Fredericksburg Songwriters' Showcase Mark Humphreys

Mark Humphreys began writing songs while still in high school. "When I was a little kid I loved music and would write songs in my head," he says. "The problem was, I thought that in order to write songs you had to know how to write sheet music--and I was way too lazy to learn that!" Then a friend who played the guitar showed Mark what chords are. "It was like a door opened and everything I ever dreamed of was possible. That summer I locked myself in a room with a piano and a book of chords and taught myself how to write songs, and I've been doing it ever since."

Gradually, Humphreys' musical style grew and evolved (he even taught himself to write the dreaded sheet music!). From his early twenties to his mid-thirties he wrote nearly 200 songs.

In the mid-1980s, he and fellow songwriter Rob Dobbins formed the rock band Motel Six, which played the Los Angeles club scene through 1986, at which point Humphreys grew disillusioned with the music business. "At the time, very few people were going out to hear new music," he says. "It was very frustrating working so hard for such little reward. Also, I really got fed up with trying to get a record deal. The record industry puts up walls at every turn, and I just felt I was constantly trying to jump over new ones. It was time for a break."

That "break" lasted longer than anyone anticipated. Over the next seven years, Humphreys went through a period of intense personal turmoil, and at one point even considered giving up music altogether to go to law school. "I actually applied to take the LSAT (the law school entry exam)," he recalls, "but when I actually had the test in front of me, I knew I was kidding myself. This was not what I was supposed to be doing. The trouble was, I was so caught up with the notion of 'being comfortable' and having 'security' that I made everything in my life difficult. I lost sight of the one thing that was always easy, always rewarding--writing songs. Instead, I worked at an unfulfilling job during the day and at night drowned my dreams in an ocean of self-doubt and alcohol. Mostly alcohol."

Finally becoming sober in 1990, Humphreys began the long process of finding his music again. By the end of 1992 he had laid down basic tracks for seven new songs at his home recording studio, but he was still uncertain about how to proceed with his career. Then, in late December 1992, just a few days before New Year's Day, lightning struck.

"I was sitting in my apartment, staring blankly at the recording console, and literally, just like that, out of the blue, it was like the Hand of God or something pushed me up out of my seat, over to the console. I promptly erased all of the tracks I disliked. I called and made an appointment at a local musicians' contact service, and within a week I had hired the musicians I needed to properly finish recording the songs I had started, and within a month I had written and recorded three additional songs, completing the album. From that point on, it's funny, I can't explain why my big 'moment of clarity' happened in that one particular, spectacular instant, but I've just kept moving forward, and I haven't stopped to this day."

In August 1993 Humphreys launched his own record label, Trough Records, and his first album, A Lust and a Longing (Catalogue No. TRCP 1011) was officially released August 27 of that year. It received a wide amount of airplay on college radio, and gave Humphreys the encouragement to begin performing live again.

Since then events have progressed rapidly. By June 1995, when Trough Records released Humphreys' second album, Angelenos (Catalogue No. TRCP 1022), he was becoming recognized as one of the most promising singer/songwriters on the L.A. "acoustic underground" scene. In September 1995 he was selected as one of 20 finalists at the Napa Valley Music Festival's Emerging Songwriter Showcase. Angelenos received critical acclaim and even more radio airplay than the first album.
Just prior to the release of Angelenos, Humphreys made the biggest leap of faith of his life--he decided to go on the road and focus his energy on his musical career. He became his own booking agent, manager and publicist. Since that time, he has toured constantly, in all regions of the United States. And while his path has a been difficult one at times, the rewards have been beyond his wildest expectations.

"It's funny," says Humphreys, "I always thought that happiness was an abstract notion. And yet, here I am, having given up the security of a full-time job; flying by the seat of my pants--and for the first time in my life I can say flat out that I'm happy. Really happy. Because I'm finally doing exactly what I was born to do. It's been amazing."

In 1997 Humphreys turned his experiences--the frustrations and the joys--into music and lyrics in his third album, Leap Day (Catalogue No. TRCP 1033). The album "deals openly with the 'struggles,' for lack of a better word," he says, "and the redemption that can come from living through them. I think many people my age (Humphreys is now 44) have experienced similar difficulties, with career, with family, and have come out the other end with renewed perspective and faith. I know that's what's happened to me and a lot of my friends, and I think the overall positive tone of the record speaks to the optimism that can be discovered through the process of just living day-to-day."

Humphreys' recordings have won critical acclaim from major publications (see his Press Clippings and Album Reviews page) and he has played at such prestigious venues as the 1997 Live Oak Music Festival main stage.
Beginning in the summer of 1997, Humphreys expanded the scope of Trough Records, signing several unique and diverse performing songwriters from Southern California to non-exclusive record contracts. Those artists - - Andrew Lorand, Puppets of Castro, Lisa Johnson, Tim Tedrow and John-Michael Kaye, David Piper, Rod Smear and Phil Ward - - have released a steady stream of CDs since then, and have had their recordings played on radio stations from coast-to-coast and around the world.
In 1999 Humphreys released his fourth album, SONGS AT THE MOON (TRCP 1044), which was recorded live at a house concert and features a full six-piece acoustic band playing some of Humphreys' finest tunes which, at the time, had not yet been recorded..

"I just wanted to get on record some of the old, almost-forgotten songs that I've brought back to life on the road," he says. "I spend a lot of time alone when touring, and sometimes an old song comes back to me. When this happens I often begin re-working it until it becomes new again. Songs at the Moon is a collection of those songs."

2001 was a busy year for Humphreys. In addition to his touring schedule and work on new songs, he married his true love, Melissa, in October. They now live in suburban Los Angeles. "I didn't think I'd ever find anyone to share my life, especially since I'm on the road so much," Humphreys says, "but Melissa is an artist herself, and she understands what I'm doing. She is my home now, and the balance that provides is immeasurable. Having her in my life makes everything more meaningful."
In 2002 Humphreys plans on completing his fifth album and he'll be touring again all over the United States.

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