from communication, what can you not live without on the road?
The prettiest thing I have ever seen is…
There is a park on the Southwest end of Vancouver Island, British Columbia called East Sooke Park. It’s incredibly isolated and has some of the most beautiful hiking trails I have ever seen. It looks out over the Strait of Juan De Fuca towards Washington state. It’s a one of a kind place.
I will always: Love Minnesota
Is there one quote or piece of advice that always goes with you?
A friend told me once that
“You have to love everything more than it’s going to love you back”
I think that is really beautiful.
What would you like us to know about ‘Sings The Moon’ ?
It’s an album about growing up and finding your place in the world. It’s also about the various seasons of life as a whole, and the challenges and obstacles that come with those seasons. It is a sonic exploration of what it means to be human and to live the incredible gift of life that fell into our lap.
True Love is…
Laying down your own desires for someone else.
What can we look forward to with John Mark Nelson over the coming year?
I have already begun drafting ideas for a new work. I am in preproduction for my first project as a producer. I also plan on expanding our tours and coming to new towns and venues.