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July 20 @ 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
“Mark Rostenko is the real deal, a true artist. He understands empathy and how the art of song is used to generate it. Writing with him was a great pleasure. The time I spent with Mark reminded me that songs are more than songs. They are what human emotion sounds like.” — Mary Gauthier, Renowned Nashville Singer-Songwriter
Writing and performing music is the only dream I have ever had, but an incapacitating life-long stutter drove me to a tiny cabin deep in the mountain wilderness of Colorado with only my dogs, fears, regrets and heartaches for companions. It was in this quiet space that I underwent an emotional and spiritual transformation. After years of self-reflection I found my way back to music and songwriting. I reclaimed my dream and have re-emerged as the person I was born to be!
My music and story telling will take you on an emotional journey, running the gamut from gut-busting humor to bluesy grooves to compositions that celebrate the triumphs and tragedies of our lives. I focus on deep, meaningful lyrics backed by an original, emotionally-evocative style of guitar playing, performed straight from the heart: authentic, vulnerable and moving. I write real songs about real people. My primary goal in performance is to touch, move and inspire, and to encourage audiences to open their hearts in a world that makes it far too easy for hearts to close. It is my hope that my music will inspire others to find their way back to what really matters in life and to live their dreams. Come to my show and you can expect to laugh, cry and walk away transformed.
And here’s a transcript of an interview conducted by editor Caine O’Rear of American Songwriter magazine – a little more about me, my songwriting and my song “Billy (Off the Line)” which won the May/June 2016 lyric contest:
What inspired this song?
Actually, nothing. I had been playing the music to it daily for many months, trying to capture the precise feeling of what wanted to be expressed. The first line came to me one day and then I just started writing the rest without a clue as to what the song would be about until it was done. It was only in retrospect that I realized it was based on a combination of my own struggles as well as those of a childhood friend whose life went down a far more tragic road than mine.
Are you a performer as well?
Yes, in fact performance is a critical aspect of my songs. I think of myself as not just a singer-songwriter but a performance artist of sorts, in that the emotion underlying the lyrics and music is as important, if not more so, than the song itself. I strive to communicate the raw emotional vulnerability of my songs; that arises most powerfully in live performance by the synergy created between me and the listener.
Why did you decide to take up songwriting?
It’s the only dream I ever had, but I got sidetracked early on by a nearly debilitating self-consciousness engendered by a speech impediment. At the age of 47 I realized that life is too short not to give my dream all I’ve got. This is my life, my passion and a way for me to finally express what I’ve been unable to say for a lifetime.
Do you often enter lyric contests?
No, this was my second time. I’m a little uncomfortable with the notion of competition in the arts. To me, the most relevant standard in any kind of art is authenticity of self-expression; if it’s authentic it’s good. The question of “better than or worse than” strikes me as moot. But audiences have responded powerfully to “Billy” and I was curious to see how it might measure up in a larger forum.
Is there a line or couplet from “Billy” that you’re particularly proud of?
I love the whole song but if I had to choose one thing, I’d say the lines about Billy’s father played a great role in opening my eyes to the reality that people do the best they can with what they have. To varying degrees, nearly all of us got a raw deal from folks who themselves got a raw deal in their own childhoods. Who’s to blame? No one.
Who are your favorite songwriters?
I listen to and love a wide variety of music — there are so many great songwriters today — but I intentionally strive not to listen from the perspective of a songwriter as it’s important to me that my songs arise from a place of personal inspiration. I try to avoid being influenced by others directly and that’s hard to do when I hear a great song and think, “Oh man, I want to write a song like that!” But I will say that Patti Smith really opened my eyes to the idea that there are no limits and that I can write a song any way I like, that there are no rules, at least none that matter to me. But there’s too much great talent out there nowadays for me to pick a list of favorites.
What are the goals for your songwriting?
To touch, move and inspire others to find their way back to what’s truly important in life. I write real songs about real people and the human condition. I’ve led a very hard life in some respects, an easy life in other respects, but I’ve stared into the proverbial abyss and realized there’s nothing to be afraid of; it’s just life. And so I strive to communicate the inherent beauty of the entire human experience, the good and the bad … and sometimes the hilarious.