Divide and Conquer Interview

Mark Gotthard Interview

Q: You have been writing and recording music for over twenty five years. Can you talk a little bit about your history?

A: Yup. Definitely. A friend taught me some chords on an acoustic guitar my freshman year at Princeton. Something clicked. I mean like I wouldn’t stop bugging this guy for like a week to teach me how to play. Something really resonated even before I picked up the guitar that this was something that was going to be meaningful to me. Now, I had no idea that it would lead to me writing my own songs, performing all over the country, etc….I just had that impulse to learn to play the damn acoustic guitar. After that first taste of learning a few chords, I just ran with it. Bought a “cheap –o” acoustic at the local guitar shop the very next day and started playing like mad, dedicating a lot more time to it than I should have probably…..I was on the Varsity Tennis Team there and I can remember taking my guitar to practice because I had just written a song and was still working on it…priorities clear, right? I started writing a lot of songs then, some very good ones even to this day, I believe, and then after graduating college, it became my constant. I ended up living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Jackson, Wyoming, Boston, Washington D.C. and New York. All these places I traveled to in my early 20s…trying to find myself and what I was “supposed” to do. A lot of this time was very painful, and writing songs was the thing that kept me going, so to speak, in a lot of darkness. I can remember thinking of writing a song about my guitar being the only thing I had.actually I think I did write that thing…see what I mean? A lot of murky water behind me – and music was my life raft in and out of the rapids. So it’s been an interesting journey, music initially starting off as a very championing expression, and then it turning into a lifesaver, and a manifestation of a lot of pain…and the road continues…and has become very bright, in recent months.

Q: You mention “The past six months has marked a transformation in my life and music career.” What was that transformation and how much do we hear of that on your latest release Cherrylee Sessions?

A: Yes. It’s been since I met and married the love of my life, Lara. She is also an artist, and since we met my musicality and creative resourcefulness have gone electric. I mean, I never thought for a while there that I would be in the position I am now - with a new lease on life, happy dare I say, and with a new, revamped music career. And it is very evident on Cherylee the transformation: the complexity, ideas, thoughtfulness, and depth of the songs and especially the arrangements and production are at another level. For instance, the snare on “Cold Night’s Stare” is something me and my producer/engineer Terry Bailey worked on for a period of over four years. Now we didn’t work on it every day, but we spent A LOT of time to get that meaty, gritty, full-sounding tone…and I think that before I met Lara I would have just settled and moved on, and not really been happy with the sound we achieved. Now, I have a lot more confidence in myself as an artist, and strive for excellence…more than ever.

Q: How would describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?

A: I hate this question…because saying that “I hate to describe my music” sounds so cliché….but it’s true. I will say that my music is something to take in when you’re alone, hurt, wanting and desperate. It’s also music to listen to in good times, driving down the road, hanging out with friends…my influences such as Tom Waits, Joe Henry, Gillian Welch, Nick Cave, Neil Young, Cigarettes After Sex, Houndmouth and XX make me feel a certain way…and I would hope that my music would bring you to a similar place in listening to these artists.


Q: Can you talk about your creative process in and out of the studio?

A: So I went through my phone the other day, and I saw that I have like 300 voice recorded messages – and these are ideas I’ve had for the past maybe four years. And sometimes I’ll sit down with the guitar and specifically try to find something when I’m feeling inspired….and I’ll record a two-minute or three-minute rough skeleton of a song. Sometimes it’s a spoken idea, like the other day, I just spoke into the phone “Cool line…and I cried and I didn’t know why.”.And then I’ve gone back and found ideas that I totally forgot and salvaged…on my computer I was recording for a while on a terrible program called Audacity…and one of the title tracks of Cherrylee is “Next To You” – a song I wrote in the middle of the night one night and then forgot – I’ve done a lot of that – get up in the middle of the night and write and record – and then I’ll not remember what I did at all the next day. I’m rediscovering a lot of material from that era of “sleep writing.” Embarrassing and stupid, I know, but true.

In the studio me and Terry will usually get together and spend the whole day recording, editing and/or mixing. I must say our production is HUGE – we will record guitar, vocal and maybe three more instrumentations like bass, drums, horns or whatever – for two songs at least – so we have a fairly complete version of those songs before the day is done…and then we’ll edit and make changes to maybe four or five songs we’ve done the prior recording session. Cherrylee took four years to complete – and that was the deal…recording and editing material over and over until it was to a place that was totally mature….It took forever but was well worth the wait. I think we maybe had THIRTY songs completed by the end of that time, and I chose what I thought was the strongest of that library. Someday I’ll have to release the “B” sides that didn’t make the cut…but that’s for another day. Anyway, yeah, me and Terry absolutely kick ass in our sessions. We’ve been doing it for almost 30 years now, and our communication, chemistry and understanding of each other in the studio I think is very special. I’m lucky to have him in my life…both as a producer and a friend. 

