Country newcomer Mark Box knows there is at least one person who is not a huge fan of at least one of the songs on his new release: his mother. "My mom doesn't like the song 'The Man My Mama Tried To Raise' too much," he says with a laugh. "She said 'For one, they're going to think I raised some kind of heathen who went out drinking and carousing every night, and in the second verse, you killed me off."
Well, perhaps there is something that his mother might like a little better off his new release, "Fields Of Home." The six-song EP is a fine showcase for the Mississippi native who definitely falls on the more traditional side of the country spectrum. He says he comes by it honestly, though country music was not his first love.
"The first concert that I ever remember going to was the Blackwood Brothers," he recalled. "James Blackwood was the founder, and he was from the county I was from – Choctaw County, Mississippi, and he actually went to school with my grandma. They had the show at my elementary school gymnasium in Ackerman. After that, southern gospel was where it started. Even to this day, I'm still a huge fan. I grew up going to the all-night singings that they would have every Thanksgiving in Jackson. There would be the Hinsons, the Goodmans, the Kingsmen, and Gold City, among others. I just loved it."
As he got older, other musical influences began to filter into his musical bloodstream, thanks to his father. "My dad grew up playing fiddle and guitar. He played at the local VFW for a long time, so what dad listened to, I would listen to. There was country, southern gospel, and some bluegrass. There used to be a bluegrass festival called the Sleepy Hollow Bluegrass Festival just up the road in Houston, MS. People would bring their campers up there, and Dad would take his fiddle."
He also owes a debt of gratitude to his grandfather. "He gave me a record of George Jones, and one of Jerry Lee Lewis, and between the two of them, I guess that's where I developed a love for it. We spent a lot of time listening to that, and I remember that Daddy and me would listen to a lot of country on the radio. I remember hearing Mel McDaniel doing 'Louisiana Saturday Night' on the radio, and I just thought it was great. Country music just made sense to me. I listened to Bon Jovi, Van Halen, and Pearl Jam in college, but country music – especially the 80s and 90s stuff, just described where I'm at, and where I'm still at."
For the making of his EP, Box admits to having a definite vision in mind. "I had in my mind what I wanted to do for years. I actually had a demo of a couple of songs that I had written. I wanted to get that full studio experience where you brought in all the musicians. I wanted to record it the old-school way," he admits, but the economics of doing that steered him in another direction. "I have a friend named Adam Lester, who is a great guitar player. He tours with Peter Frampton. He invited me over to his home studio, and we laid things down track by track. He did all the guitar work – except for steel, and we brought in Troy Klontz, who played for Brooks & Dunn. We took it over to Dan Needham, who put the drums on it." He says that while he's a tough audience, he was pleased with how it all came out. "I'm my worst critic, and there's always things you might change, but I was very happy with it." He also involved his wife Michelle in the project, as well. "All the photos inside were taken by my wife down in Mississippi. We tried to bring it full circle with it being called Fields Of Home."
The focus track from the EP is "Would It Do Any Good," a song that Box says fits his musical vision. "I feel like it's a blend of 90s versus today – somewhere in the middle. It has enough to keep the Alan Jackson / Joe Diffie crowd happy, but can also please the Luke Bryan crowd. If I can somehow blend that together, that's the sound I would love to create. I want people to know when they hear a song of mine – before I sing the first note, they know it's me. That's where I'm trying to go!"