with Mark Jones
first of all, I would like to start out this interview by asking you this;
In your opinion, what makes a good southern gospel song?
MJ: A great
song of any kind must first be well-written. Most well-written songs
have many things in common. Two of these things are 1) a strong RHYMING
SCHEME and 2) CONSISTENCY (number of syllables in each line, etc....).
By studying the 'TOP 10' songs on the chart, I look at things that make
each song strong and where the song is the weakest.
Then, the song must
be scripturally correct. More and more I find myself analyzing my
songs to make sure they contain sound scripture references. Vagueness
is OK, I think, but when something is WRONG, it is WRONG.
winning the contest, have you had any of your songs picked up by any groups?
If so, tell us about it.
MJ: Yes, thankfully
I have. I recently have been notified by the group 'Sojourner'.
They intend to cut 2 or 3 on this upcoming project. I never will
forget the feeling when they called to tell me. It was 10:30 PM on
a Saturday night. They were driving through my community the next
day for a singing and wanted to know if I could attend. They were
interested in meeting me. I did go and really enjoyed the group.
Also, a group called 'Proclamation', from Mississippi, has recently notified
me of their liking my music and having intentions of cutting some of my
songs on their next project also.
did you get the songs into the hands of these artists? Did they pick them
up from a publishing company or did you pitch them directly to the artist?
If you pitched them directly to the artist, how did you go about it?
MJ: I did
send the songs directly to the artist. First, on how to pitch them,
I wish I knew the exact formula that would work every time!! ha ha.......
Really, though, a couple of important factors (according to the responses
directly from the groups...) 1) Send it on CD if possible!!
They can 'fast forward' to song #2 at the touch of a button. So,
anyone with a CD burner, or CD writer, can do this. If you have a
computer and don't have one, GET ONE!! 2) Make a nice letterhead
and return address label saying something about your music. This
gives them a good impression like you know what you're doing before they
ever listen to the first note.
you feel that winning our contest has been a contributing factor to getting
your songs noticed?
I can't help but believe that this contest was a big help. Even at
the least, it helps make an impressive 'resume' or list of credits.
Since this had just happened, I was enthused about telling them.
They seemed to take a 'harder' look at me when they found this out.
you feel it is better to have your songs published before pitching them
or do you think it is easier to negotiate with the artist when they are
MJ: For years,
I have thought that it was a great and glorious thing to have my material
'Published' with a a publishing company. However, after talking with
many important people in the industry, including Mr. Charlie Burke, (NQC
Board of Directors), it is actually a negative thing unless the people
pitching are getting you cuts. They have all agreed that typically,
although it gives you access to some great efforts and 'inside' help, it
really ties the song up so that you can't pitch it anymore or do anything
else with it. So, if you are at a place in your career or writing
that you can do a great job pitching them yourself, then you might want
to consider keeping them. That way, when you are contacted by a major
artist (Gold City, Kingsmen, Kingdom Heirs, etc....), you will probably
be asked the question...... Is your publishing clear? If you have
to say NO, they sometimes will just pick alternate songs. If they
get all the publishing, they make more money. However, if a publisher
really works hard to get you good, big cuts, you may be better off letting
them have them. As a piece of advice, sign two or three and let the
publisher have a crack at them. That way, ALL your songs are not
tied up. But, MAKE SURE, that they revert back to you in 12 - 18
months if no cuts are landed.
ISGMN: I heard
that you also got a chance to be featured in a songwriting seminar along
with Dottie Rambo & Gerald Crab since the contest. Is this true?
MJ: Yes, this
is true. I entered this contest last year to try to help some great
people who were injured in an automobile accident. This is weird
because I didn't know these people at all, Phil and Pam Morgan. However,
my heart went out to them. So, I entered.
