Mark Tremonti: I Did It His Way

Mark Tremonti: I Did It His Way

8th May 2022 0 By Gavin Griffiths

Mark Tremonti is a busy fellow…not only is he gearing up to hit the UK for his Covid-delayed solo tour, while simultaneously working in the studio on some new Alter Bridge material (Spoiler alert), there’s also the little matter of releasing a very special charity covers album; “Tremonti Sings Sinatra” (You can read our review here). Using the wonder’s of technology, namely Zoom, Gavin managed to sit down with Tremonti to discuss how great music will help a great cause…here’s what went down…

Mr. Tremonti, how are you doing Sir? 

 I’m good how about yourself? 

I’m very good, thankyou! Now, first of all, before we get into the thick of it, people around the world are obviously very familiar with you as the hard rocking guitarist for Creed, Alter Bridge, your own material, but what they MAY not realise, is that you’re a big fan, of Mr. Frank Sinatra…now, for those that don’t know, how did that love affair for his music come about? Where did that all start? 

 I mean just, kind of growing up…Christmas time would roll around and, you’d hear Frank Sinatra on the radio, see him in movies, hear him in ad’s, you know you couldn’t get away from it growing up, and, I always loved it, it always put a smile on my face. It’s good feel-good music, and when I got older I’d get on the karaoke mic and sing along, it’s always felt good to sing it, and, three years ago I made the jump and said to myself, I’m going to do my best to sing like Frank Sinatra…and really do my homework on it; study it.

That’s cool, because what brings me into this segue is, obviously the upcoming album, but before we talk about that in depth, you just mentioned you jumped into it, really fell in love with his singing style, what strikes me listening to the album, is that you really REALLY did go in on this, in a way it was like, how would you describe, being a method actor? You properly immersed yourself in it…would that be a fair assessment? 

 Absolutely that’s exactly right…I watched all his movies, I read all his bio’s, I watched you know, the documentaries, and then I went down his catalogue from start to finish, you know. He’s recorded like, over 1400 songs, there’s a lot to take in, and every day I’d find something new, and I wanted to put together a block of songs that represented his whole career, not just the big famous ones that everybody knows…some of the deeper cuts as well… 

Of course, yes, so, having established that, we have to talk about the album itself. So on May 27th, we have the release date of, “Tremonti Sings Sinatra On face value, people may look at it and think, this is a niche or, novelty covers album, but apart from being a covers album, it’s very very close to home, very close to the heart for you so, for those that aren’t aware, could you explain what this album means to you, and what the process was behind making this album? 

Yeah so, like I said about, three years ago, just like with guitar when I wanted to learn to play like somebody, I wanted to sing like Frank Sinatra, and then a few years into it, I felt pretty good about my progress, and, I really wanted to do something with this, but it had no place in my career. Then we got the diagnosis that, our daughter had Down’s Syndrome, before she was born, so that’s when, almost, the light bulb went off, like, there was a reason for this, there was a reason for my obsession…I’m going to record a record and I’m going to do it to raise money, for the National Down’s Syndrome Society, and help families who live with Down’s Syndrome… because you know there are so many different obstacles faced, that, you otherwise wouldn’t have. Families need a lot of help…

Absolutely yes, and it’s a very honourable and very wholesome cause, like you said there are thousands of families worldwide that have to help family members and, close relatives, go through this, and, obviously anything that can benefit and, make peoples lives better, is ALL the better, and it’s an honourable thing that you are doing, through this medium… 

 Thank you so much, this little thing, she gave me the strength right here… (Holds up a big picture of his Daughter Stella)  

Haha, aww that’s awesome man, that’s super cute! Now, you mentioned the NDSS…but also we have to talk about your own start-up foundation; which is “Take A Chance For Charity”obviously this is in collaboration WITH the NDSS, and what you’re aiming to achieve, but for people who are new to this aspect of you, can you explain to us what the foundation is, and what your goals are with that?  

Yeah so, “Take A Chance For Charity” is there to challenge people, whether they are actors, or athletes, or singers, or radio personalities, anybody, to do a project. It could be one song, it could be a record, a painting, you know whatever it is…to raise money for charity. If people go on to there’s an explanation behind it, there’s instructions on, how you can take a chance for charity and, we’ll have the ‘Donate Now’ links there as well. I’ve got a lot of friends that have stepped up that are starting to put projects together for this one, so once this record comes out, we’ll keep on hunting down other people to do it, and, when I find other people to do it, hopefully they challenge THEIR friends to do it, and it just keeps spilling over, because I wanna’ be a little old man that died, who had raised a hundred million dollars for charity! That’s my life’s goal from here on out…

You brought an amount up almost tongue in cheek there at the end, but a lot of people are unaware of how charitable Frank Sinatra was himself… how much of that was a driving force in you wanting to set this charity up? 

