A hundred or so years ago (or so it feels,) I engaged in a blink-of-an-eye-brief internship with a brand new music label called SonaBlast Records in New York City. I can’t even recall where their offices were–somewhere in the Flatiron or close by, I’d guess. I vaguely remember the inside of the office. Piles of demo cds and printouts. Posters on the wall. I remember the people, a few names. And while the time and place is shrouded in the haze of another lifetime, it should come as no surprise that some of the music has stayed with me the strongest throughout the years. At the top of that list is an Irish songwriter by the name of Mark Geary. He split his time and years between the green, soggy motherland and the grit, excitement, and poverty of New York. SonaBlast picked up his first record, 33 1/3 Grand Street right about when I did my stint there. His voice and style of writing stuck with me. Being that it was the end of my teen years, just about any music that resonates some element of truth tends to make a lasting imprint at that age.
Several years later, after I’d moved halfway across the country and then back to New York, I met up with Mark for coffee at a little shop off of Avenue A. The discussion was enlightening. He’d been singing his heart out and playing the survival game for well over a decade. Before I’d met him at SonaBlast, he used to open up for Jeff Buckley at the Sin-é in the East Village…I think Mark’s (brother? cousin?) owned the joint. He came from the same lot of musicians and music scene in Ireland that produced The Frames & Glen Hansard. While Mark hasn’t achieved as wide of notoriety or record sales as some of his friends and collaborators, he has just as many moments of brilliance in songwriting, recording, and performing. I only remember bits and pieces of our conversation. How his landlord would come knocking and ask if he had the rest of rent… “Well, no, but I’ve just written the most perfect refrain!” How he charmed his way into first class on his last flight back to New York. Everything he said was simultaneously weathered, exhausted, and hopeful. Many people can tell you about the sacrifices of the life of an artist–the certain tolls it takes, as well as its virtues. You can read about it in countless books. Watch it in movies. But seeing it in the lines around a young man’s eyes. Hearing those dichotomies in the quips and banalities of what a career songwriter has been up to over the past weeks, months, years…that was an education. And one for which I’m thankful. Almost as thankful as I am for having crossed paths with Mark’s music.
Purchase Mark’s music from his website here: http://www.hereforthefanfare.com/