Then in February,
I was able to host a SONGWRITING SEMINAR in Tuscaloosa, Alabama featuring
Dottie Rambo, Gerald Crabb, and myself. My contribution? Well,
I did keep Dottie a glass of water at all times, Gerald a comfortable chair,
etc.... ha ha ha
We had many major
problems, most stemming from the fact that we did not have power due to
the enormous storm that went through the entire South the day before.
It was the biggest of the year with hundreds of thousands without power
in the entire Southeast. Anyway, people were traveling through this
making their way here to the seminar. Many decided to stay home and
sit out their power outage. Hotels were without power, and sent their
guests to other hotels, causing a severe overflow of people in the ones
that actually managed to have power somehow. Our seminar still had
more than 30 people, many from out of state. It was wonderful.
Dottie and Gerald were wonderful too. I am so glad God allowed me
to meet and work with my all-time favorite Southern Gospel songwriter and
now friend, Dottie Rambo.
Jones & Dottie Rambo
other roles do you play in Southern Gospel Music besides being a songwriter?
Are you an artist or in a band?
MJ: Yes, I
am a songwriter. I own a carpet store as a trade in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
But, I do play piano as well. I play by ear and have played since
a young teenager with quartets. Actually, I play drums too.
I began playing drums with a quartet called the 'COLUMBIANS', a group from
Columbus, Mississippi. Then when my brother went to college, who
was presently playing the piano, they moved me from drums into the piano
role. It was hard at first, because I wasn't used to having the band
follow me. As a drummer, all I had to do was keep the beat and play
some 'cool' licks every now and then. As a piano player, one wrong
chord really made people have a sour look on their face. I did, though,
as most people do. They adapt and quickly I learned what I had in
me. Anyway, I later played piano for the 'BAMA BOYS'. Eventually,
I had gotten out of it for about 7 years or so. Then God sent a song
one day without my getting ready for it. He sent it out of nowhere.
Two weeks later, he sent another, then another. I called some friends
together and we formed the current group, 'CHOSEN WITNESS'. You can
hear more about the group by going to MP3.com/ChosenWitness.
I will admit one
important point to the other songwriters reading this....... PLAYING AN
INSTRUMENT DID HELP MY WRITING, or at least from a musical standpoint.
I do believe it is extremely important to have a good chord structure accompany
the words. The song must 'feel' right. You can generally accomplish
this test by singing a few lines, the chorus, or whatever, back to yourself
several times to see if it has a good 'flow'. If it is too wordy,
you should notice it to be hard to sing. This means you should examine
why one line is longer than the other and change something.
plans do you have for the future in Southern Gospel Music?
bigger and better hopefully. Really, though, I do intend to keep
on pitching and writing. Things have just now began to really open
up and it is amazing, absolutely amazing, how God puts things in your path.
TIMING is EVERYTHING!! I have been out of writing for about 10 years.
I often think of what might have happened by now if I had continued writing
those years. However, I really believe NOTHING!! It is hard
for us to comprehend a Heavenly Father who loves us so much he would NOT
send something great our way. But, many times, it's coming, just
not right now. But, what is coming now is an important stepping stone
for your TOMORROW. Those ten years taught me a lot about the next
years that I could not imagine. Partly, it allowed me to really see
what was missing in my life! Then, when the desire, or hunger, returns
in such an enormous way that it is unmistakably from God, you never really
give quitting or turning back a second thought. Writing becomes easier.
So, whenever bad things come my way, I try to cast them aside and believe
that ".... it's just the building of my testimony!"
is the best way for an artist or group to reach you if they want to listen
to some of your songs?
is the best way. My website gives you a little of insight into my
writing, songs, etc.....
You can e-mail me
Don't have a computer?
Well my full address is....
Mark Jones / Mark Jones Music
7411 Hwy 159
Gordo, Alabama 35466
Or you may call
me at 205-364-7488.
And, a quote I usually
'May God bless you
just for listening to my music!'
to find out more about the next ISGMN Songwriting Contest!
Click HERE to go back to the homepage!