John Mark Nelson is currently, and for the last year or so, has been traveling with a band. It’s him and four other members. He plays electric and acoustic guitar, Kara Laudon sings and plays keyboard, Steve Bosmans plays electric guitar, Benjamin Kelly plays base, and Gabe Hagen plays drums. This group, with slight alterations has been working with Nelson for past year. They are playing here in Madison because Nelson’s manager caught word of the Horse Feathers tour and wanted the group to tag along with them for a portion of it. They have played in Madison before. They played at the Terrace about 2 years ago, then the Rathskeller, High Noon, and now Wisconsin Union Theater.
Are you excite to open for Horse Feathers on this First National Support tour?
Absolutely. I think it should be a blast. We are super excited to be along with them. As we were driving out here we listened to some of their tunes.
What are you working on right now? Any new music?
We’ve just wrapped up a long series of writing so we’re going to get into the studio and record a new record in January. We’re kind of in the process of starting to introduce some of those tunes and get a feel for playing them live. I think as I move forward my songs still speak to a lot of different elements of my life – people I know or stories I’ve encountered. They are all very much story songs and have elements of who I am woven into them.
How did you develop your style and do you have a favorite artist that inspired you?
I actually like a lot of different kinds of music. I can point to a couple of different artists. A lot of the music I listened to as I was growing up I think shaped what I do now. My mom was very much into the pop music of the 60’s and 70’s so Peter, Paul and Mary and Simon and Garfunkle. My dad was very influenced by classical and jazz music. I think somehow a lot of what I make is sort of influenced by a meeting of those two worlds where there’s arrangements and compositions with different instruments, but blended in a very kind of like pop-relatable way.
How old were you when you started writing and what inspired you to start doing this?
I think I started really having a sort of idea that I was making songs with lyrics and stories and stuff when I was maybe 13 or 14. What inspired me was a very slow gradual process. When I was younger my dad brought home one of the first Mac computers with Garage Band on it, where you can take the loops, drag them around and rearrange them. I would make horrible loop songs and then I bought my first microphone. I started recording myself playing guitar. I just fell in love with recording and capturing sound. That slowly, over a couple of years, morphed its way into writing original songs.
What was the first song you ever wrote?
I don’t think I could pinpoint one exactly because the first record I put out was called “Still Here.” It was just a hand-picked assortment of different songs I had done. It wasn’t that I sat down at the beginning thinking I wanted to make an album.
How did you learn to play all the instruments featured in your videos?
I don’t actually play all of them but I can play guitar, drums, and accordion. Those are the three instruments that I actually feel comfortable playing. I certainly tinker on the keyboard and can play a base, but I shouldn’t.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
As soon as you can start doing what you love, do it. If you have a passion for songwriting or for any form of art, just find outlets for it. There is that intimidating first step of “I want to do this but I don’t know how” or “I don’t know where” and you just need to find an outlet. If you’re a songwriter, start going to open mic nights. Don’t be afraid to jump into it and figure things out as you go.