Mark Elliott is quickly becoming a master of charming, effortless electro-pop. Since bursting onto the scene in April with his debut single Dead End Love Affair, the UK singer-songwriter has been picking up some well-deserved attention with his minimalist take on nu-soul. Having recently unveiled his latest offering, China Doll, we caught up with Elliott to find out more…
SYNC: So what’s your background Mark? Where is home, and how long have you been writing, performing and recording?
Mark Elliott: Home for me is up in Leicester although more accurately I spend most of my time on the M1 between there and London! I’ve been performing ever since I started playing guitar when I was about 15 although most of my early performances ended halfway through the song with a “I can’t remember how the next bit goes”. I guess writing came a bit later on and – embarrassingly – my early recordings were usually done for girls I wanted to go out with.
SYNC: Your sound is a real blend of genres – what particular influences have shaped that?
Elliott: I still don’t think I’ve found a sound I’m fully happy with which is why I guess it still feels quite experimental. The first album I ever bought was Justin Timberlake’s Justified and that still comes across. Me and Dave (Tidmarsh – producer) were listening to bands like Oh Wonder and Honne during the recording process and I definitely think that helped shaped the sound. Dave has a mega eclectic taste in music so that keeps it interesting – I never know if he’s gonna show me a Mars Volta track or the new Arianna Grande single. I think a lot of mainstream pop has a subtlety in the production that’s often over looked so that definitely an influence. I also frikking love Barry White.
SYNC: How does the creative process work for you? Is songwriting a mainly solitary or collaborative one?
Elliott: I guess it’s a mixture. Recently I’ve been involved in co-writing for other people a lot more and enjoy it equally. Although I think for my solo stuff I’m definitely a control freak when it comes to lyrics. I’ll usually write lyrics by myself sat in a coffee shop with a book and come up with the basic idea on keys later. Then it’s a case of taking it into the studio to finish the song and start the production and arrangement.
SYNC: The first we heard from you was the track ‘Drink to Thunk’, but the other two tracks on the China Doll EP have quite a different feel. What’s the story of the three and how they came to be?
Elliott: I guess the idea with the EP was just to take myself out of my comfort zone and mess about a bit. It was fun but frustrating at times to get sounding like we wanted it to – China Doll in particular was a pain in the arse to get right but hopefully it came across well in the end! I think like anything artistic you tend to finish it and try not to listen to it to much. It’s a case of ‘on to the next one’!
SYNC: Can you tell us a bit about the beautiful and very distinctive artwork for the tracks too?
Elliott: The artwork was a collaboration with an artist called Eugenia Loli who makes these incredible collages filled with incongruity, nonsense, depth, and meaning all at the same time. What I love most is the combination of modern technique and vintage artwork which I feel fits the texture of the music industry perfectly.
SYNC: What have been your most memorable live shows so far, and are there any plans in place for more chances for people to catch you live soon?
Elliott: The most memorable shows to date have been Sofar Sounds gigs which, if you have never seen, are basically a gig in someone’s flat/other unusual space where no one is allowed to talk, the acts are totally unplugged and everyone has a beautiful shared musical experience. [See Mark’s Sofar Sounds rendition of China Doll]
I’ve played live loads this year and every single one has been memorable in its own way. I’ve got a Christmas show booked in Leicester on 15 December which is just me on a grand piano which I’m really looking forward to, but other than that I’d say keeping an eye on my socials for gig announcements! We’re currently planning for some European dates in the near future and there’ll be countless London dates coming up.
Mark Elliott – China Doll
Mark Elliott – Drink To Thunk