Guitarist of the Week – Mark Tremonti (Part 1)

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Mark Tremonti has played a huge part in the rock music industry as we know it and his contribution just keeps getting more clear by the day. He has had a hand in creating some of my favourite songs and albums in the past few years. He has astounding skills upon which he has improved and built upon year by year. Only a true musician works hard at his craft and relentlessly pursues perfection.

Mark Thomas Tremonti was born on the 18th of April 1974 in Detroit, Michigan to Italian-American parents Michael and Mary. He grew up in a Roman Catholic family in Grosse Pointe before he moved to Wilmette, Illinois.  He has two brothers called Michael II and Daniel. At around the age of 11 Mark was exposed to bands like Kiss and Metallica by his brothers. Mark bought his first guitar around about the Christmas of 1985.

Mark signed up for guitar lessons, but quit after the first lesson, because they insisted on teaching him Mary Had A Little Lamb, when all he wanted to learn to play was Master of Puppets. Mark then decided to teach himself by reading from tab books and learning to play his favourite songs by ear until he got them right. Mark attended his first concert which was headlined by Iron Maiden and he vowed to become a lead guitarist of a band, someday.

After his freshman year in High School Mark’s life was uprooted once again when his family decided to move to Orlando, Florida. His friends in Detroit shared his love for bands like Metallica and Anthrax. Whereas his peers in Lake Highland Prepatory   Orlando had a preference for pop acts like Milli Vanilli and associated acts. Around this time Mark’s mother was sadly diagnosed with Lupus. Mark started to adopt the gothic trend, he wore Megadeath shirts underneath his white school shirts and secretly smoked cigarettes underneath his car.

Mark started to feel like a misfit in school and with his brothers away at college, Mark decided to find solace in his guitar. As expected Mark’s despair and sadness manifested itself in his music. Music became an outlet for Mark’s feelings and Alter Bridge’s song “Shed My Skin” is a reflection of this time. Mark formed his first rock band in High School called Wit’s End. Wit’s End played  Motley Crüe and other metal covers. Mark became acquainted with classmate Scott Stapp even though they weren’t in the same group of friends.

After High School Mark decided to go to College to study Finance, he attended Clemson University in South Carolina for a year. He rented instructional videos which increased his playing skills immensely. For financial reasons he transferred to Florida State University where he reunited with high school classmate Scott Stapp. Mark had a job at the time as the cook at Chilli’s restaurant. He even wore his Chilli’s shirt to an early Creed photo shoot. Mark improved his guitar skills and even performed at open mic nights. Scott and Mark decided to form a band after a long discussion, they then started auditioning musicians to complete the band. Scott Stapp and Mark Tremonti auditioned a drummer and the drummer’s friend got behind the drums and started playing Living Colour with Mark. Mark and Scott immediately knew they had their man. That man was Scott Phillips. With the addition of Brian Marshall on bass the band was complete. The band gained an extra member in 1995 called Brian Brasher, but he left before the band became famous.

The band struggled to come up with a suitable name, so one day Mark came up with a name taken from a humorous newspaper clipping that he carried around in his wallet, so the band was named Naked Toddler. The name was not well received and the band soon decided to change it. Brian had previously been in a band called Maddox Creed and they decided to use a variation of the name. Scott suggested that the band be called Creed. A creed represents a promise or a belief. Scott Stapp’s ancestors were Creek Indians so the name seemed to be the perfect fit.

Creed’s first recorded song was called “Grip My Soul”, but it was never released. The band performed at Floyd’s Music Store and Jeff Hanson the venue’s manager was most impressed by the two original songs that the band performed. He started his own management and promotion company to support the venture.

Creed’s debut album was recorded in pieces and Creed returned to the studio when they had saved enough money to record. Jeff got the local radio station 101.5 to play the title track of their debut album called “My Own Prison“. The song prompted an instant reaction from listeners and the radio station was overwhelmed by calls from people wanting to know what this new song was.

My Own Prison was released on their own independent music label, Blue Collar Records. The artwork was designed by Mark’s brother Dan an arrangement that has continued for every Creed and Alter Bridge cover to date. Only 6000 copies were printed. They sold their CDs at their shows while they were on tour and managed to sell 5, 000 copies in just 6 weeks. Creed knew they would need the backing of a major label if they wanted to make it big, so they auditioned for many record labels without success. A new record label called Wind-Up Records showed interest and asked if Creed would sign up as their first act. My Own Prison was re-released by Wind-Up in 1997.

Creed continued and their fan base continued to grow as a result. The fans started requesting Creed on their local radio stations. The band drew increasing attention and went from selling 3,000 albums per week to 25, 000 albums per week. My Own Prison was a huge success making Creed the first rock band in history to have four number-one singles off of their debut album. The album has sold 6 million copies in the US alone as recorded up until March of 2011. Mark was honored by Guitarist Magazine as Guitarist of the Year for 3 consecutive years.

Around this time Paul Reed Smith approached Mark and offered him a signature guitar model. PRS crafted its first single-cutaway model, moving the pickup toggle to the top, and sent it to Mark. With the PRS Tremonti Signature guitar Mark became the second guitarist(after Carlos Santana) to have a PRS signature model. PRS produced a limited run of 100 and each was signed by Mark.

Creed released their second album Human Clay to immediate success, Human Clay sold 11 million copies. Human Clay was one of only 100 albums ever to be certified diamond status by the RIAA. The first single off of the album “Higher” spent a record-breaking 17 weeks at number 1 on the mainstream rock charts. In 2000 Brian Marshall left the band due to tensions within the band. The band never replaced Brian instead opting to hire a touring bassist which was Brett Hestla of Virgos Merlot.

In 2001 Creed accepted the Grammy award for the Best Rock Song for”With Arms Wide Open“. At this point in Creed’s career the band had sold 13 million albums in 5 years and had charted seven consecutive #1 singles. In early 2001 guitar pedal maker Mortley worked with Mark to design and make a signature wah pedal called the Mark Tremonti Power Wah.

Creed released their third album in 2001 called “Weathered”. The album debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 and it stayed there for the next 8 weeks. Mark was again approached by Paul Reed Smith to develop an entry-level signature guitar. Mark’s world was turned upside down with his mother’s tragic passing in 2002. Creed started to experience some problems as relentless touring,  disagreements and Scott Stapp’s demons begun to take their toll on the band. Despite all the negative tension the band was experiencing the silver lining of 2002 was when Mark Tremonti married his girlfriend Victoria Rodriguez on December 14.

When the time came for Mark and Scott to sit down to write the fourth Creed album, they were constantly fighting and found that they were going nowhere creatively. Creed announced their break-up in 2004, Wind-Up then went against the band’s wishes and released Creed’s Greatest Hits album in November 2004.

Mark spent the majority of 2003 and 2004 at home honing his technical skills practicing for up to 8 hours a day. He attended classes to learn how to use Pro Tools and he took singing lessons as well. He recorded some demos at home without knowing what would become of them. Mark and Scott Phillips decided that they would like to form a new band. Mark wanted to refocus on his personal goals that he set for himself and go about achieving them with Scott Phillips who shared the same desire.

Due to the impression Mark Tremonti has made on the rock music industry this feature will be split into two parts. Readers can look forward to more insight into the guitar legend’s life next week.

You can follow Mark on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/MarkTremonti

Rock Regards,

Lauren K

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