MPThree – Unplugged and Unwound
Written by Liam Sweeny on March 2, 2020
Music essentially started around the campfire. Whether it was to celebrate a full belly, or ward off the dark that could easily bring threats to their lives, our earliest ancestors gathered around a campfire and brought rhythm and melody to productive use. And okay, maybe we just get drunk now and cover bar tunes, but still it is a long tradition.
Mark Pierre spent most of his life (his life of music) playing an acoustic around the fire, in his cups maybe, in his feels definitely. But chance would have it grow into something that would bring us all just a little bit of warmth.
I sit with Mark and we discuss who gets the next beer.
RRX: Mark, you got your start seriously pursuing music when you were in your mid-forties. Before that you were playing, but just for fun, campfires, stuff like that. There’s so much to be said of the energy of youth, but do you think your having lived a little gave you an edge in maybe your work ethic when it came time to pursue music?
MP: I actually never played. I bought a guitar, but never really started playing that until last year, but always sang with friends and family.
Yes, I do think having some “life experience” can make you a better performer. Mainly from that fact that it’s so much easier to relate to lyrics. Most popular tunes tell a story to the folks listening. As performers, it’s our job to tell the story. Nothing more complimentary than watching people show some emotion while you’re performing!
RRX: You’ve played in bands like Lost Cantina and Big Sky Country, and I’ve seen video of you guys rocking out in front of an overpass, and, so, when I think of different music genres, I get different visuals. Maybe the blues-hounds drink the best whisky and the punk rockers trash the hotel rooms – what do the country folks do?
MP: I certainly can’t speak for every country singer, but for me, it’s always been about friendships. Whether cranking out a country anthem like “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” or “Outsiders”, or belting out “The Dance” by Garth, there’s a connection with the audience that goes beyond just music. For those of us who recognize that connection, there is no better feeling, and you’re hooked for life to performing.
RRX: You suffered the unexpected loss of a band member in Lost Cantina, Al Lamica. I was in a band (sort of) that lost its drummer, and it’s devastating on a number of fronts. I don’t think people realize the bonds that form, and how important they are to the music that comes out. What was Al like, for those that didn’t know him?
MP: Wow, thank you for asking this! Al was the guy who molded my view of music. It was never about getting paid, or winning an award. It was always about the music. Al, his brother Bruce and I, would sit in his music room and play “old country”, harmonizing and singing our hearts out. Al would laugh at times mentioning “that the hair on his arms was standing up”, when we hit it just right. Al would always find little ways to make things sound just a little better. I still think of him often, when playing the classics. Of all of my experiences involving music, that is the one I’d never trade.
RRX: You started out by helping a friend fill sets, a then-teenager named Renee Lussier. So you two were sort of the odd couple, you having lived a good amount of your life coming in from the casual side of music to help someone so young and setting herself down the path early. What were some ways in which you had to come together?
MP: Anyone who has ever gotten to know Renee, knows that she has an “old country soul”! Her family all loved the classics and were deeply rooted in real county. I think we both became fans of each other, when alternating sets, and I’m still a huge fan of hers today!
RRX: MPThree is an acoustic band that you’ve been in with Ace Parkhurst and Dave McCarthy for a couple of years. It seemed like a lot of fun. It also seems like it could be somewhat reminiscent of your real start in music around the campfire. As much as can be done with a full electric set, what do you think gives acoustic playing it’s draw?
MP: My wife, Lisa, and I have been traveling to Nashville for several years. Without a doubt, our favorite times are sitting, listening to all of the acoustic shows in town. We still have our favorite performers that we follow and look up when in town. The intimacy of acoustic music done right, can’t be matched. Every time I play, I strive to make the audience part of what we’re doing, and become emotionally involved in the show.
RRX: Back to MPThree, it seems you all had taken a break from it, and you’re now revisiting, and you’re bringing in Scot Chamberlain and singer Jenna Sue, who has a pretty solid repertoire and history in the area. She sings a lot of different genres; is that common for the rest of MPThree, or is she coming from new territory?
MP: Last year, a friend who had opened up Hank Hudson Brewing Co. in Halfmoon, NY, had asked if I’d play some Thursday night acoustic shows. I told him I needed a couple of months to learn guitar, and here we are! Scot was a total surprise, in that he was a neighbor that I hadn’t met, that came to a show, told me he played a little, so we got together for a practice. The rest is history, now playing for nearly a year, and becoming a pretty good draw each time we play!
Jenna Sue recently stepped in after she and I started working on writing a song together. I’ve known her for a couple of years and have always been a huge fan of her vocals. When playing with The Back40 Band, we often invite her up on stage to sing with us. She is a real talent, that probably doesn’t get the recognition she deserves. It’s been great having her on stage with Scot and I.
RRX: Here’s where you answer the question I didn’t ask. Enlighten, educate, emote – the floor is yours.
MP: It has been an incredible decade for me and music! I’m so appreciative for the patience my wife has had as I have embarked on the “Mid-Life” journey. For those who do follow us, both with The Back40 Band and MPThree, know how blessed I am to have my wife, kids, siblings, and thankfully my parents still coming out to listen. I do think that that sense of FAMILY is what has, and continues to, attract new friends. I am also truly greatful, to the amazing musicians that have taught me along the way. Especially Al, Bruce and Ace.