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On Tour: An Interview with John-Mark Dorough

10610704_10153375012424852_8953106150783821987_nHow did your love of music begin? 

Pretty young; my parents recorded home videos of me taking pots and pans out of the kitchen cabinets and banging on them with spoons when I was three years old.

My mom played piano in our church band, so every Sunday growing up I sat on the front row watching the band rehearse for  hours. When you get exposed to that much music it becomes a part of your environment and a way of life. It was a very natural love for me. I was drawn to musicians.


What instrument did you starting learning first and how did it evolve to what you play now?

My arents bought my first drum kit when I was five years old. At the beginning, I just played by ear and attempted to emulate what I thought other drummers were playing. I didn’t actually take a real lesson until I was in fifth grade. Those first lessons helped me tremendously with mechanics and understanding the drummer’s role in a band scenario. In high school, I picked up piano and guitar by ear. I already understood rhythm and timing from the drums so I was able to focus on music theory and how to build chords on those instruments.


What’s the most valuable piece of advice any teacher or fellow musician ever gave you about playing an instrument?

Keep things simple, play tastefully and play with emotion. The trick is balancing all of those things. Any great drummer can play a million fills and any awesome guitarist can play a million notes, but the mark of a pro is when you have the restraint to play with taste and simplicity. Playing with emotion is important because you need to feel the music deeply to let that passion shine through your playing. It’s never good to go out on stage just to go through the motions. You need to live and breathe inside the music.


How did you get into the touring world and what was attractive about it?

I wanted to tour ever since I was 15. I started my first band around that time and we played small shows locally and then throughout the Southeast.

I’ve been playing for songwriter Daniel Bashta for over 10 years now. He was the first artist that I professionally traveled with, and that spurred more opportunities to play with other great artists. I guess I just stuck with it.

I love being in different cities and different venues every day. I didn’t really know how touring would be a part of my world and my job as an adult but it’s turned out to be a blessing in my life.


What’s the most memorable show you played/venue you performed at and why?

I’ve played great shows and festivals from New York to LA and everywhere in between, but local gigs will always hold a special place in my heart. I played at a church service at the BJCC several years ago in front of 10,000 people and that was pretty epic. I played at Bottletree’s last show, ever, and that was a special one.

My very favorite show would probably be an album release party I played in Birmingham a few years ago with The Sleep Design. The Sleep Design is a band I started with some close friends who have all gone on to do some amazing things in the music industry. There’s something fulfilling about creating beautiful music with friends and having a crowd pack out a room to hear you play your own tunes.


What do you wish someone would have told you before you decided to be a professional touring musician?

I think if you’re going to pursue playing music in any capacity as a career you need to have a plan. I have to admit that I’ve received some unique opportunities. Without those, I’m not sure where I would be right now. The music business can be a tough road and you have to be prepared for anything. I saw an interview with David Letterman and John Mellencamp a while back. He had a great quote from folk singer Pete Seeger. He said, “If you want to have a long career keep it small, but keep it going.” In other words, it’s very possible in this day and age to do what you love, do it on a small scale, and be successful. In my opinion, as a musician you no longer have to reach commercial or mainstream acclaim in order to have a career and do what you love. So if you are choosing music as a career you need to pursue your dreams, stay positive and work tirelessly towards your goals. You never know what may come your way.


John Mark’s Drum Demo For Mason Music

Cover Photo By: Brian Hall Photography