Mark Bryan is the lead guitarist for Hootie and Blowfish. He has released his own solo album (30 on the Rail) and composed a short downloadable album titled State Your Peace available on their website. The band is currently touring in promotion of their latest album, which comes out August 8th, Looking for Lucky. I had the opportunity to interview him over the phone before a Tennessee show on August 4th about the band, his solo career, and the new album.
How long have you been working on Looking for Lucky?
We started last fall in September. We did one recording back in December for about eight days and another recording in March for nine days. We were pretty much done at that point.
What made you get back into the studio?
Songs. I like songs. (laughs) We all write so we always have material. To be honest, I think we put out an album about every two years. That seems to be our working schedule.
In One Love, there’s a line in the lyrics that goes by pretty quick, “So many dying, so many lying.” Where did that line come from?
Darius added that line after it was completed. It was almost an adlib. It’s just in reference to what the song is talking about. Sort of one love as opposed to a war type of thing. Kind of an idealistic song. I like that about it. It sort of shows that there is a chance for that and by saying “so many lying, so many dying,” it creates this image of a lot of bad things going on. I think people will get what they get from it as far as what it means to us. I think it’s a powerful line.
Killing Stone, not so much for the lyrics, but the sound is dark and gritty, almost like nothing else you have done. What was the inspiration for this one?
I agree. It’s because we always write in G, it goes good with guitar and Darius’ voice and the relative minor chord in G is E minor and very rarely do we actually start with E minor and that’s what happened with that song. There’s another song of ours on Musical Chairs called Wishing like that. That’s what it sounds like when we start on a minor instead of a major chord.
People will likely look at Looking for Lucky and see political stances, especially with two songs (State Your Peace and Another Years Gone By) from your short album. How do you respond to that?
I respond to that, as that’s what I was writing about at the time. I’m a writer and things just come off the top of my head. I guess I have a lot to say. It’s been a couple of years and I guess the emotions from 9-11 and going to war against my better judgment is where the lyrics came from.
Whose call was it to put two of your own songs on Looking for Lucky?
Well, it was nobody’s call. Whenever we get together to make a record, we turn all the songs in and there are a lot of good songs that stick with the band better than others. So, whatever 12 songs we end up with out of 30 to 50 songs, it’s the 12 that are working the best with the band the most. Those are the ones we all felt the best about. So it wasn’t anyone’s “call,” it just sort of happens naturally. We don’t keep track, it’s a group effort.
Smile. This one is really upbeat, insanely catchy it’s sort of like a Space on the bands self-titled album or Desert Mountain Showdown on Musical Chairs. You guys always seem to have one of those on your albums.
It’s definitely an upbeat song. Yeah, you’re right, we need that pop rock. Only Wanna be with You was like that too. It’s so positively catchy, and so positive it’s cheesy, it’s rocking. (laughs) You know, we don’t need to do it, it’s part of our sound I guess.
Any thought on the next single, especially with One Love really gaining airplay like it is?
Not at all. That’s something we hope we don’t have to think about for a while. But if we do, I think we’ve got a lot of choices. It’s whatever feels right at the time.
How about a new DVD? It’s been a while since you put one out.
Oh, that’s something we want to do for sure and hopefully we can get one out before Christmas. There’s nothing definite there, but that would be a plan if we could all be agreeable on it and get the production. We want to be sure it’s the right show.
Any more solo albums planned?
Yeah, I do. I haven’t recorded yet, but I’m ready to make one. It’s just whenever I can get the time.
You guys play Toledo every year. You’re always at the zoo. Is that your call or a promoters?
This was the second time we played the zoo. Our booking agent is out of California and they book us. We basically look at the shows and unless there is something we’re really against, we just play the shows they book. It’s not really our call. He gets paid to do that job and find promoters that like us. We look and if we have anything we want to change, we have a right to do that.
You guys have been around for a while now. Do you ever look back and think, “Hootie and the Blowfish,” what were we thinking?
Yeah, always. Every damn day when someone calls Darius Hootie or we hear a Blowfish joke, I think “god we have a stupid name.” It sure has served us well. Regardless of whether or not I like it, it has served us well.
I’m going to say a phrase and I want to hear the first thing that comes into your mind: Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch.
(Pause) Silly. Silly as shit. (laughs) In fact, the “annoyer.” That’s what Darius used to call himself when he was being stupid or silly in the van, hitting everyone with Whiffle ball bats or sing off key he’d call himself the annoyer. That commercial reminded me of him being there.
Ok, that’s all I have for you. Thanks.