In 2017, on an unusually warm autumn day by the shores of Lake Wallenpaupack in the Pocono Mountains, Mark D. Conklin found himself having a profound conversation with God. In that moment, he made a life-altering decision, bidding farewell to his decade-long role as a music executive and artist manager. Instead, he chose to return to his roots as a singer-songwriter, embracing the challenge of placing himself in the spotlight. "It’s never easy to step out of what's comfortable," he reflects, "but sometimes you have no choice; your life chooses you."
Rushing back to a small cabin he had rented for the week, Mark grabbed a guitar and penned the opening line, “I’ve spent half my life hanging on and the other letting go” – the inception of the first single from his recent roots country EP, “Starting Over,” which saw its release amidst the pandemic lockdowns in 2020.
A reviewer of “Starting Over” captured its essence:
“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.“
Fast forward to 2023, Mark now sets his sights on an “even higher musical calling.” He's currently adding the finishing touches to a full-length gospel-infused rock 'n soul album, scheduled for release in 2024 under the indie gospel powerhouse StowTown Records. Titled "The Gospel According to Mark" and co-produced with GRAMMY Award-winning producer Mark Prentice, the album boasts an impressive lineup of Gospel, Soul, and Country music luminaries, including Gloria Gaynor, The Fisk Jubilee Singers, The Fairfield Four, Mike Farris, T. Graham Brown, The McCrary Sisters, Rita Wilson, Wendy Moten, Joseph Rice, Lenesha Randolph, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, Rhonda Vincent and John Berry. "To quote Elwood Blues," Conklin said, "we're on a mission from God!" The album is a nostalgic journey to the traditional soul and R&B that shaped Conklin's early musical experiences in the 1990s and the gospel music he absorbed during his time as a guitarist in the Christian Fellowship Gospel Church praise and worship band in Plainfield, NJ.
Following his stint in the Gospel Church, Mark began making frequent trips to Nashville from his New Jersey home to pursue a career as a songwriter and producer. Captivated by the artistic community in Nashville and their respect for the craft of songwriting, he found success with songs appearing on Billboard’s Country, Blues, and Bluegrass charts, as well as in film and TV, including notable shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, and national advertising campaigns for major retailers.
In 2011, a pivotal moment occurred when he discovered the talented singer-songwriter Mree. Their collaboration marked the beginning of a successful partnership, leading Mark to establish his music production and artist management company, Music City East, LLC. Over the next several years, his roster of artists and collaborators, including Mree, Alice Kristiansen, Emily Zeck, Evangelia, Claire Ernst, and MKJ, collectively generated over one billion streams worldwide and secured deals with major labels such as Warner Music, Sony Music, Nettwerk Records, Sea Gayle Music, NetEase Cloud (China), and more. Despite the satisfaction of helping others find their “voice” and achieve their goals, Mark's unwavering desire to create his own music persisted.
For the past five years, in addition to his music endeavors, Mark has served as the host and interviewer for the GRAMMY Museum Experience™ Prudential Center's online conversation series, "Off the Record, Behind the Songs, and Mini Masterclass." In this role, he has had the privilege of engaging in conversations with music legends and contemporaries such as Philip Bailey (Earth, Wind & Fire), Jason Mraz, DJ Khaled, Mary Wilson (Supremes), The Zombies, BTS, Ellie Goulding, Luke Combs, Kane Brown, and many more – totaling over 200 artists interviewed. Reflecting on this experience, he states, “I think if you want to be great at something, you should learn from the best, and I’m incredibly fortunate to gain insights from great musical artists across all genres.”
Mark's highly anticipated album, "The Gospel According to Mark," is set to release on April 19, 2024, with focus tracks scheduled for mid-February and mid-April.