The John Mark Nelson Interview
Robert Pally: Why does exactly «See This Through» start the album? In what situation did you write this song?
John Mark Nelson: I started the EP with «See This Through» because it is the oldest song of the batch. I wrote it back in 2016 and it has gone through many transformations since then. In 2016, I had to confront the disappointment of being cut from my booking agency after spending an exciting 3 months touring my record «I’m Not Afraid». At the time, it felt like a death sentence for my career and where I wanted it to go, and it became very difficult for me to keep making music. «See This Through» to me, represents how it feels to try and make it in a creative field when you are continually confronted with setbacks. But, if you feel like it is what you are meant to do, there will always be some internal voice that tells you to keep going - even when it seems crazy. No matter how many times I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep making music, somehow life created a path for me to keep going. Because this song survived all the way from 2016, and still felt relevant to where I am today, I decided I wanted to have it start the record.
Robert Pally: What has «Christian Summer Camp» to do with starting over? What do you wanna tell with the music?
John Mark Nelson: This song is about letting go of past experiences that you thought would define you forever. Letting those moments go is a part of starting over. There have been so many joys and sorrows in my life that felt in the moment like they were the biggest and most important thing that would ever happen to me. But in the mysterious passage of time, even the deepest pains and greatest joys can start to feel distant and hazy.
Robert Pally: Why didn’t you place «Start Over» not at the beginning? The song has a dancy feeling. Was there also something easy in the new start?
John Mark Nelson: I originally had this song first, but because it defines the whole concept of the EP, I decided to put it right in the middle. Yes, this song definitely has a brighter and more bouncy sound. In addition to starting over in life, I feel like this EP is a restart in the way that I make music and the sounds that I choose. Centering things around this really present and pulsing rhythm isn’t something that I would typically do, but it felt right for this song. Once I dropped in that steady kick and percussion, it felt wrong to take it away.
Robert Pally: What triggered the song «Take Your Time»?
John Mark Nelson: In the summer of 2019, my wife and I moved to Los Angeles. Prior to that, I had lived in the same area my whole life. My entire family is still there. This is the first song I wrote in our new home. My life went from a comfortable, familiar routine to something very foreign and unknown. Everything that I was used to having and experiencing was gone. So, I tried to write a song as basic and simple as possible. To me, the most basic, core-level thing is love. We all want to find love, but only the truest and most intense love can cut through all the walls we build around ourselves.
Robert Pally: Why does the song «Compromise» stand at the end? In what situation did you write it?
John Mark Nelson: I placed compromise at the end because it is cut from a slightly different cloth from the rest. The other songs on the EP were mostly written and performed on a piano. Compromise is centered around the guitar. I have always liked albums that end with something a little outside of the box of the rest of the work. I wrote this song while participating in a writing challenge with some friends. The goal was to write a song every single day for a whole month. I wrote this tune because the word «Compromise» has always fascinated me. People can use it to mean something positive and something negative. A compromise can be a good thing if two people are working out a problem. But compromise can also be bad if you say that someone compromised their values or that they got caught in a very compromising situation. But for me, compromise has been one of the most positive forces in my life. Everything that I have been able to do and become can be directly traced to parents, family, friends, who were willing to compromise their time, energy, resources, and invest and believe in me.
-Still Here (2011)
-Waiting and Waiting (2012)
-Sings The Moon (2014)
-I'm Not Afraid (2015)
-Four Days Away (2017)
-Start Over EP (2020)