Q: What are your live performances like? Do you work with other musicians?

A: My live performances these days I must say ROCK. I very much try to make it an interactive experience with the crowd. I hate performers who just go up there and play for themselves and not address an audience who takes the time and money to see him or her. People want to be ENTERTAINED, and they have a right to be a part of the performance. I hand out percussion instruments like shakers, tambourines and bells for people to rock along with my songs. And I’m always keeping their attention, by talking with them in between songs and sometimes singling someone out. It’s either good or bad too….I’ve had rowdy people blab away during my songs and not pay any attention to me…and anyone who has ever got up on stage has known those types of people – rude, plain rude. But instead of powering through, ignoring them, or getting upset, I’ll acknowledge them and try to get them involved too…maybe by asking them what was so important to talk about now…and having something fun to say in response to what they offer…and I’ll be a smart ass if I have to…but whatever is required to get ALL involved I’ll do. Because I won’t waste my time anymore getting up there and just “peeing in my pants” so to speak and play to hear myself sing. I can do that at home. Not anymore.

I am a solo acoustic act but would love to get other musicians involved. I would be interested in communicating with anyone who has something unique and different to offer. Not just someone who will play what I tell them to or someone who will play what they think is right because of a formula. A team of total individuals playing as a group is what I would be interested in forming. Email me and we’ll talk. Heh.

Q: What else should we know about your music?

A: I am currently working on four albums concurrently. First, there is Neon Dreams which is constructed as an album having a variant or alternative space in reality….it’s a strange album, with tones all to their own. I’m also working on a comedy album….”She Gave Me VD!”Is a track that will appear on this effort….My biggest focus so far out the quad release to be The West – a collection of western songs – outlaws, cattle rustlers and Jesse James himself are some of the characters you will encounter on this escapade….I have always had a penchant for western themes, so this album seems natural to put together finally. And then there is The Road – as you might guess is a collection of all my road songs I’ve written throughout the years….I’m so excited to put all this material out…think it will really a crowning moment for me personally and as an artist. And it will be fucking amazing to listen to. 

Check out the full critique

Mark Gothard
Divide and Conquer Music Review June 2018



Mark Gothard

Cherrylee Sessions
self-released; 2018

3.8 out of 5

By Tina Romano

Mark Gothard is an award winning accomplished musician who has penned over 300 songs. Gothard returns with his seventh LP Cherrylee Sessions, a full-length album comprised of 14 songs. The album is entitled after the street in Yorba Linda, CA where Gothard recorded the album in an empty abode. Gothard played varsity tennis in college. Once introduced to the guitar and after learning a few basic chords, Gothard decided to go the musical route and trade in his racket for a six-string acoustic guitar to critical acclaim.

Gothard employs a John Prine style of storytelling in his writing. He crafts lyrics for the everyman and everywoman. He speaks to those caught in dead-end jobs, in love with their Jameson just a little too much. He, like Prine, finds the humor in the mundane. Some artists rely on wallowing in the B movie that is their life. Gothard tells stories of people just keep on keepin’ on. “She is trying on those pants / In the Thrift Store catching people’s eyes.”

“Get Next to you” again shows how he writes about relationship’s common issues and regular pitfalls. “I used to have dreams before / Now you have opened up the door” the widespread theme of trying to get through his gal’s Dad to get next to her.

“Blood Moon” speaks of “Whiskey Stained Truths and naugahyde Boots.” This track possesses a “porch song’ feel aka a good song to listen to while hanging out on a porch in the summertime drinking a beer with a Whiskey chaser.

There is a discernible Tom Waits feel to his voice in “Lovesick.” He draws out the lyrics “Love sick / sick of love.” The song relies on a fair amount of finger picking which works with his lyrics. Gothard uses his guitar as the supporting actors in his songs. You can feel his love of playing on “Skies Painted Blue,” another love song about his baby. He did get married in between albums. He said this “changed him.”

His work has garnered him respect and awards. Last February, his song “It’s Alright”, a bluesy parody was nominated for Hollywood Music in Media Award in the Blues Category.

Overall CherryLee Sessions was an impressive album that showcased his exceptional songwriting abilities. I looking forward to hearing more of his work. Recommended.

