A Conversation with Mark Masri
HULICK: I heard your Christmas album, “Christmas is…,” and it is just gorgeous. You wrote and did some of the arrangements on this album.
MASRI: Thank you so much, I’m glad you like it. Yes, I wrote a couple of the songs and was pretty involved in most of the arrangements with the exception of a few. So it’s a pretty personal record for me.
HULICK: This is a re-release of the album from 2008 and includes a bonus DVD of three songs you did at Fallsview in June for Jim Brickman’s Beautiful World and Christmas tapings for PBS.
MASRI: That’s correct. We had a great time there.
HULICK: You are currently in the middle of the Jim Brickman Beautiful World Christmas tour in fact. How is it going?
MASRI: It’s going really well. The crowds have been great and the fans are having fun.
HULICK: The tour brings you to Rochester Dec. 20. That is close to your last appearance on the tour, right?
MASRI: Yes. My last date is December 23.
HULICK: I’m sorry to hear that, because I would have loved you to be at the show Dec. 30 at Shea’s.
MASRI: You know I am so bummed about the Buffalo show! My booking manager and Jim were arranging dates and trying to figure out how I could be part of the tour and that was the one thing I was really disappointed about. Of all the shows on the entire tour, I of course wanted to do Buffalo because it’s like home to me. It “is” home to me because it’s so close to Toronto. But that’s just the way things have turned out, but if there’s anything I can do to turn that around, trust me I’ll try and make it happen.
HULICK: That would be great! Let me know if it changes. Mark, you started singing as a very young child and at age five began singing in your father’s church. Was singing all you ever wanted to do?
MASRI: Honestly, it really has always been the only thing I wanted to do. Sing and play piano. I was pretending to play the piano, my mother says, at two years old. My mother played the piano and was a singer.
HULICK: Your debut album was released in 2000 and garnered you a Juno nomination for Best Gospel Record. Since then you have done the Christmas album and the album, “See My Face,” which has more pop type of music. Now you are set to release the much anticipated “La Voce,” which is more towards romantic, passionate and very personal type of music and lyrics. Some artists seem to find their niche as far as a music genre and run with it, but it seems you don’t want to be held to a particular genre. Is that intentional?
MASRI: There have been so many influences around me musically that it’s been hard for me to settle on one specific genre. One thing I will say is that my only goal in my music is to deliver songs with passion and integrity, and hopefully do music that inspires hope. And that can be romantic hope or it can be spiritual hope or whatever hope is needed. Musically, I’ve obviously had gospel influence at a younger age and of course a lot of pop sort of rock influences and it’s been more of an “appreciation,” as a better way to put it. I also have been influenced by classical music because I studied classical piano growing up. I feel like I sort of targeted those different markets along the way. With “Christmas is…” I feel like it took a little more focus in terms of more classical orchestral music, and that has definitely flushed itself out in the new record, “La Voce,” that is coming out in January. I feel like I’ve settled here, and quite deliberately, because although it is categorized as a certain type of music, to me it encompasses all of my influences.
HULICK: I wanted to mention to our readers that you have a special pre-sale offer for “La Voce” on your Web site.
MASRI: That’s right. You can actually get a free download off the Web site of one of the songs, called “Time,” which I wrote with my friend, Amy Sky.
HULICK: Who are your role models personally and professionally?
MASRI: Wow! I would have to say my father is my number one role model personally. He’s the one who has had the biggest impact on my life. I look to him for inspiration, for direction along this journey. In terms of professionally, I have always had a great respect for Celine Dion, just because of her vocal ability. To me it’s almost next to none in terms of her precision. And it has nothing to do with the fact that she’s Canadian (laughs). I know everyone will think that (laughs). I just really think she has an incredible instrument and I respect that. Also, there is Stevie Wonder, Seal, Luther Vandross and Andrea Bocelli. There are just so many artists around who I’ve sort of drawn inspiration and creativity from.
HULICK: What would you say is the best advice you’ve been given about your career.
MASRI: This may sound really dumb and simple, but it is quite simply this: don’t give up. Honestly, Melanie. That is the best advice anyone has ever given me because there are many opportunities on your road to success where you feel like you just can’t do it anymore. It doesn’t feel like you’re connecting, it feels like you’re missing the mark or the timing is wrong or you don’t have the right people playing or there’s something missing in the routine. When you feel like that—and believe me I’ve been there a couple of times—and you’re about to throw in the towel, sort of take stock and reassess your life, maybe go a different direction… that is when it’s time to say, “no, I’m going to stick it out, I’m going to push through this.” And then something great happens. So that would be the best advice anyone’s ever given me.
HULICK: Has the dream you had as a child, musically speaking, come true or are you still reaching towards it?
MASRI: I’d say I’m right in the middle of the journey. I feel like, so far, I am trying to savor every moment and just enjoy this climb towards my goal….I am enjoying every step of the way, right down to this interview with you. I would say I’m not totally there yet. I really feel like there are some amazing things about to happen.