When I was a little boy, I was not the most athletic. I was definitely not the one most likely to succeed. I was shy and had a stuttering problem. I was extremely insecure. As a teenager my outlet for identity became sports. I wasn’t a good athlete, but I was the guy nobody wanted on their side because I was so clumsy. I just wasn’t gifted. As a high school kid, I would always write funny poems.
I was the only musician in my home. I got a guitar and just started playing it. It was very random. One Christmas my parents didn’t know what to give me so they bought me a cheap guitar. I really didn’t think music would be an option, even though it became a hobby, but I knew that when I sang people would listen. Even in high school, if I would sit down and play an Eagles song, they listened. I was just sort of the jock with an acoustic guitar in his hand. I had put way more time into sports than I had music.
I didn’t think I was that good musically. In college, I was affirmed by one professor. Dr. David Horton would always say, “Mark, you’re not the high note guy, but there is a gift God has given you. When you sing, there is an anointing on your voice.” I liked to write, but I didn’t think I was gifted to write. I’m still not so sure about it. I ask myself, “How many songs do you write, or how many of your singles do well that determines you’re good?” I’m just fortunate enough that every now and then I find a song that separates itself from the others I write and becomes something people want to hear. The first song I ever had recorded on a label release was on a Truth Christmas album. It was a song called “The Way He Came.” It says, “Isn’t it amazing the way he came? No crown. No throne. No big parades. There were no fanfares played. No jubilant display. Isn’t it amazing how He came?” I look back, because I teach songwriting now, and say, “I really over rhymed on that one.” I had no idea about song structure or what would fit, but I wrote from my heart. I tell young songwriters, “It’s called stream of conscience writing. Sometimes you just have to write what’s in your heart.” Sometimes that’s best because it’s honest.