–Mark Banks

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.

mark-banksThings looked up a little further when Mark moved back to California, where he reunited with his junior-high sweetheart, Aubre, with whom he shares two beautiful boys.

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.

mark-banksThis perception represents Mark’s biggest source of attack. Even though he’s played for names like Tiger Woods, Ferrari, and Apple, the audience treats him differently depending on the venue.

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 worldclass 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.”

mark-banksAs 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.

mark-banks-quote-4Understanding his inner demons only pushes him harder to inspire others to keep fighting for what they believe. Furthermore, his love for humanity keeps his fingers strumming tunes of hope.

“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.

Purchase any (or all) of Mark’s EP’s on iTunes, or book him while you can at

What music inspires you to face the darkness? How do you go about chasing your dreams? Let me know in the comments!