Anyone who says there’s no musical talent in Monterey, California clearly hasn’t met Mark Banks.
For Mark, music’s beckoning is more of a consistent yank than anything else. Raised in Southern California, he is no stranger to dreaming big.
Struggling through a divorce and an abusive neighbor, Mark moved to Pacific Grove, California when he was nine. At the tender age of ten, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana struck the deepest chord within him, and Kurt Cobain filled the gap Mark never knew he needed.
As soon as the song wrapped, he decided music was his future. He asked for a guitar, and the moment his fingers slid over the strings, he wrote his first song.
From there, he faced an upward battle in his chase for success.
The College Years
Before moving back to study in Southern California, Mark started up a rock band called HWY ONE. After a few live shows and some poor choices with drugs, he decided he needed a change in scene.
That change encouraged him to reconnect with his spiritual roots and meet up with his former youth pastor in Georgia. Once caught up and back on the right track, Mark followed his passion through his worship.
Redefining the American Dream
Mark, like many other creatives, has a hard time fitting into any type of mold.
Surrounded by pressures to “get a real job” and take care of his family, Mark put himself through hell. From jobs acting out diseases to working in fast food, the 9-5 structure held him back. It built someone else’s dream, someone else’s business, and took away from his passions.
On building his own repertoire through his music, Mark says, “If someone wants to go in the arts, you need to be pulled by it. If you have to push yourself to get up and play your guitar or write or whatever, you’re not in the right thing, and you’re never really going to make it anyway. If you wake up and it’s pulling you and you’re driven in that, then you know you’re on the right path.”
The Joshua Bell Project
Although Mark has established himself in the Monterey area doing weddings, events, and private shows, he still battles a certain stigma against indie and local acts.
At shows with Tiger Woods, people look at him like he’s the biggest name in the business. He could then play the same set at a restaurant later that night and get treated like a beggar.
Consider The Joshua Bell Project. A world–class violinist plays six classical tunes in a subway on a $3.5 million dollar violin and no one bats an eye. Later on, an audience donned in formal-wear pays a couple hundred to hear the same thing.
“It’s all about the ‘packaging,’” says Mark. “ If you’re not packaged and presented in a way people understand it, a lot of times they can be cruel and beat you up. You have to have thick skin and know why you’re doing what you’re doing.”
The Vision of Mark Banks
Standing out against these perceptions has become Mark’s next biggest task. Although grateful for the net he’s built himself in his hometown, his wings itch to stretch a little further.
“There’s only so much you can do in a small area. People get tired of hearing you, and only a small number of people do well.”
As an artist who develops over time, Mark consistently aims to take his music to the next level. With three EP’s sold online (condensed into one album sold at shows), his real passion is in producing records. As most of his shows consist of covers, he pushes himself to get people to hear his originals.
“When you’re a dreamer, you have to drive the dream, you have to push it. If you’re successful, that dream takes over and you’re a part of the machine. I just want to build something that lasts.”
Inspired Through the Darkness
Through a past filled with pain, Mark keeps God as his number one inspiration. Even with a strong faith, he doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects of himself.
“People can do just about anything with enough practice. Creativity opens your mind, and you can work toward being what you want. At the same time, creativity brings out a lot of hard stuff, and creative people tend to walk a melancholy path. You just have to be careful.”
“My heart genuinely does love people. I can’t see pictures of the war, the kids getting hurt in Syria, and not feel it. That kind of stuff inspires me.”
Moving forward, Mark keeps writing music that compels listeners to face darkness with hope for a brighter day.