You can read the interview here.
Revered veteran musician Mark Cutler has officially escaped the cube farm, and he’s feeling like a billion bucks. He’s been a working musician for nearly 40 years and is an iconic fixture on the Lil Rhody music scene, from his days with the Schemers and the Raindogs to his current outfits, Men of Great Courage and the Tiny String Band. The singer/songwriter/six-string slinger just released another fantastic album, Dreamland (75orLess Records), the follow-up to 2012’s Sweet Pain. Mark will return to his favorite Jewelry District dive, Nick-a-Nee’s, for the official Dreamland release show on Friday.
Cutler’s brand of earnest roots-rock is scaled back this time around. He noted that he wrote “small songs about small things” and recorded in a home studio “the size of a postage stamp.” His exit from the rat race is prevalent on “Doing Things That We Like to Do” and “Too Much Fun.” He revs it up a bit and even plays drums on “Gonna Need My Help,” which he calls a “Yardbirds-type of raveup.” Dusty gems “Tankful of Gas” and “We Don’t Do That Stuff No More” dial up Dylan and Tom Petty, and the title track is a personal fave. Mark revealed a soft spot for the introspective “I’ll Play For You”:
“That one has a special place in my heart because every word is taken from real life — the first verse talks about the legendary Living Room. The second is taken directly from a memory of my second-grade schoolmate Geneva and how my eight-year-old heart yearned back then. The last verse is about one of my best friends, Mark Egan, who passed away a few years ago. We had a short-lived ritual where in the evenings we would walk down Park Avenue in Cranston, play our guitars and sing songs.”
Dreamland is Cutler’s third album for the Warren-based imprint 75orLess Records. Label founder Mark MacDougall says that Cutler helped pave the way for their increasingly eclectic roster.
“Mark Cutler deserves credit for expanding the types of music genres that the label is involved with. The first few years were strictly punk and hard rock albums, but after we released Red I was much more open to working with performers like Haunt the House, Allysen Callery, and others. Even if I stopped the label tomorrow, Mark is one of the best people I have crossed paths with, regardless of our music connection.”
Read our Q&A with Cutler below, and pick up Dreamland right now at the 75orLess Records website.
What was your former day job, and how is it not working for The Man anymore? I was a quality assurance engineer — I tested software. It was a good job for awhile, but leaving was the best thing I’ve done in a long time. I initially took the job in order to be able to provide my son with health insurance and help pay for his education, and now that he is graduating it seemed like a good time to reboot my life. Not working for The Man gives me a wonderful feeling. I’m still working harder than ever, but it’s really nice to not dread Mondays. I’m making less dough but I feel like a billionaire.
Considering the album title, was there a conscious decision going in that this album would have a mellower sound than Sweet Pain? Yes. I wanted to make a small record at home and I wanted to make it sound as spontaneous as possible. I wanted to write small songs about small things. Sometimes small things can be as big as the universe. I was taking cues from Lou Reed and Ray Davies — artists that can make the mundane sound beautiful.
Dreamland is your most stripped-down release. Did you do most of it solo? I did most of the record myself but of course I needed the help of my band, the Men of Great Courage (Jim Berger, bass, Rick Couto, drums, Bob Kirkman, banjo, Richard Reed, keys). Chris Lilley was very generous with her engineering knowledge. And my good friend (and veteran producer) Emerson Torrey did the mastering.
How has your relationship with Mark MacDougall and 75orLess been thus far? My partnership with 75orLess is wonderful. We have a low-key and low-pressure relationship. Mark is easygoing and does a great job getting the word out for me. He’s a music lover and he feels like family.
Tell us about working on the soundtrack for Jim Wolpaw’s Ladd School documentary (facebook.com/laddfilm)? Jim told me about this project, the strange and disturbing story of the Ladd School, and I jumped at the chance. I believe that this is an important story on many levels. People have a ton of misconceptions about folks who are labeled as being developmentally disabled and I hope that this film helps to dispel some of those notions. I’m working with clients from Advocates in Action to create an original soundtrack, including Jimmy Isom, who plays beats on the table and sings. Jimmy was also a client at Ladd School years ago, and has shared some chilling stories with me. I’ve made some friends for life through this project. I feel like getting to work on this soundtrack is a gift from God.
What’s on deck for MC in 2014? Will you continue to play with The Schemers? We’ll probably stick to doing one or two Schemers shows a year. I want to keep that special for the people who remember the band. Hopefully, the Tiny String Band and MOGC will be recording in 2014, and maybe I’ll put out a weird electronica album. I’ve been threatening to do that for a long time. I’m going to be holding food drives throughout the year and teaching guitar. I’ve been working on some short stories and screenplays as well.
Did you ever imagine that almost 40 years later you would still be kicking out the jams? I never thought that I’d be doing anything else. Any day job that I had was solely to support my family and my habit. My decision to leave my job was made easier when I said out loud that I wouldn’t ever be able to afford to retire. So, if I’m going to have to work until the day I die, I may as well be doing something that I love. Wish me luck.