MT: Yeah you know, that was one thing when I was reading all the books about him, he was such a fascinating person, and it just kind of upset me that people talked about the drama’s behind Frank Sinatra’s life, and, the hits and, you know, the movie star side of things; the “rock star” side of things, but not the charitable side of things. He raised over $1Billion for charity… 

That is a lot of money…

People say oh you know, politicians and people do that to look good in the press, but you can see, when you see him kneeling down in front of a child, that look in his eye and see his hearts on his sleeve; he meant it. There’s a story where, a fire-fighter was injured, I think in Kansas, and Frank Sinatra told a few of his friends like Dean Martin and a couple of other guys, “Meet me at my hangar, we’re going to take a trip tomorrow”, and they were like “Why Frank?” and he was like “Don’t ask me why just meet me there!”…so they go get on this plane and they fly and they go to this hangar with a few thousand people there, and they put on an event that raised hundreds of thousands of Dollars, for this fire-fighter who was injured, and then somebody said “Let me go get some press so we can talk about this”, and he says “Absolutely not, I don’t want this to be about me, I want this to be about the cause”…that was the kind of guy he was behind closed doors that people don’t really realise. You hear story after story about that. It’s not something he did just to make himself a star; that’s what he was about… 

That’s kinda cool because, in ways, while not on the SAME topic but, I was watching a documentary recently about the Kray Twins, from London, and they themselves, even though they were renowned gangsters and whatever, they made a lot of donations to charitable causes and things, and were under appreciated in certain aspects of their lives, and I believe there is a correlation between the two, and obviously, people in that position, are able to do these kinds of things… 

Absolutely, you know, he had a platform and he used it, and he also stood up for civil rights, you know, he stood up for a lot of things that people don’t talk about. Of course there’s stories about him being a tough guy and hard to deal with in certain situations but, when you’re the most famous person on Earth; you’re a celebrity since you were in your mid-twenties, and you can call the PRESIDENT for tea in the middle of the day if you wanted to? You’re gonna have some ups and downs…you’re gonna have some people coming after you, and you’re gonna have to defend your character along the way, but, with this project, I hope that part of his legacy is clear to people that, he was a very charitable guy, and I hope the Sinatra Estate appreciates this project because, it’s furthering that legacy. 

I’m glad you mentioned the Sinatra Estate itself because, coming back to the album, not only was it a passion project for you, but you also had the privileged position, in a way, to work with actual members of Sinatra’s touring band…how rewarding was that for you as a creative artist and also, how much of an authentic vibe did it give to you, producing this album as a whole?

It was incredible, you know, when I took the deep dive and I was trying to sing like Frank Sinatra, when I started feeling like I was getting the hang of it, I was going to call up or, get online and, fish for local musicians, and I’d find a couple of saxophone players, couple of trumpet players, a couple of trombone players, get a band together and start playing local bars just for fun… and then when I decided to do this project, I called my manager and I told him I wanted to do it, he’s like “No screw that! My guitar teacher growing up was Dan MacIntyre!”…Frank Sinatra’s touring guitar player…it was one of those, stars-aligning moments. So, from there he introduced my manager to Mike Smith, Frank Sinatra’s band-leader, who in turn, gathered all the guys, and they were all in the Chicago area, so, of the seventeen-or-so musicians we tracked, fifteen of them were people who had played, with Frank Sinatra on stage so, it was great behind the scenes to kind of talk to them about how that experience was. Because, I’m such a, you know, fanatic, of learning about his life, it’s great to hear these stories from guys who sat on a couch next to Frank Sinatra and heard the stories from him himself… 

Did it give you that extra confidence boost in both the delivery of the album and, yourself as a performer? 

Well I knew that the music was going to be top-notch, it was going to be legit…you know, when you go into something as an artist, and you feel good about it in your head, you want to know that other people feel good about it too, so, going into it I’m like, I feel like I’m getting it, but, until I hear it back, and hear it with the band, I’m not going to feel 100% confident. But, once we did the first two songs, and everybody in the band were like, or well not everybody but a bunch of the guys were like, “I didn’t know what to think about this project, a rock ‘n’ roller coming in here and singing Sinatra tunes, but you did a great job and I’m really excited to work on the rest of this project”. As the project went on we just got closer and closer and everybody just…I could see these guys enjoying playing this project, especially getting back together with one another. Some of these guys probably haven’t seen each other in thirty years! It’s great to see them reinvigorated and excited to work on a project again…

You mentioned there coming in as a rock ‘n’ roller, and harking back to your own bands and, your own material…you know your audience. You are used to compiling set lists, you have a say in what songs make the final cut for your albums, you know what’s going to work well…when it came to selecting the, 14 songs that ultimately make up this album; was that a hard choice for you and, was there a lot of discussion with Sinatra’s band? Was it a difficult process just finalising those things? 

