Mark Scudder, whose new album The Solution is the Problem, available on iTunes, Amazon and direct from the artist, was released earlier this week, recently answered a few questions about what it’s like being a conservative rocker who doesn’t try to fit into preconceived molds. In this final part of a three-part interview, he talks about his new album and what lies ahead.
You’re something of a misfit in that you’re a Christian who doesn’t write 100% praise and worship and you’re a conservative who doesn’t write 100% patriotic anthems. You’ve caught flak from others who do fit into one of those categories when you’ve asked to be at least considered for membership in genres which you, by dint of being who you are and what you believe, should be included as a member. Does that make you reconsider your songwriting, or would you rather remain true to yourself regardless of consequences and if so, why?
Well, I’ve talked a bit on my live sessions about creating an EP as a joke, four or five songs that are just horribly produced, over-the-top patriotic and praise music, so when one of these hypocrites who claims to “work harder than anyone to get conservative music out there” attacks me – but at the same time says “send me a free copy of your stuff so I can” – essentially – “tell you what’s wrong with it,” I can send them that instead of something worth money like Solution that they won’t understand anyway. But I consider that having some fun and blowing off some steam using the things I and my fans are interested in like music and production and lampooning the horrible things we’ve all heard at one time or another. I would never do it unless my true friends/followers/fans understood it’s me just having some fun.
I think as conservatives we occasionally back the wrong people and plays, because we’re human and we’re fallible and we fall for the cults of personality while saying that we should reward those who have the best product and who produced it in the most conservative way. But we ought to call it out when it happens, if only for the good of the movement. There’s nothing “viral” about me, I don’t write blogs that seem to grow legs on their own and get read; I can’t seem to maintain 250,000 Twitter followers, and my entire ideological thought process extends beyond calling out businesses and celebrities who vote Democrat. And there may not be enough people in the movement who think it’s important, as I do, to change the culture by changing pop culture, even though leftists keep proving to us that it’s not only possible but that it works every time it’s tried.
This is why commercial music sucks, by the way, because sadly, not even grassroots stuff gets going unless there’s a lowest common denominator element to it. I’ve been told that my music is “too cerebral,” and while I like to think that’s a compliment, I know it means that something dumber will probably take its place in the market.
I have been blessed with just enough work in other fields and just enough support that I haven’t had to even consider making music I can’t stand in order to make a living. But that needs to continue, and support actually needs to increase because I want to do more, actually, than I did on Solution, I want to do it better, and I need to do it faster because of the always-on nature of social media and people’s blind acceptance of it, even if it’s detrimental to our lives, our sanity, and our appreciation of the finer things.
I’ve been disappointed at the overall lack of interest in, much less support of, what I and others are doing with the arts. Even with all this so-called social media, it is still who you know in person, it seems, to get somewhere. I can’t afford to attend this-con or that-con, and without that I can’t generate the required interest to sell enough units to go to these things and make these real-world friends, and without that interest they’re not going to call me and perform. I looked into going to CPAC next year, and I talked with some people who had tried it, and it would cost $5,000 for a conference room alone. And this sounds like a lot of stereotypes liberals have about conservatives – glass ceilings, the well-to-do hanging out only with the well-to-do, and only becoming successful if your talent is meeting and schmoozing with the right people. I admit, I can’t give you any of that, but to those of you who have heard the album, I think you’d agree that I can give you that. And yes, I do think talent and good product should trump this other stuff.
I get it. Michelle Malkin’s and Glenn Beck’s and FreedomWorks’ mentions feed probably goes by in a blur, because when everyone can message you, everyone DOES, and you have to spend time and energy separating the wheat from the chaff. But they all seem to easily find the nutjobs who call them awful names! And then they spend time retweeting these people, and fighting with them and giving them the attention they want, while at the same time ignoring the people who could give them the change in the culture they’re constantly saying they want. It’s actually kind of non-conservative, wasting your time playing out a victim mentality (“look!! Some nutjob called me the c-word!”) instead of saying “hey, I know you guys are sick of hearing about all these businesspeople and musicians who are violently liberal, why don’t you check out Mark Scudder, or Colleen Gray, or Joe Merrick, or everybody over at Big Dawg Music Mafia? Here are some exhausted, beaten down, ignored conservatives who are doing it the right way and deserve your support.”
I think I’d stop making music before I’d make music I hate. Because if I’m going to make a living doing something I hate, there are a plurality of careers I could pursue that I have absolutely no interest in. Music has a deep emotional and psychological connection with me, and I think it would be worse to hate making music than to hate some other job in which I don’t have such a vested interest.
