11 Questions with Opry Member Mark Wills
Georgia, lawn chairs, chili cheese dogs, and time in the studio. We chatted with Mark Wills about music and everything in between.
We know him as one of the most passionate members of the Opry (and arguably the funniest). When you get to know Mark, he’s just as full of ardor and grit for hard work, family and music as you hear played through his songs. Mark updated us on what he’s been doing offstage, his plans for the Fourth of July bash, family time, and what he can’t wait to get back to soon.
How have you and your family been since we last had you on the Opry in March and we talked to you at home?
Doing the exact same thing as I was doing last time that I talked to you in March. We have done absolutely nothing. We’re staying safe at home. It’s been awesome — but it’s been really weird. I’ve really, really enjoyed spending time with my wife and two daughters. And doing things at the house.
We know you’ve been ready to get back on the Opry stage — how excited are you to do the 4th of July Saturday Night Grand Ole Opry?
With the ability that the Opry has now with Circle TV, Facebook, and Youtube streaming — during quarantine, self-isolation and shelter in place — this show has been the best thing. Never in my life have we all been such a captive audience.
I think it’s been a great thing all over the world — now people have the ability to simply open their computers and tune into the Opry.
For my family, we have taken care of my in-laws who are 83 and 94. We wanted to keep them out of the stores — we’ve spent the majority of our time at the house doing chores, going to the store for them. So to say I’m ready to get out of the house is an understatement. I’m ready to go to work. I’ve been ready to go to work.
Can you give us a sneak peek into what you’re planning with Sara Evans and the Oak Ridge Boys for the show Saturday night?
I took to FB and said, “OK I’m going back to the Opry and what do you want to hear?”
Everything we’re going to play on the Opry for the Fourth show is a request. I’m playing one big hit, one timely song, and one as a tip-of-the-hat to someone. Having said all that — I feel like the fans at home are engaged with you — this is as much their outing as it is mine. They get to see me on the Opry, which I love. I love playing the Opry more than anything we get to do.
I’m excited about doing the show again on Independence Day — getting to celebrate the 244th birthday of our country.
*Guess what he might play from the responses on his post below!
How do you celebrate the Fourth of July at home and how are you celebrating this year?
If I’m home, there’s an 80% chance I will be in a lawn chair in a parking lot watching the fireworks in Georgia.
My favorite memory of playing on the Fourth is when I played the National Mall in Washington D.C. in front of a half a million people.
You celebrated your one-year anniversary as an Opry member in January. When is the last time you were on stage with a full audience?
I believe I played the last full audience weekend, March 6th and 7th. I remember I was standing there by the stage and the square dancers were out on the stage. For some reason I took a picture of the papers sitting there and it was the 4,914th Saturday Night Grand Ole Opry. Now I will be back for the 4,931st show.
You asked fans on your social media what’s on their summer playlists — can you tell us what’s on your list?
I really haven’t developed my summer playlist this year. For summertime, I like more of Alabama, Ronnie Milsap… and more up-tempo stuff. I sort of reverted back this year to my late 80s and 90s playlist. I think that’s good.
What’s your favorite pastime in the summer?
Doing shows is my favorite pastime right now, and working. I have really missed working. I will wholeheartedly tell you that there’s been nothing more special in my life than spending time with my family. I have enjoyed being with my wife and daughters, and projects at the house.
But also, I have honest-to-God, truly missed the people I work with. For some people, the people you work with, the people you tour with, are just employees, maybe for some people that’s the case. For a small unit like us, who all travel together on one bus and spend a lot of time together, it’s been tough. We love each other.
What’s your favorite summer Southern comfort food?
Southern chili cheese slaw dogs. You take your bun and add the hot dog, chilli, cheese and coleslaw. If you’re feeling adventurous, put a slide of mustard on it.
What have you been working on in 2020?
We had just finished up a new record when all of this hit, we’re sitting and waiting. Like everybody else.
What’s your creative process when you get to work on music?
Over the last few years, I sort of decided, nobody in the record industry knows my fans and knows my music better than me. I decided with this new music to not worry about having too many people saying what the music they want is, or examples of what the new Mark Wills will look like. This time, I just went and made music. I wanted to make the music that I was going to be playing on the road and make that music with the guys I was going to be playing with every night.
I brought them in and we developed the direction we wanted it to go, the sound, and the feel. Then we went into the studio and made it what we wanted it to be. I wasn’t just the singer in the studio. It was the most fun I’ve ever had in the studio. This time I really got to be totally immersed in the creative side of things.
I can’t wait for people to hear it. The beautiful thing about good music is that it doesn’t expire, and it doesn’t have a shelf life.
Last, but not least, what’s your motto for 2020?
Let’s get this over with.
Catch Mark at the Saturday Night Grand Ole Opry on Circle TV for the Fourth of July with friends Sara Evans and the Oak Ridge Boys.