We had the good fortune of connecting with Mark Williams and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Mark, what is the most important factor behind your success?
Dedication. Dedication to the artist’s songs, comfort level, aesthetic and details.

I take every artist whom I work with very seriously. Creating any form of art can be quite vulnerable. Really taking time to listen and understand what the artist wants out of their recording and their aesthetic is paramount. I never understood producers who muscle in and try to forge “their” sound on a songwriter. I find that approach counterintuitive. I really enjoy establishing a relationship of trust and comfort. Like anything in life, it is important to find a good balance of listening, experimenting and knowing when to push an artist, but always pushing in a positive, motivational way. When working with a band, the process can involve managing their dynamic in the studio. It is important that everyone check their egos at the door and be open to others input. If one is to shoot an idea down, they better be respectful and offer a solution. That’s a hard rule for me. No attacking band members. Leave the drama at the bar!

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Music started as a passion and a dream. My first remembrance of music was when I was 3 years old, standing on the stairs in our first house outside of Philadelphia. It was Joni Mitchell’s, Clouds playing on my parents console entertainment center. The experience stopped me dead in my tracks! I had a profound emotional reaction that has stuck with me since. I didn’t know how to process what I was hearing, but I loved every second. A few years later, my aunt introduced me to the Beatles and Monty Python, which both shaped have my entire existence..

My following musical growth consisted of group guitar lessons in 3rd grade and playing on my friends’ drum kits after school. I really wanted to be a drummer first and foremost. My parents however, opted to keep their hearing. My first gig was as Ace Frehely from Kiss lip-synching and getting on my knees to air guitar solo at the 6th grade talent show. I played in quite a few bands in the 90’s/00’s and settled in with a recording and touring band called Jonasay. We had a really solid local following and toured with bands such as Hootie And The Blowfish, Vertical Horizon and Sister Hazel… I felt like I was living the dream for sure. The band was full time and we put our all in to the project. It was a great run that resulted in some of the best experiences of my life. Playing music that you have created to hundreds or thousands of people every night was a dream come true. We had a great run but ran in to many of the common pitfalls such as our record label totally dropping the ball, creative differences and the standard Spinal Tap moments. It all timed out well for me, as I was staring to produce and engineer bands and solo artists.

I knew that I wanted to land more on the creative and recording side of the business. I have experienced so many highs creating songs and listening to music. I have l always listened to the song first and the hooks that draw you in. The sonic landscape has always been very intriguing to me too. I want to know how the sounds are achieved and how the whole machine works together harmonically and rhythmically. Sorting it all out was pretty natural for me, although difficult at times, as I have very little formal training. My process has been more organic and driven by a thirst for knowledge. Also being around exceptional producers and engineers/ creatives like Mike Major, Jeff Juliano and my buddy Todd Wright has added quite a bit to my knowledge base. I was never comfortable with the “fake it till you make it” scenario. When faced with an unknown kink early on, there were times when I would call a fellow engineer or hit the internet to solve my problems as opposed to improvising or faking it LOL.

There are many lessons that I have taken away from this journey. First and foremost is to show up for the challenge on time and prepared. It takes time and care to dig in to the artist’s songs and extract ideas for helping them realize their desired results. Preproduction and time management are huge. Things will always spark your instinct and happen on the fly, but there will be more to draw from if you prepare properly. Charting things out when needed, good studio ergonomics and setting goals certainly help the process along. Another thing is to never assume what an artist or musician is thinking. Making music has its own life of ups and downs and artists can be moody.

When people find out what I do for a living, the first question that they ask is, who is the biggest artist you have worked with or the biggest song you have recorded. My response is that they are all big. They all have a special process, big songs and are equally valid. I am fortunate that I get to work with some of the best writers and musicians in the area and beyond. I thrive on repeat business too. I have been able to work with a bunch of well known artists and musicians as well. I treat every project with the same amount of care and energy. Everyone I work with has a Genesis and the potential to make a significant mark on the industry.

My story is not extremely unique. I am unique in the way I have processed so many types of music on an emotional level and have a way of regurgitating the craft. I love working with varied genres and draw something special from each project. I have also played with a good assortment of songwriters and bands and have been part of the writing process. I try not to reside in an ecosystem with too many rules. Rules limit creativity and expression. There are laws of physics, but you can cut a great guitar part with a vintage Tele, Jazzmaster or a Sears Silvertone in to an amp or good modeling device! The end result is what is most important. I love banging on inanimate objects and combining sound sources to create unique parts or samples too. We are supposed to have fun and sometimes we break things.

