Nervous can’t even begin to describe the emotion that took over Chicago artist, Mark J.P. Hood as he took a leap of faith and heightened his music career by stepping onto the legendary Apollo stage in New York.
“It was the most scared I’ve ever been,” he spills as we enjoy conversation over soup and water on a Thursday afternoon. “I’m so blessed to have been able to be on that stage. Gladys [Knight], Doug E. [Fresh], and Michael Bivins they are forces in the industry. I grew up watching those people and it’s like, man I can’t believe I performed in front of them and they gave me such feedback and criticism; that was the best part of it.It was awesome.”
It was Mark’s originality that spawned comments like, “In such a competitive industry, what I look for is a unique sound. You don’t sound like anyone else and that’s such a good thing,” sentiments from the Legendary Empress of Soul, Gladys Knight.
Hip Hop Mogul, Doug E. Fresh, picked up on Mark’s solid artistry stating, “You run into artists sometimes that are so unique, that all you can tell them is “Do yo thang” and your style is so unique!”
A singer and songwriter, Mark’s distinctive sound allows him to perform timeless hits such as John Legend’s ‘Ordinary People’ with the ability of making it his own.
Rising in an industry that can be extremely fickle and a continuous rollercoaster, Hood learned early on that when opportunities arrive, it’s best to take advantage and be prepared for your moment.
“My deal is this, once you get that chance, take that chance and make the best decisions because the second chance is not promised,” he warns.
That’s just what he’s been doing – creating a lane that allows his true persona as an artist to illuminate and lead him to his destiny. Judging by his Apollo Live! experience which aired on the B.E.T. Network, the journey has been working quite well. If you scan his YouTube videos, fans applaud his vocal ability. A few newcomers were directed to his videos after watching his performance. Two comments read, “You were so good on Apollo and Apollo sent me here” while another says, ‘I love your voice.” His fan base is spread throughout Chicago and now nationwide.
Admittedly taking various approaches to breaking into the recording industry, Hood is no stranger to competition-based Reality TV shows and weaves the auditions in between weekend performances, acting gigs, and college.
“I’m for it because I just feel like, reality TV, I’m born to do this. God gives us avenues. It’s not as easy to get in front of [a major record label] in another type of way, so I feel like, why not go and audition?”
The reality television route seemingly has its perks in terms of gaining further industry knowledge. From his experiences with American Idol and Apollo, it’s been made clear that one must always present themselves in their truth. Facades are easily seen through.
Mark advises, “They know what they’re looking for and it’s so hard to pinpoint. I think they’re also looking for originality. Who ever you are – just be you.”
He adds,”Every since I’ve embraced originality because I used to go to the competitions and not necessarily try to be somebody else but my style just wouldn’t be completely who I was. It wasn’t until I started really being ‘Mark’ how I sing and how I dress, that’s when I started getting call backs and calls that I made it to the next round.”
Once Mark decided to make music a career priority, his family, though now extremely supportive, was actually shocked. Growing up in the church, his Father a Pastor and Mother who’s over the choir, Mark’s sister was looked at as the vocalist while Mark was seen as being talented at playing the piano.
“I would sing every now and then but it wasn’t like, ‘He’s going to be the artist singer.’ My sister used to sing and would be killing it. When I started, it was like ‘Where did this come from?” But, there was no denying that he, too had vocal ability that would land him on stage with the likes of Grammy nominated artists Vashawn Mitchell and Case, Stellar Award nominated artist Todd Dulaney, Stellar Award winning producer Percy Gray, and American Idol Finalist Paris Bennett, just to name a few.
With a plan in motion, 2011 reigned heavy for Hood with the release of his successful single, ‘Ain’t Gone Change’ gaining spins on 107.5 WGCI and Power 92.3. What sets Mark’s songwriting apart is the responsibility he has when telling his stories. He aims to maintain a level of respect when it comes to women and relationships, opting out of the usual hyper-sexual innuendos that blaze the airwaves. Instead, his “real life” situations discuss the purity of love and always manages to have a positive nature absent of vulgarity and profanity.
“Above all I just want to spread positivity. There’s no negativity in any of my music; there’s no cursing, no calling women [derogatory names]and all of that. I don’t call women that so why would I put it in my music. I just like to talk about love and real life situations. I have a song, for example, called ‘Tell No One’ and it’s just simply about not telling anyone your business. You don’t have to talk about, ‘ooh let me take your panties off’ or anything like. That’s not even what I’m about.”
What Mark J.P. Hood is about though is progression and maintaining a work ethic that will position him in a place where he can sustain artist integrity while also gaining major distribution. It’s all about the right situation and “taking which ever way God leads me.”
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