Do you ever wonder what it would be like to get a “Second Chance” to do something for the first time? Have you ever felt like you failed once and want to make a commitment to do it better the next time? That is the hope Mark Addison Chandler brings to us in his music. Life is an ever-changing journey full of decisions, detours, broken promises and renewed faith. Mark’s song writing is real and raw down to the last lyric. The stroke of his guitar in Music City brings the true-life stories from paper to our ears. I sat down with Mark after a writer’s round to get the meaning behind his songs. Mark sees the purpose in every life experience and believes in staying true to he is. Read on to learn his journey from singing in church as a kid to singing for three U.S. Presidents, going to war, raising a family, getting divorced and moving to Nashville to write music for all those the Long Ride Home to listen to.
Q. How did you find your love and talent for music?
A. “My dad was a southern gospel singer and he was a worship leader in our church (in North Carolina). My grandma and her sisters were on the radio singing gospel music back in the 30’s and 40’s. We always sang at family gatherings. The first song I ever sang was when I was about four in church. My dad wanted me to sing harmony, I can’t remember not singing.”
Mark got his first guitar when he was 17. He wanted to move to Nashville after high school graduation, but life took a detour. Mark left college to follow in his dad’s footsteps and join the Army.
Q. How did you find your way from the Army to making music a career?
A. “I got a letter saying I was accepted to West Point. I was in the chorus and sang a solo at half time for the Army-Navy game. I sang for President Clinton on a spring break trip to Texas. I sang for George Bush Sr. at the Heisman Club in New York City as well as George Bush Jr.”
Then time as an officer in the Army didn’t give Mark time for music, “Before I knew it I was getting married and had kids. I was commanding troops and there was no time. I went on several deployments and then got divorced,” says Mark.
Journaling for therapy drew Mark back to music, “During my last deployment a guy had a guitar I would pick up in the evenings. My writing came out of poems and I started putting into melody. I would run and a lot of ideas would come into my head I thought were cool. During my last year in the army I wrote about 26 songs whenever I was inspired, I recorded 11 of those songs.
“My philosophy is if I write great stuff, play great stuff and hang out with great people it will all work.”
Q. How did you make the decision to move to Nashville?
A. “When I got out of the Army and went back home. I started a band and they wanted me to play cover music, but I didn’t want to. So I decided to go to Nashville. When you’re not in Nashville, you think the fact you can write a song is cool and something special. Then you get here and a lot of people can do that. You realize you aren’t as good as you think you are so you have to work. I focused on writing songs for two and a half years. My philosophy is if I write great stuff, play great stuff and hang out with great people it will all work. Through this, I’ve learned more about who I am as an artist. I’ve experimented with different styles, like blues, but decided I’m country.”
“If I’m going to create something that’s going to move people it has to be real and believable coming from me.”
Q. How would you describe your musical style?
A. “The fact that I’m divorced with two kids, I can’t hide. I can’t sing songs about making out in a field. If I’m going to create something that’s going to move people it has to be real and believable coming from me. I write about hanging onto a marriage, being a single dad and dating a single mother or falling away from God a little bit and knowing you need to come back. As people grow older, that’s what they are drawn to because they can identify with those experiences.”
“I’ve sung for 80,000 people and that was cool, but the experience was not as satisfying and getting that song.”
Q. What do you enjoy or look forward to most about writing music?
A. “There’s nothing better than sitting down in a room and knowing you’re onto something special. You’re given a gift of a cool idea and it feels really good. I’ve sung for 80,000 people and that was cool, but the experience was not as satisfying and getting that song.”
“I wrote by myself before I got to Nashville, it’s a very co-writing town. If one creative person can do something, many times two people are more than twice as creative. Other people think about things differently and challenge what you have. Melodies come out of my head a certain way and other people may hear it differently. It (co-writing) gets you quality songs and exercises the muscle; you learn something from someone in the way they approach (writing the song). You have someone to challenge you to do better.”
“I may like a Luke Bryan song, but if I try to write something like that, it may not be me.”
Q. How has your life experiences impacted your song writing?
A. “No one else has the exact same experiences as me. No one else has been married ten years, divorced, went to war three times, started a church, who’s dad was a southern gospel singer, who was a blue-collar kid that went to a white-collar school. Those experiences I’ve lived make me unique. I may like a Luke Bryan song, but if I try to write something like that, it may not be me.”
“You have to realize you’re choosing one of the hardest things to succeed in you possibly could… Stay true to who you are.”
Q. What advice would you give to someone who may have a dream in music, but is struggling with taking the steps to make it a reality?
A. “You have to realize you’re choosing one of the hardest things to succeed in you possibly could. I’ve run ultra-marathons; I’ve been in combat three times and all these schools in the army. All that was physically hard, but writing is hard (mentally).”
“What is the best song ever written? If that’s the bar, maybe somebody can beat that, but it’s subjective. The cool thing now is social media makes it easier. I may never sing hit songs on the radio, but I hope to write them. I hope Josh’s (Gallagher) song, ‘How Bout You?’ goes to number one. Who knows, but I can still write songs and put music out that’s true to me. The song ‘Broken’ is about being a single dad. I’ve had people come up and say I wrote that song for them. Stay true to who you are.”
Q. What was the inspiration for your latest project? What does it mean to you?
A. “This project will be very specific to things I have lived. It will be a collection of songs of a man in his middle years. Being a single dad and being broken sometimes, but still having to show up with a smile on his face while he sees his kids. Dating a single mother and knowing you’re second and when you do find that second love you’re going to try to do it different.”
Q. Tell me about your single “Second Chance”?
A. “I had an idea that it would be cool to write a song for my future wife. Having been married before and finding someone else is a daunting task. A lot of music is directed at love but there is a different element to being older now. I’ve already failed once in a marriage, how am I going to find someone else I can have success with? There are a lot of people out there in that same boat.”
“I had this idea of a second chance at a first dance. I wanted to write a song about how I haven’t met that person yet, but I know they are out there. Whoever that person is, what are they like? What are they doing right now? When they finally come into my life, I’m going to make a commitment to do it better the second time.”
Q. How does “Second Chance” fit into a future record and what plans do you have for your music?
A. “The plan for this record is for it to be about my journey. I started writing songs as therapy from divorce and the healing from it. There will be a song about hanging onto a marriage, dating a single mother, all true to the last ten years of my life.”
“There are so many people out there who are in the same place in their life and they are really underserved with modern music.”
Q. What goals do you have for your music career?
A. “My goal as an artist for the music I am making is to write songs about the experiences I had from divorce and being a father of two. There are so many people out there who are in the same place in their life and they are really underserved with modern music. So much music is targeting 16 to 25 year olds, which is fine, but there is so much more in life that music can talk about. Real life is divorce, being a single dad and dating a single mother. There are so many people out there who are hungry for songs about that.”