At a time when the pandemic has shut down live venues and sent hundreds of thousands of performers and singers around the globe jobless, singer-composer Mark Read sees something positive.
“This lockdown is a musician’s dream,” Mark Read told ABS-CBN News via Zoom interview. He said that punctuated with a giggle. But don’t get him wrong, like most of us, he only tries to use his time wisely.
“It just means you can stay home and play music all day, every day,” Read added. “I'm producing a lot of music for other artists and A1 and like most of us, I can’t wait to get back to normal. But I am enjoying this quality time in the studio.”
Read is member of A1, the famous British-Norwegian boyband from the 1990s. Their hits include “One Last Song,” “Like A Rose,” “Heaven By Your Side,” and “Walking In The Rain,” among many other familiar romantic ballads still being played on local FM radios and sang in online amateur singing contests, just in case you’re not into streaming.
Suffice it to say, A1 is “suki” of the Filipino audience. In fact, they had a jampacked back-to-back concert with O-Town at the The Arena in SM MOA on November 9, 2019, for “The Greatest Hits Live” tour.
Meanwhile, Read has just released a single, “Smile Again,” now available on You Tube, Spotify and other streaming devices.
“I'm quite fortunate I have my studio set up at home, I have my grand piano downstairs. I have my guitars and keyboards everywhere,” Read said.
But truth be told, it’s a bit prophetic because “Smile Again” was written before the pandemic.
“This song was actually originally penned several years ago. When I was what you would call a ‘jobbing songwriter.’ It’s actually my full-time day job. Everyday I’d be writing songs with different artists,” he said.
“You are, literally, put in a room with somebody, with different people you haven’t met before and write together. It’s entirely different. It’s nothing like writing songs with a band, where you know each other. A lot of people meet within the day. And come up with something in half-an-hour,” Read said.
In one of those “jobbing songwriter” sessions, he was roomed in with veteran musician-songwriter-producer Russ Ballard.
Ballard composed the hit “God Gave Rock ‘n Roll To You” for the famous glam rock band Kiss and “You Can Do Magic” for folk rock band America in the 1980s. Ballard also has his band named Argent from the 1970s, whose hits include “Since You’ve Been Gone.” Another Argent’s hit titled “Winning” was revived and recorded by Santana in 1981.
For Read, this collaboration with the well-established, accomplished songwriter who has been around the industry since the 1960s has resulted in “Smile Again,” a song that speaks about hope and renewal after months of being in lockdown.
While writing with Ballard, Read thought of a female friend who was going through a rough time and it was when everybody was not keen on speaking about mental health, then considered a taboo topic.
“I knew I was in good hands for this particular theme,” Read recalled.
But why put the song in the backburner?
“It was a pretty good first meeting and writing session with Russ. It went pretty well. The song kinda sat on the shelf, for some time. There’s no particular reason. When you are a songwriter, you write hundreds of songs and not every song is released. This is one of those songs. And I felt, it has lots of potential.”
Then came 2020 and Read thought everything was going pretty well until the pandemic happened.
“Nobody saw this coming. It’s been going on longer than we expected. I felt this was the perfect time to release the song. And this year, I re-wrote it, produced it a new 2020 version,” Read said. In the final version, two names were added as co-collaborators, Arno Spires and Christian Ballard.
“That’s the song you are hearing today.”
“Smile Again” is actually a follow-up single from the one he released in May this year. Titled “Where Were You (When The World Stopped),” it is the song that was influenced by the pandemic and how people dealt with isolation. Read wrote the music, with lyrics by his long-time friend, Jonathan Rusca.
For his fans in the Philippines, Read has many good things to say but he’d like to keep his message brief. The songs he just released would speak for him, everyday.
“I just wanna send my best wishes. Of course, thank you for the support for many years, since the 1990s. We were just there last November. We have plans to come back next year, hopefully the pandemic has ended. God bless.”