On an unusually warm autumn day in 2017, Mark D. Conklin stood on the shores of Lake Wallenpaupack in the Pocono Mountains and matter of factly states he had "a conversation with God" and made a decision that would immediately change the direction of his life. After ten years of developing the careers of young artists as a collaborator, music producer and artist manager, he would return to his roots as a singer-songwriter and put himself in the spotlight. “It’s never easy to step out of what's comfortable,” he says, “but sometimes you have no choice, your life chooses you.” He hurried back to the small cabin he had rented for the week, picked up a guitar and penned the opening line, “I’ve spent half my life hanging on and the other letting go,” for the song that would eventually become the first single from his most recent and same titled roots country EP, “Starting Over,” ultimately released in the midst of the pandemic lockdowns in 2020.
A reviewer of “Starting Over” noted:
“What you get first, before the smart lyrics, soulful guitar and resonant vocals, is the deep humanness of the songs as a whole. Listening through, the sense of connection, vulnerability, and redemption is just what we need right now…Mark Conklin has returned to active music making in a memorable way that's difficult to forget.“
Now, in 2022, Mark has set his sights on an “even higher musical calling.” He is currently putting the finishing touches on a full length Roots Gospel album scheduled to release in June 2023. The album, co-produced with GRAMMY Award-winning producer, Mark Prentice, features a star studded cast of Gospel, Christian and Country music luminaries such as, Gloria Gaynor, The Fisk Jubilee Singers, The Fairfield Four, Mike Farris, T. Graham Brown, The McCrary Sisters, Rita Wilson, Wendy Moten, Joseph Rice and more to be announced. "To quote Elwood Blues," Conklin said, "we're on a mission from God!" The album is a throwback to the traditional soul and R&B that Conklin cut his teeth on in the 1990's as a young club and touring musician and the gospel music he absorbed for years as guitarist in the Christian Fellowship Gospel Church praise and worship band in Plainfield, NJ.
After his stint in the Gospel Church, Mark began making frequent trips to Nashville from his home in New Jersey to pursue a career as a songwriter and producer. He immediately fell in love with the artistic community in Nashville and their respect for the craft and tradition of songwriting. He ultimately succeeded in writing songs for other artist’s albums appearing on Billboard’s Country, Blues and Bluegrass charts and landing songs in film and TV, including shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Victoria's Secret Fashion Show and national advertising campaigns for retailers like Target, Starbucks and more.
In 2011, his focus shifted after he discovered a brilliant young singer-songwriter named, Mree and began the process of developing her artistry. After finding fast success together, he set about building his music production and artist management company, Music City East, LLC - an obvious nod to his love of Nashville. Over the next several years, his roster of artists and musical collaborators whose careers he would guide, including Mree, Alice Kristiansen, Emily Zeck, Evangelia, Claire Ernst and MKJ, would generate over one billion streams of their music world wide and ultimately land deals with companies like Warner Music, Sony Music, Nettwerk Records, Sea Gayle Music, NetEase Cloud (China) and more. Although Conklin has found immense satisfaction and pride in helping other artists reach their goals and find their “voice,” the urge to create his own music remains unwavering.
When he is not in the studio producing, Conklin says he has, “the best side hustle in the world.” Mark is the Director of Artist Relations and Programming for the GRAMMY Museum Experience™ Prudential Center - the east coast home of the GRAMMY Museum. There, he has developed a one-of-a-kind contemporary music education program for high school students, Record High, and serves as producer and interviewer for all the "in person" and online public program series including, "Off the Record, Behind the Songs and Mini Masterclass." In his role he has the opportunity to regularly converse with music legends and contemporaries like, Philip Bailey (Earth, Wind & Fire), Jason Mraz, DJ Khaled, Mary Wilson (Supremes), The Zombies, BTS, Ellie Goulding, Luke Combs, Kane Brown and hundreds more. In total, he has interviewed more than 200 artist over the last three years. He states, “I think if you want to be great at something you should learn from the best and I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to gain insights from great musical artists across all genres.” He adds, “I try to apply that knowledge for myself and then pass it along to our students who are the next generation of GRAMMY Award winners!”
As the old saying goes, “Blessed is the man who has found his work.” Mark D. Conklin is living proof that it’s never too late.