Up and coming composer Mark G. Meadows inspires through music: A review by Dylan Hans.
Through his competitive edge and a knack for rhythm, Mark Meadows impresses some of the most renowned musicians, such as Warren Wolf, Cyrus Chestnut, Dontae Winslow, Kris Funn, and more.
“I consider myself a true student of music.” Meadows tells me as I sit and admire his copious collection of vinyl records and surprisingly small iTunes library (or surprising to me).
A Johns Hopkins University graduate, majoring in psychology, and, like myself, a fellow alumni of the respected Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, Mark Meadows has been a rising talent in Baltimore. Meadows was recently named both “Artist of the Year” and “Composer of the Year” of 2014 by Washington DC’s City Paper. Meadows is a jazz pianist, vocalist, composer, and educator of music. He frequently visits the Peabody Conservatory in Mount Vernon. He recently released his second album, “Somethin’ Good,” which is currently trending on social media, reaching worldwide acclaim.
The Mark G. Meadow’s Quartet’s cover of John Lennon’s Come Together is a perfect example of Meadow’s innovative composing. His combination of jazz and blues provides sounds heard from decades before his time, however his altering paces, from slow and pronounced to a more up-tempo pace defines his unique musical style. Although Meadows is humble about his skills, his ability to play various instruments such as jazz harmonica, drums, cello, or base are a testament to his natural ability.
When I ask Meadows about defining his musical genre, he laughs and reminds me that an artist doesn’t play for masses, but for himself. While he acknowledges that Hip Hop or EDM make the most money contemporary music, with online streaming and YouTube sensations, he attests that his songs and performance style root from the same inspirations: dance.
“If you can make the entire room bounce, you’ve done your job. Simple as that.”
Meadows has been writing and producing his own compositions for over five years and doesn’t expect a record deal any time soon, but for him it’s not about the money. He plays for people who appreciate where the music comes from, specifically referring to the slight nuances and references in his tunes that sound like traditional jazz or blues.
Meadows, a Washington DC native, “I like to remind myself that I am part of a movement bigger than me. As a black artist who doesn’t rap, coming from where I come from and the culture that I do, I try to instill excitement and energy when I’m on stage. For me, it’s really about relaxing and reminding Baltimore that there is constant room for improvement. Not just in music.” Mark references gentrification in his lyrics, defining the conceptual style through collaboration of pacing and tone.
In addition to his musical style, Meadows’ garment choices provide an intriguing insight into the Hopkins alum. Meadows says, “Every instance and every choice you make on stage is crucial, no matter how slight. If one thing throws you or the audience off it makes for a less than optimal night.” Meadows tells me that he decides what to wear for shows weeks in advance, sometimes purchasing a new jacket or pair of shoes to go with the style of the venue or songs that he intends to play. He boasts about his unique swag. His half formal half casual style perfectly accentuates his persona.
Ever since college, Meadows’ friends describe him as a ‘work hard, play hard’ type of guy. He’ll go out all night, but be up early to write or rehearse all day. I wouldn’t consider him a rock star, but he definitely admits that the lifestyle excites him. “I love to go out. I would consider it an important part of my creative process.”
Who does he party with? “I have friends from Hopkins who I see from time to time, but mainly other musicians, people I’ve played with in the past. We’ll have our type of fun, listen to some songs and miraculously end up jamming all night. It’s great.” I asked him about his type of fun, and he invited me out for a night in future.
But it’s not all fun and games. Meadows is a competitive musician too. He attends a performance if it might help him or influences his own music in the future. “I buy tickets to everything. I even go listen or watch Peabody students perform. It’s wonderful,” referring to the Peabody Conservatory, where Mark earned his degree in jazz piano in 2011.
He admits there are weaknesses that come with all the fun and passion of a jazz musician. His most difficult quagmires develop from discussions of professionalism and identity. While Mark loves to play his music, he says that his friends and family are a constant reminder that this is his job, his future. He tells me that he doesn’t like to think too far in the future, especially to maintain a level of relaxation, fearing it might affect his on stage performances right now. Meadows hopes to take a step back from music sometime soon, and get back to another passion of his: producing.
“Baltimore is wild,” he says. “It’s filled with so many musical brains whether that person is a professional or not.” Meadows hopes to find more talented Baltimore musicians and collaborate with them. He sees valuable potential in students throughout schools of music or from people he talks to after shows.
The concept of being an agent, while fantastical, he says would be a great step forward in his personal goals of musical experimentation. “I could never be a manager but I would definitely love to help others get a jump start in the industry and show them stuff I work on. Hopefully they’d find it interesting.”
You can learn more about Mark Meadows on his Facebook page, or on his website, markgmeadows.com. He frequently plays in venues throughout Baltimore and DC.
Dylan Hans is a New York based writer whose main interests are politics, theater, and film. Dylan is currently the lead writer of his own sports blog, brandnewbasketblog.com.