Mark Gothard
Bandblurb.com, January 2015

Artist: Mark Gothard

Album: Fly the Coop

Website: http://www.markgothard.com/


Genre: Acoustic Singer/Songwriter, Sadcore, Folk, Blues, Americana “Outlaw Folk”

Sounds Like: Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, John Prine, The Doors, Johnny Cash, Richard Buckner, Chris Isaacs

Best Songs: What you Come Here For, I Don’t Think you Should Call Me, Virgin. King of Love

Weakness: Short sided songs, More solo segments, Micro-timing issues, better vocal rick execution


Mark Gothard admits he has been around the block a few times already. Now, with his fifth full-length album, Gothard has made the best music of… a career that is already full of highlights. ‘The Poet’ – recorded by award-winning producer Lauren Stalnecker – is in many ways the culmination of a life on the road, searching for the great American song. His latest release “Fly the Coop: was released in 2014.

The CD gently takes flight with “What You Come Hre For” a melancholy acoustic intro piece that serves up solitary vocal delivery from Gothard that is passionate, up front and very personal. This lead off track captures Pure Americana –Sadcore magic. And get things off on the right foot. Track 2 “Month of June” keeps things moving with methodical intro, slow moving feel meshed against Gothard’s amazing low yet striking baritone and thought provoking lyrical content. Track 3 “Dust” shifts gears a bit with its bluesy guitar riffs, impressive feel that flows and ebbs its way through emotional fruition. As the CD slowly unfolds I can hear many musical influences reminiscent of classic Bruce Springsteen, John Prine, The Doors, Mark Kozelek Richard Buckner, Johnny Cash, Chris Isaacs, and even The National. The actual musical format is very intimate, up close: a personal snapshot of the artist. The songs themselves are very naked and personal with messages revealing the highs and lows of life, love, passion and do I dare say life’s observations. Overall the catalogue is extremely melancholy showcasing vintage sadcore but brilliant nonetheless. Besides the 4 piece standard you will also notice brief splashes of Horns, Piano, Hammond Organ, Keyboards, Sporadic Percussion, impressive guitar licks and solos, all built upon an impressive rhythm section.  The guitar playing abilities from Gothard are impressive nonetheless. Timing is spot on within each piece. I might add Gothard displays an impressive baritone, impressive vibrato and strong emotional timbre. Gothard possess a truly brilliant Baritone and a very appealing deep timbre that sucks you in, His voice was made for this style of music I call Outlaw Folk. His voice reminds me of a cross between Jim Morrison and Johnny Cash. Lyrical content is extremely revealing and thought provoking. All songs cut deep to the core and its obvious Gothard is also a very capable singer/songwriter. From striking “Dive Bar Lawn” to slow burning “I Don’t Think You Should Call Me” and “Others” to methodical “Down Here” his CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with Track 13 “Down the Ohio” the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.

All songs under 3 minutes tend to feel like incomplete statements to me. All songs over 4 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line. There are a few micro-timing issues throughout the CD but as a whole the CD grooves really well. I don’t care how Track 2 ends – sounds kind of like a train wreck. This CD is begging for more solo segments. To go with this last comment the production is in dire need of things like Slide guitar, upgraded solo guitar, and Harmonica, performances, Pedal Steel and even Piano to Electric Piano. I give credit to Gothrd attempted to taking a few vocal risks here but he needs to polish those moments up a bit within his pitch execution as theya re bit awkward.

This is the Best Mark Gothard to date. He’s definitely headed in the right direction with his overall sound. Mark Gothard will work best on days you want a delicate, thought provoking and intellectual singer/songwriter sound to fill your atmosphere. “Fly the Coop” is a brilliant, striking and compelling musical production.  Its strong suit is its overall consistency, lyrical wisdom and bold straightforwardness of Gothard. His songs just groove and it’s fair to say Gothard has managed to capture some “lightning in a bottle” on this album. ake no bones about it folks; It took raw honesty to write and perform some of these songs. What I like most about Gothard is there is no attempt to hide how he feels, or sugar coat the truth. I really admire artists out there who are themselves and just let the chips fall where they may. Praise goes out to the artist that has the courage to show us something real and genuine beneath their veil of vanity. Gothard is one of those artists. Be advised you may not want to listen to this CD on the day you get fired, but if you like melancholy music that provides a very real assessment of the human condition then you should jump into the CD head first. The real selling point for any song is the (singer to listener) emotional connection. Here experienced artists will execute and make this every time. It cannot be faked and has to be totally genuine. At the end of the day people don’t buy plastic and paper, they buy emotions. In this aspect Gothard is brilliant!

Purchase Link: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/markgothard3

Score: 8/10 Stars

Cyrus Rhodes

Mark Gothard