Mark Sholtez: True to Himself
"I have a fairly regular live band and all the guys are great players," concludes Sholtez, "so I also like to give them the opportunity to showcase their musicianship. I've never been into just playing the music exactly the same as it is on the album. The songs act like a road map, and you can drive it however you like. It's negotiable, as far as I'm concerned. The discoveries you make when you are improvising are always the best ones. There's no point in having a great band if you don't give them the freedom to play."
YouTube has some clips of Sholtez in concert, and they offer a little insight in what Sholtez and band are capable of. His singing is more loose and freewheeling than on the album, and the band is right there with him.
All About Jazz: So now that you are closing the book on Real Street, what can your audience expect next? And can you tell us something about the process of songwriting?
Mark Sholtez: My main focus at the moment is getting back into the studio for album number two. I have written about thirty new tunes already, so there is plenty to choose from. One of my favorite things in the world is the feeling you get when you've just finished writing a new song. When I started writing I would always write sitting at the piano, but over the past few years I have written almost entirely on guitar. I taught myself to play guitar purely for the purpose of being able to be mobile with the songwriting. It was always such a frustration to not be able to work unless you happened to be in the same room as a piano and with all the traveling you need to do, playing music, it just made sense to me to buy a guitar. Now interestingly enough I rarely play piano, even live, and I'm seldom without a guitar in my hands.
I will occasionally co-write but most of the time it's just me.
I always try to write about things that are true to me. The songs aren't necessarily autobiographical, but they will at least start with something that has happened to me or some other thing that I'm feeling. I can build it up from there with as little or as much poetic license as I choose, but at the heart it will always connect back to me in some way. There will always be an element of truth in there somewhere.
AAJ: You've also toured in Asia. Can you tell us something about those experiences, what strikes you the most when thinking about it? And what's Australia likeyou're from Brisbanewhat's the music and jazz scene like in Brisbane?
MS: I've been lucky in the fact that music has taken me to a lot of interesting places. Before I signed my record deal, I spent six months living in Japan and playing there, which was fantastic. I have also spent a bit of time in the U.S.A. including Nashville, where I first saw the business of songwriting in action. I worked with some writers there that write every day, from Monday to Saturday, 9 to 5. That kind of discipline is amazing and it's no wonder there are so many great songwriters in Nashville.
Where I live in Brisbane, there's a small scene but there are some great musicians. The problem with a small city though is we lose a lot of really talented players to Sydney and Melbourne. In turn, the guys at the top of the food chain in those cities are looking to places like New York or Europe to try their luck.
One of the things I really do like about Brisbane is that all the bands are doing their own thing and it's all different and interesting. You don't get a whole lot of the same kind of bands all pushing to play in the same venues. Brisbane is becoming a bit of a hot spot for original music and it's also a great city to live in. I'm less than one hour away from some of the greatest beaches in the world and it's not unusual for a winter day to be 25 degrees Celsius.
AAJ: What musicians were of influence to you when growing up, what music did you like to listen to and what musicians would you like to work with?
MS: I listen to a lot of very different music. From AC/DC to [John] Coltrane. All of it has influenced me in some way or another. I was lucky that my parents played me some great music when I was a kid. Those records seem to be coming out more and more in the things I'm doing now. One of my favorite onstage moments from this year was opening for George Benson. The first record I can remember dad ever playing me when I was little was Benson's Breezin' (Warner Bros., 1976). I had George meet my dad backstage before the show and got that LP autographed for him. When I walked on stage I said, "Almost thirty years ago my dad introduced me to the music of George Benson and tonight I got to introduce my dad to George Benson." That felt pretty cool for me.
As far as who I'd like to work with, I had always thought I would like to record with producer Tommy LiPuma. I got to do that on my very first album, so I have been pretty spoiled already. In fact, so many of the guys who played on my record were on my list of people I would be happy just to meet, let alone actually record with.