In fact I went in to this project saying that I’d probably just record everything I had, release it all, and quit. Because I was certain that the conservative new media just wouldn’t get what I’m doing. And to a large extent they still don’t. But I ended up having so much fun recording this album surrounded by my friends all over the country on the live streams, that I’m not quite as angry as I was last October when I started. But I’m still disappointed in a large portion of conservative new media. They seem to think that concentrating only on the failures of the left – preaching to the choir and converting no one – will somehow change the world for the better. I mean, we’ve all seen, for example, Adam Levine from Maroon 5 make violently bigoted comments about conservatives. And yet a lot of people seem to think the solution is to hate on him back until somehow he’s, like, Hannitized. That is NEVER going to happen. Hit him in his fiscal and emotional pocketbook. Ignore him, and REPLACE him, and he’ll go away. I mean, Fox News bumps to commercial with Maroon 5 and other anti-conservative music. I think there’s still a huge disconnect among conservatives between culture and pop culture. Fox is playing Maroon 5 because most of its viewers, while politically awake, aren’t culturally awake. And culture is how we got here. This is why there is a Beyoncé and a Jay-Z for Obama to hang out with while the Middle East burns.
So I can’t exist in a vacuum forever, and the hundreds of “musicians who happen to be conservative” can’t either. Will I always pick up a guitar and fool around, even when I’m older? Probably. But I can only make so much without an audience. I hope that I’m just ahead of the curve and the next Malkin, the next Beck, will figure out that complaining to the choir does not a culture change. I hope I can share my music with you then, at least.
Have you achieved what you hoped for with the album?
A lot of the achievements for this album are personal. When I started this project last November, I was disillusioned going on disgusted with the state of real new media. I was surrounded by angry, upset conservatives on my Twitter and Facebook, and people in general who were disappointed by the complete replacement of art with entertainment – what the radio didn’t tell you to like, American Idol and The Voice would. Almost everything that was borne of the Internet was hokey or novelty.
When I originally started this project, I told my wife, “I’m just going to record everything that’s done and ready to go,” which at the time totaled about 25 songs, “release it all as a double- or triple- album called This Is What You Missed, and quit.” I was maybe 70% serious. There’s nothing more pathetic than one guy on Twitter and Facebook constantly posting about something that nobody cares about, even if they say they do. When it comes down to it, my music is a product that has been created by a small businessman, and it needs to be purchased by customers. And I wondered what would happen – would free market ideology triumph over celebrity fetish? Would hard work and determination just “work out” like in the human interest stories conservatives like to share on social media? I wasn’t sure, and I’m still not sure, as I write this two days before the album is released. Do those who shout the loudest about the sad state of art and thought in the country actually care enough to support someone who is doing what they say they want?
When I announced this bull-headed plan to my wife, she said to me, “You can’t call it This Is What You Missed.” I asked her why. She said, “That’s what every guy says six months after you break up with him.” And I said, “Well, you’re right, but I am kind of breaking up with everybody!” But the fact that she said that meant it was a goofy idea, even if I was going to call it quits.
I don’t know what I’ll do yet. I have made some good friends because I live-streamed all the recording and production sessions for the album, right from the beginning, and a handful of people watched and cheered me on as I did this almost single-handedly. But these things take time, and I’m not sure if enough people still understand that. Everything is instant on the Internet. If it didn’t happen five seconds ago, it might as well have happened five years ago. We have all these methods of communication and I still can’t get to people who could get the word out to tens of thousands of people – and as I’ve said many times, I just want people to hear this and decide for themselves to buy it or follow me or support me or whatever.
These songs are very important to me. I have wanted to do them justice for a long time and I finally have. Personally, that’s huge. In the past, when I’ve told people I’m a songwriter and they ask to hear some of my stuff, I’ve had to either send them to the strange, atmospheric instrumental stuff I released previously, or send them demos I could barely listen to myself. To have this in hand for wherever I go in the future is a huge thing for me. Having to do all this stuff alone means so many more potential avenues for failure or never getting to the end of a project, or never getting to a point where I am satisfied with something. To have gone after this and done it is really encouraging to me.
After I stopped the regular live-streams, I started to miss them. I don’t know if that makes me sound like a megalomaniac, but I had great fun doing them because I like to work with other people, if only for the joy of sharing my passions with people. And I recorded more tracks than are on this album, though I decided to finish only the ones that would be on this album. But that means I could dive right back into the production of those tunes. I’m thinking about it. I’d like to also do a long-form podcast series about how the album came to be, and a deeper look at each song, where it came from, and how I put it together.
I hope that when someone hears this, they’ll be drawn in by the thickness and size of the arrangements, that they go find their best pair of headphones and turn it up loud and get lost in the arrangements. I hope it makes them feel like they’re not alone, that there is hope for good independent music, good music made by conservatives, and that there’s an alternative to what the media and the leftists are feeding them. I hope the music connects with them emotionally, and I hope to see them when it’s time to start working on more music.
You can count on seeing us, Mark.