Mar!k is an east London-born, Caribbean raised, producer, rapper, singer/songwriter, guitarist and bass player, who likes blending modern genres with elements of freestyle. Having just completed UD’s 2023 Incubator Programme, Kat Friar sat down with Mar!k, a real one-to-watch, to find out more…
Calling himself ‘The Spontaneous Musician’, because most of his creations are done on a whim having spent time creating a box of his own to fit in – one labelled versatility – if you go to see Mar!k perform at a rap cypher don’t be surprised if he starts singing or whips out an instrument.
Where releases are concerned, crowd favourite, ‘Nintendo’, an alt-rap excursion that’s an ode to the old skool, sits happily next to the afroswing outing of ‘Jam All Night’.
Explorations of identity are a theme woven through Mar!k’s life and art too – his heritage spans Jamaica, St Vincent, Antigua and Montserrat – while moving to the UK just five years ago, has led to much self reflection and philosophising.
Having completed his studies at BIMM, Mar!k recently landed a scholarship to study Sound Engineering and Music Production at Abbey Road Institute, has performed at The Great Escape, Brighton, delivered his first Sofar Sounds set in London and is busy filming the second series of his ‘From A Birds Eye’ studio sessions.
Mar!k’s also busy executively producing an album with his peers in Da Community along with his own catalogue of sonic intent.
“In a world full of carbon copies, I choose to be a compilation.” Mar!k
Talk us through your journey with music…
I was born in Homerton and I moved to Antigua when I was four. I lived there for 12 years and then I came back when I was about 16. Lived in Leicester for four years, lived in Birmingham for a bit as well. And then I came back to London to live [here], maybe two years ago.
I’ve just been here throughout all that time. I taught myself how to make beats in the Apple store during college, ’cause I didn’t have a laptop. I’ve been singing for a while. I think singing and writing songs was my first love, rapping came later just because I wanted to see how words could be used in more ways than just melodies. In terms of bass, I played bass in church, played guitar in church and I think for me it’s always just been kind of challenging myself to learn new things and get better at the things that I am good at. Being multifaceted is a blessing, but at the same time it’s very easy to be seen as just a master of one type situation. I’ve worked really hard to be able to be professional at every aspect of my artistry and production ability.
As a man of many talents, which one is your favourite?
I’d say probably artistry, just writing and making and performing music.
How did you teach yourself how to freestyle off the dome like that, it’s so impressive?
Being in class. In secondary school, there was a kid in my class who used to be able to drum, so when teachers didn’t come to class, he just used to freestyle and then from there I just took it to another thing where I just started being obsessed with words. I’ve always loved writing. My background is songwriting and poetry, so I feel like lyricism has always been an important part of my artistry in general. I just tried to take it to another level where I was able to make a song live. That’s always just been the thing for me. Can I make a song live? Can I perform a song live?
How have you found the Incubator Programme?
It’s been a lot of fun. I feel like we’ve learned a lot, we’ve met a lot of people with strong connections. The UD studios are amazing and I feel like we’ve all kind of become connected, not only with the people who’ve come in, but with each other as artists as well.
Who and what inspires your music?
That’s a lot to draw from, I’m not gonna lie. I’d probably say alternative R&B, jazz, reggae, gospel, hip-hop, so artists like Chronixx, ENNY, Masego, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Marcus Miller, Janet Jackson. It varies a lot but I’d just say [that] Black music inspires me. That’s a big part of it.
How has being in a community of like-minded individuals helped you make music?
Not only is it a family, it’s a like-minded thing of individuals who’ve come together. We’ve been friends before and we’re still friends now, but being able to create with people who are in the same field as you and being so connected, you kind of create a network within a network and it becomes this self-functioning chain of just things being able to be facilitated within your own group and I feel like that’s really good. It’s really self-sustainable as well, just to have a family who’s all doing different things within the arts.
What does the rest of the year hold for you?
Just releasing music, working hard, doing more “From a Bird’s Eye” episodes, doing more shows, leading up to more festivals, music, videos, content. Just growing my audience. I think that’s the main thing, growing my audience, releasing great music and collaborating with amazing people.
How did you start playing instruments?
It was weird ’cause in primary school there was this talent show thing and I sang for it. One of the teachers played guitar for me and he was good, but for me, even with production and learning to produce – if I have an idea in my head, I don’t just think of one part, I think of all the parts of it. He was playing and it was like, this is cool, but it’s not what I’m hearing in my head, so I wanted to learn myself. I told my music teacher and he took this old, acoustic guitar out the cupboard and he was like, “You can take this home,” and I started learning guitar, but then I was starting to play guitar, like bass, ’cause I was only playing on one string. My friends were making fun of me for it, ’cause it was like, “Why are you only playing it on one string? Why aren’t you playing chords?” So then I started picking up the bass. That’s when I started playing bass in church.
After that, when I could afford my own bass, right before lockdown, I was playing a ton of bass during that time and then it just became where I was going to places like Orii and sharpening my skills there, using bass and producing, still playing guitar and stuff…
Being able to play bass became a part of my artistry. It sounds weird, but I don’t like doing stuff that I see a lot of people doing, so being a guitarist who could sing is cool, but for me, it’s like, I see bare man playing guitar. In my brain I was like, “If I can play bass and rap and sing at the same time, that’s gonna be different,” and it’s gonna be something that is gonna be challenging to learn in the first place. So I just started to hone that and started adding to that. I guess that’s where it came from, just kind of just practising, practising singing, but the main reason why I learned it was to aid in just music making, just writing songs.
What are your short term goals?
In terms of short term goals, I guess the obvious one would just be to be financially comfortable off music and building an international audience, ’cause I feel like as much as I want to be able to be big in England, I feel like my sound transfers beyond just the UK. For me personally, I feel like I’d be able to do things like break America, do tours internationally with good success…
What’s your dream?
To be able to have a catalogue under a major [label], a successful catalogue under my name and to help other artists realise that in their name too. And to be a producer as well as an artist who has catalogue with multiple names throughout the industry. Almost like a Pharrell situation where it’s like, I’ve got my own hits, but I’ve also been able to help artists realise their ideas, just have a sound that translates through everything. I feel like that’s one of my main things.
And also, secondly – which is really important to me – is just being able to set up studios in places where it’s not accessible to developing talent. Whether that be in the Caribbean, whether that be in England, whether that be overseas, Argentina, whatever it may be, but just actual like real life places where if you are talented, if you are sick at what you do, regardless of if you have money or not, this is a space where you are able to develop. That to me would be amazing.
I think the final one is that I’d love [it] if there was a ceremony – like a Grammy style kind of thing – that happened in the Caribbean ’cause I feel like there are so many countries, there’s so much talent, that a ceremony that celebrates Black music in a place where Black music thrives, whether that be in Africa or the Caribbean… Something that’s seen as bigger than the MOBOs or the BET Awards [that] actually made Black music in the places where this Black music comes from celebrated… That would be so sick! That’s why for me, I care more about the influence and the legacy that I leave than the money… Because I know the money will come regardless I don’t want that to be my primary focus… It’s more about making connections, building relationships, and being able to walk into rooms and have an opinion that matters.
Applications for UD’s Incubator Programme 2024 are now open. Interested? Click HERE.