THE IRISH NEW WAVE
Singer/Songwriter and Irish native Mark Geary collects his fans one at a time, whether in a large performance hall or a small pub. And lately he's been collecting a lot of them, because he connects with the people he plays for on an intimate level. His self-deprecating style and the images evoked through his music make you feel as if you've known him for a long time, even if you're hearing him play for this first time. It is precisely because of this personal connection that his fans are part of a growing grassroots movement to get Geary's music heard by a much larger audience.
BUY ME A TICKET ON AN AERO PLANE (THE BACK STORY)
For many creative people in Ireland, the affinity with America looms large.
In 1995, there was still a large exodus of young Irish people hoping to find the work and success in the U.S. that eluded them at home and Mark was part of that exodus. He bought a one-way ticket to New York from Dublin and landed on U.S. soil with $100 dollars in his pocket and a green card. When he landed in Manhattan, he did not have a clear idea what he would do, but he knew that if he was going to make it in music, he had to get noticed in America.
He grew up as a fan of the legendary greats like Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and Bruce Springsteen and also had a keen interest in roots music, with an affinity for Southern Bluegrass and his music reflects those influences. Although he started playing music in his early teen years, he did not really become a songwriter until about ten years ago, but in that decade he has perfected his craft to breakthrough level. Since landing in New York, Geary has become one of the favorite performers in the East Village and has opened for some major performers, including Elvis Costello, The Pretenders, Cold Play, Midnight Oil, The Pogues, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, the Saw Doctors and Billy Bragg.
Mark's songs frequently tell stories of his own life or characters he knows. Says Geary, "I am blown away by how well my songs are received here. They come from a real place and hopefully good songs become public domain. I find that the more personal my songs are, the more universal they become and others feel that they can relate to the stories." It is this personal connection that causes a scene that I witnessed - a pub full of otherwise noisy beer-drinking people turned toward the stage and paid attention - not to the beer, but to the music.
From Stage to Screen
It was the stories in Geary's music that caught the attention of producer/ filmmaker Gill Holland, a principal with the New York based film company Cineblast. "I got this CD and started playing it in my office and it took hold of me. For a while I couldn't listen to anything else. I passed it around to other people I knew and determined that I had to find this guy because I believe his music would really connect to the film world. One night I went to check out his performance at a small venue in New York and as I was sitting there having a beer at the bar before the show, I told the bartender that I was looking forward to seeing the performance because this music had been piped throughout my studio for weeks. I quickly learned that the guy serving the drinks was the guy I had come to see perform. He's so unassuming, which is so refreshing!" says Holland. The live performance was enough to cause Holland to embrace Mark's music, strongly enough so that he started a label, SonaBLAST! to produce and promote Mark's work.
Holland, a major achiever in the indie film and television world at a very young age, is the kind of guy who knows what he likes and goes after it in a big way. Nominated in 1999 for the Spirit Award for Producer of the Year, Gill's producing credits include, among many other film and television projects, GREG THE BUNNY, the triple Sundance award-winning film HURRICANE STREETS, starring Morgan J. Freeman, DESERT BLUE, starring Christina Ricci, Casey Affleck and the then-unknown Kate Hudson, Tim McCann's recently released feature drama, REVOLUTION #9 and Larry Blume's comedy MARTIN AND ORLOFF. His company, CineBLAST! was created in 1996 to distribute video compilations of short films. Their success made CineBlast! one of the top ten film production companies in New York, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Holland is currently working on several projects, including one about the Wright Brothers. One of the company's core strengths is nurturing the careers of up and coming filmmakers and now, musicians.
The most recent films by Holland include music by Geary. Holland also just finished producing a music video of Geary's song Adam and Eve. Says Holland, "I think Mark's music is strong enough to become noticed in a significant way and I am excited to be part of the team that gets it out there. Although I did not start out with the notion of incorporating music with film production, the experience has been great, so far."
THE NEXT STAGE
Meantime, Geary's career is taking him to different places, new and old. He performed at the World Trade Center as part of New York's popular Summer Stage concert series and as a result, later became a co-host with actor Dennis Leary at a successful star-studded 9-11 fundraiser at Arlene's Grocery. In a welcome turn of events, his tune Volunteers from his 331/3 grand street CD is currently in the top 10 in Ireland, and recently Mark headed home to tour with the CD.
Geary wants to keep touring and continue to have his music in film. As a filmmaker, Holland saw that possibility immediately and hopes to help him connect with other filmmakers. Both Geary and Holland will be heading out to the Sundance Film Festival this year, where Geary will perform. But, before they head West, they will stop in Boston on January 14, 2003 for a short session at IMAGINE'S party. For more information about CineBLAST!, SonaBLAST! or Mark Geary, check out www.cineblast.com or www.markgeary.com.