Sin City Spotlight: Mark W. Lennon

As part of Turnstyled, Junkpiled’s new monthly installment on LA based Americana artists called “Sin City Spotlight,” we are featuring roots singer/songwriter, Mark W. Lennon, whose new album,  Home of the Wheel is on heavy rotation here.

Of course, one of the things that stands out about Mark, is that he doesn’t really fit into the LA music scene.  He’s a polite, melancholy, introverted Southerner, whose environment couldn’t take him further out of his comfort zone. But, that’s his appeal. 

Lennon’s 2009 effort, Down the Mountain EP was carried a distinct and fresh sound that had just the right mix of solid influence (everything from Bluegrass to Brian Wilson)  and new ideas to earn our respect.Though Down the Mountain was a good first effort, Home of the Wheel demonstrates Lennon’s maturity and growth as an artist.  With the help of producer Marvin Enzioni, he has improved upon a sound that remains organic, without sacrificing polish or structure, and has  transitioned from hook oriented songs, to realizing the full scope of a composition.

“Down the Mountain was free and heavy on the jam. It was self-produced so the band and I just did what came natural. Home of the Wheel is raw. Some of those are first takes, live vocals and to the point,” said Lennon. 

Whether he is singing about feelings of alienation or narrating another time and place,    his voice never lacks ease or authenticity.  Though his reference points are sometimes esoteric and folksy, they are natural and illustrate an unpretentious lyrical depth.

“Home of the Wheel came to me when I was thinking about life coming full circle. An image of a wagon wheel popped in my head as a metaphor for mortality, family, the past and future,” he explains.

Most of Lennon’s songs are personal and often contain themes of longing for the South. “The River Stays the Same,” which features Scarlet Rivera (who played on Bob Dylan’s Desire) on fiddle, is about Lennon’s attachment to the Tar River in his hometown of Greenville, North Carolina.

“I grew up with a river going through our city and spent a lot of time just being out in nature, thinking.  ‘The River Stays the Same’ is about how, even if life changes and people come and go, you can always go home,“  he said.

Though Lennon has lived in Los Angeles for the past decade, he doesn’t quite feel at home here.   Still, he appreciates his environment, despite the challenges it presents.

“It is great to be a music fan in LA, seeing national acts passing through. The LA scene is pretty tough, there are pockets of great Americana and country music, but I must have left my members only jacket back in NC,” he remarked.

And as fondly as Lennon sings about the South, songs like the raw, almost punk like “Stop & Go,” (which was inspired by a three hour a day commute),  “Before the Fall” and “Sad Songs” are reflections on feeling lost and frustrated in LA.

But what is perhaps most unique about Lennon, is his ability to write sentimental songs that maintain a hopeful innocence, which is something that is rare to find in an artist.  For instance, the Gram Parsons-esque,  “California  Calling,” is about a failed long distance relationship, but he still manages to bring the listener up, rather than down.

“It’s a reflection of who I am. I try to be a positive about life,” said Lennon.

As much  as his personality carries over to his songwriting, it also translates into who he is as a performer.  And in an industry driven by image, it is clear that he isn’t trying to be anyone other than himself. 

“’Look for the Walls’ was born after a little outdoor show we did, where I felt trapped by my shyness,” Lennon admits.

But like any great artist, his lack of showmanship doesn’t really matter. It speaks for his humility and is endearing. Besides, he plays good music and that’s what counts.

 For more information on Mark, check out his  website www.markwlennon.com 



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