Um, well it was up to me the songs we did but, it was a hard process picking my favourites. I had practiced for a lot more, before we went in there, I was READY, like, “The Best Is Yet To Come” and “The Way You Look Tonight”, “Come Rain Or Come Shine”…”The Ladies A Tramp”, all these songs I wanted…”My Funny Valentine”…songs that we left on the table and didn’t record; I would LOVE to go and do Volume 2. It was hard to pick the favourites but, we chose the fourteen, and recorded the fourteen, there wasn’t REALLY a left-over song. When you’re trying to get-together that many musicians, you have to know exactly what you’re doing. You can’t just say “Ah let’s just record a few extra to see which ones turn out good”…we just recorded them, did them, these guys were pro’s, put musical sheets in front of them and they knock it out the way they see it. It was about, three takes these guys took before they were done and what you hear on the record is start to finish ONE TAKE. These guys don’t chop things up and edit things. They played through it; “That was good, next song!” 

I listened to the record yesterday and, this morning in preparation for this chat, and honestly, while we all know you as this riff-heavy guitarist for these rock bands, you absolutely nail it, and like I said you’ve immersed yourself in this, not so much the genre but, this whole different lifestyle. This is really a time-capsule going back to the 1940’s, and you really, really delivered… 

Thank you so much man, it was the biggest passion project I think I’ve ever had so, I appreciate that.


 Coming back to the project itself, and, the bigger picture, you’ve mentioned you’ve been trying to like, coax guys into this, doing their own things outside of their own comfort zones and what-have-you, you’ve had some good feed-back already…just looking through the website, you’ve had comments from Slash, John Petrucci, Kirk Hammett, like a plethora of people…what does that mean to you as an artist OUTSIDE of the charity aspect of things, knowing you’ve succeeded in doing this? 

 It’s some of the most exciting times of my life…you know, Slash was the first person to give a quote on this, and uh, I remember my manager calling me up and he goes “This is going to put a smile on your face but we just got this quote from Slash”…and it was such a glowing review of the record, I was like “YES!” , you know it was a very happy moment, and soon after that, the Kirk Hammett quote came in, they all just started coming in, and then, the Paul Stanley from KISS quote, I saw that when somebody had told me about it on Twitter…you know, that HE had posted that on Twitter, so that quote came straight from a social media post. That wasn’t from us going “Hey Paul can we get a quote on this?”, it was just natural from the project getting out there. And that was really exciting just knowing that the word was spreading and, people are getting the project and… those quotes help too because, I can maybe, a year from now be like “Hey Paul you enjoyed this project I’d love for you to participate on “Take A Chance For Charity”, and then challenge your friends to do it as well”. I have a friend who knows Paul very well, we’re talking and, hopefully he can do a project, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be music you know, Paul is an artist as well as a musician, so it’ll be good to do something different. Say he’s a mechanic on the side, and he builds a car and sells it for charity, whatever it is; anything different!  

Happy days! So now, obviously with this being the first project out-right for this charity movement you’ve set up, naturally on the website we’ll be plugging both of the links to the NDSS and “Take A Chance…” and, we’ll be making sure that there’s awareness there, and if anyone wants to get involved they can get a hold of you through this website, and get this ball rolling. And we’re going to be doing what we can to help you kick-start that at least.  

Well thank you so much I appreciate that.

 Before we go, charity venture aside, coming back to your own works, your newest album came out last year; “Marching In Time”…you’ve had one or two set-backs with Covid…you were meant to be on tour this January in the UK, but you are back here in June… 

 Yes we leave here on May 27th, the same day the new record comes out! 

Good for promotion! But yes with, the setbacks there have been, knowing your records been out, you’ve had the positive feedback, are you looking forward to getting back on the road here? 

Yeah we just did a five-week tour here in the States, which was great, it was awesome to get back on stage! I think people were really itching to get back out there and see live music again so, it was a lot of fun. But um, Europe and the UK specifically are out biggest markets; biggest fan-bases so, it’s been a long time since we’ve been over there. We’re ready to get over there and we can’t wait. There’s so much going on right now between the Sinatra record, I’m in the studio with Alter Bridge right now recording an Alter Bridge record, but doing the Tremonti thing, being able to get up there and sing live is something I don’t get to do a ton of so, it’s a lot of fun. 

Well personally, I’m hoping I get to catch you in...Bristol, on the 27th of June, hoping to be there, but with this tour coming up, with this record coming out and the whole charity going on, we wish you the best of luck, we wish the charity all of the success and, may it continue to grow and, it’s for an excellent cause, thank you very much. 

MT: Thank you very much man it’s appreciated. 

TREMONTI – “Marching In Time” is out now via Napalm Records

For more information about the good work the National Down Syndrome Society do, please visit WWW.NDSS.ORG

For more information on “Take A Chance For Charity”, how to donate and get involved, please visit WWW.TREMONTISINGSSINATRA.COM and take a chance on yourself, to help make a difference. 

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