In short, I wake up every day energized and very thankful for my life. family and friends. The music business is filled with insanity and some of the most lovely and interesting people you will ever meet. I have played small clubs in front of 5 people and I have played for a president and in front of thousands. I have worked with local, regional, national and international recording artists. My success is defined by the music that I have been a part of and the strength of the many relationships that I have.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Wow the best time ever! Bike ride on the C&O Canal in the mornings. Coffee at Baked and Wired in Georgetown or Dolcezza in Bethesda . LoFi breakfast at the Tastee Diner in Bethesda! So great and the staff is fantastic. Complete with a server named Stanley sporting 42 Panther tatoos. My other fav breakfast is at the Music Cafe in Damascus, which is unfortunately closing down. Original House of Pancakes is ruling as well.

So there are 7 nights in a week and therefore I should suggest 7 restaurants:

1 – Chef Tony’s Bethesda – amazing seafood and Detroit style Pizza!! Super attentive and wonderful chef.
2 – Foong Lin Bethesda – Spot on Chinese food. Chef Foong is the quite a personality and will do barrel rolls behind the bar and pound his newly purchased gong! Amazing!
3 – Kadhai – My favorite Indian food ever. Top shelf staff. So accommodating! Amazing Vindaloo!
4 – Alatri Bros. Bethesda – I am a sucker for the charcuterie offerings and the craft pizza is amazing. Also a amazing staff now with live music to boot.
5 – Sole D’Italia – Layhill, MD. Childhood stomping ground. Great pizza, subs, wings and Italian heart!
6 – Wang Dynasty, Bethesda! Kung Pao chicken with Wes Lanich is heaven!
7 – Bangkok Joe’s – Georgetown – Near the water – Killer Thai fusion. Really nice staff too!

My nights out are usually dinner, gong to see live music, sporting events or the occasional comedy show. I have toured a good part of the country and I maintain that the DC Metro area has one of the best live music scenes. So many accessible venues of every size and genre! This market also has an amazing local contingent. I never want to leave as there are so many wonderful songwriters, bands and musicians right here. I think DC is way undervalued as a music market and ripe for substantial growth. A sampling of small to large clubs:

1 – The Pie Shop – H Street corridor NE, DC. I think it Caps at 75. Amazing sound system and full back line. yes, they even have a SVT and 8 x 10. Nuts! The pies, whether savory or dessert are so tasty.
2 – Jammin’ Java, Vienna VA – Cap around 210. My home away from home. Super supportive to local and national talent. Top notch staff, vibe and sound. Some of my favorite pizza derived from the owner Luke Brindley’s family recipe. Bartenders and engineers are to die for! Americana, pop, alt, Indie …
3 – Pearl Street Warehouse, The Wharf DC – 150-300. Singer Songwriter to rock bands. One of the best managers in James Main. Super attentive to talent. Great green room and sound. Really nice vibe and great bar food!
4 – Union Stage, The Wharf DC – Cap 450 ish I think. Really cool rock and roll club! Same ownership as Jammin Java, Top shelf! Sound is off the charts driven by Pat Hester and Tim! Bar staff is so great! Go see Katie!
5 – Black Cat – Indie / Punk Rock etc! Another amazing club! Great staff and you get a super cool “handler”. WOW!
Killer Indie vibe and history. Dave Grohl helped in the launch of the club. Sean is a great sound engineer and swell guy.
6 – 930 Club, NW DC – For a 1200 seater it doesn’t get better. They load in your gear, set you up in a fantastic green room and shower you with cupcakes! Gus is unparalleled as a sonic host and sound engineer! Monitor mixes and main mixes are flawless!!!!
7 – Anthem, Wharf DC – 930 club on steroids, lots of them. 6000 capacity. Really elegant, but still rock and roll. Another great IMP venue.
8 – Blues Alley, Georgetown DC – One of the premier Jazz clubs in the world. I have seen so much talent there over the years.

There are many others too!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to dedicate the shootout to my parents, who were always supportive and to Mike Major, a close high school friend and mentor since the late 80’s.. Mike was the drummer in a high school band that won a couple local Battle of the Bands and was also the drummer in my first band. Mike got in to recording when I was still honing my guitar chops. He is wicked talented and has an amazing set of ears and a diligent work ethic. Mike learned in the trenches while running a commercial studio in El Paso Tx. The reason I choose Mike is that he has taught me so much about the recording process over the years. I have avoided falling on my face many times as a result of his wisdom. I am a freak about drum sounds and performance and he has actually written a book about that very subject. http://mikemajormix.com/recording-drums-the-complete-guide/

We have had countless conversations about the recording process, acoustics, gear and getting sounds. He has been so generous with his input. I am now part of a team that is building a new studio in Washington DC and he completed the room design for one of the the studios that I will be working in. I love sharing the knowledge that I have gotten from him. It is important to give to those who are learning. I learned way more from being around great producers, artists and engineers than I have learned from a book. Give it back, as the result will come back to you ten fold.

Website: www.markkennethwilliams.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/markojet/?hl=en

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=709343852

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCucxY6q1xZJCPBJUo7wOTqA

Image Credits
There are no credits needed.

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