M. Rivers Urges People to 'Think for Yourself' on Soulful 'Don't Drink the Water': Premiere

Ryan Pesecky
M.Rivers

We've seen Mark Kasprzyk in a few musical permutations over the years -- as a solo artist, as the alt-rock "group" Redlight King, even as an actor (Going The Distance) and as gearhead TV commentator on the Speed Channel's Sports Car Revolution during the mid-90s. Now he's pivoted yet again, adopting a new moniker, M. Rivers, and embracing a soulful sound heard on the new single "Don't Drink The Water," premiering exclusively below.

"It's a solo project," Kasprzyk tells Billboard. "I've just been creating a lot, and this stuff I was writing and recording didn't sound like (Redlight King), and that's what led to M. Rivers."

M. Rivers, in fact, comes after a bit of a hiatus for Kasprzyk, during which his father died and he went through a divorce from both his wife and from Redlight King's record label. That led to "a little break and rethink about what I wanted to do in my career and what kind of music I want to make and how much do I want to tour -- everything, really. I came to realize I HAVE to make music. It's sort of an obsession, because I never stopped writing songs."

Kasprzyk did put out an M. Rivers album, Champion, digitally last year but quietly took it down. "When I started playing out I started playing the songs differently and I thought, 'I need to re-record this album,' which you don't get a lot of chances to do," Kasprzyk explains. He's done that and recorded some new material, and he plans to release "a few singles" before a full album comes out later this year or early next.

Kasprzyk acknowledges that he was listening to Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" while making "Don't Drink The Water," which takes both a sonic and lyrical lead from that Motown masterwork. "What I'm noticing is a lot of things haven't changed from decade to decade," he notes. "'Don't Drink The Water' is like my version of 'Don't Believe the Hype,' Public Enemy. With everything that's happening in the landscape of America right now, I wanted to write a song to just sort of channel us to think for ourselves. My point of view is we still lack clarity and there's a lot of misinformation out there. But I think there's sort of an awakening of our consciousness now; There's still too much information, but I think people are starting to see how we're being manipulated. So the song is just saying 'Think for yourself.' There's a good chance that collectively we can make a change, but there's still an awakening we need to have as humans."

The Canadian-born Kasprzyk supported U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders during the 2016 election, enjoying "just the transparency he brings to politics. The consistency he had, and the honesty, was exciting to me." And that's helped charge Kasprzyk, as M. Rivers, to make his own play for change with his music. "I'm an artist, so I'm emotionally affected by things that I see," he says. "It’s my job to write about it. As I get more experienced and I evolve as a person and a man, I feel like that responsibility is more prevalent."

Kasprzyk has continued playing live, primarily on the West Coast, but is hoping to branch out further. And while there will be a steady stream of new music coming as he leads up to the M. Rivers album, he also predicts that even more will follow in short order. “I feel like there's a lot to learn and there's a lot to do," he says. "Neil Young is one of my heroes; I remember reading something about, 'Oh, this is his 17th studio record' -- and it was on in the '80s!' I think about that and I go, 'Man, I'm not working hard enough.' I've always held on to things like they're so delicate. But I think now it's OK to produce more stuff and not hold it so sacred. So I'm trying to do more as I get older."