Fedbysound is Mark Grider, a multi-istrumentalist from Southern California. He began his musical journey at 15, when he first picked up guitar.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
“For starters, I think too much. I consider myself an outcast, but not the kind of outcast that begs to be noticed. I prefer to hide in plain sight under the guise of normalcy. I don’t want to be a rock star. I just want to make the best music I possibly can, because it brings me healing and joy.”
Where did you grow up and how did your childhood shape you?
“Without diving too deeply into the things in my childhood that I feel really shaped me, I will say that I grew up in a fairly typical suburban setting of Ontario, California. Perhaps there is something about the organized nature of suburban living that provides a backdrop one might interpret as having some sense of security and stability. When your story isn’t so neatly arranged, it does make you wonder about how much of what surrounds you is facade and artifice. Are people really composed and productive or are they keeping up appearances? Perceptions are frail and it can take great effort to maintain a false narrative. Other times, perpetuating the illusion can be the byproduct of reflex. I wonder how many others are quietly trying to make it through life, pretending to fit in while feeling like no one else on earth understands what they are going through?”
What was your dream job as a child?
“Well, as a teenager I was in love with the band Rush. I wanted to do what they did. I wanted to be a professional musician even though I had no idea what that really meant. When I listened to Rush, it made everything feel ok. It was an escape and I felt a connection to them, as I perceived them to embrace the outcast identity and so it gave me hope. It was that blissful thing that dreams are made of so my foolish heart wanted to go in that direction. Ultimately, the fantasy dissolved and the reality of how I might escape the inertial path of my life compelled a course correction.”
So basically Rush got you into music?
“My best friend Mike and I really got into music together when we were 13 as a result of a mix tape made by his older brother that included songs from The Who and Rush, which led to checking out their albums and down the rabbit hole we went. Rush’s music was adventurous and ambitious. They sang about societal forces, power structures, freedom of expression and other themes that hooked us. It proved to be the right music at the right time for both of us.”
“As time went on, the emotive music of the 90s resonated with my sense of existential angst and helped me process my pain in a more direct way, so that is also music that is very important to me.”
How did you learn to sing, write and play?
“I started playing guitar at age 15. I was the only one in my family that played an instrument. It was a passion that was linked to my friendship with Mike. I think without his drive to learn, I would have given up and moved on to something else or perhaps gone back to drawing. I found creative peace in drawing from a very young age. I was always an awful singer. No control and no sense of pitch. My singing made people respond with that awkward grimace, so I just avoided it.”
“I took about a decade off from music, but the desire lingered. After seeing all the “learn to sing” commercials on TV, I bought into the idea that I could learn to sing at about 35 years old. As “old age” rapidly approached, I felt like I should actually make music instead of just dreaming about doing it. I tried Roger Love’s disc with no luck. I tried a local vocal coach who didn’t help and said I was a tenor – I’m not. Eventually, I bought Brett Manning’s Singing Success program and learned from his videos that I was basically doing everything wrong, from tension & placement to breath support.”
“I am still not a good singer and I don’t practice enough – hardly at all actually. I still rely on the careful editing of pitch for most of my recordings, although I am proud to say that two songs on my new album have no pitch edits at all. I am not ashamed of the pitch editing. The emotion is real…in fact, a lot of what you hear in my music is the first time I sang it. I just edit it to my liking or double it if I hate the way it sounds. There are many musicians that feel pitch editing is cheating or should be shamed. They are free to think that. If you want to maintain the natural characteristics of the voice, you have to be very careful. I would love to have the ability to sing well. I have tried and after countless hours of frustration, it’s just not worth it to me. I just feel like I am tuning my voice like I would tune a guitar.”
“All that matters to me is the sincerity & what comes out of the speakers. I don’t want to grimace when I listen to my own songs, because the vocals are way off. It doesn’t bother me so much when other singers don’t tune their vocals (sometimes it does…it just depends), but it drives me crazy if my voice is way out of tune.”
Have you played in bands before making music solo?
“I only played in one band. My best friend Mike was the bassist & singer and I was the guitarist for our three piece band that eventually settled on the name Over. We wrote and performed over 40 originals and recorded a 6 song demo that we made “professional” copies of on cassette tape at the end of the 90s. Don’t bother searching for it. You won’t find it. I have copies, but we lost contact with the drummer, so I don’t expect any of the recordings to get released. The other bands named Over have no connection and were started after we quit. We never had a following more than our girlfriends at the time, maybe two of our friends and sometimes my sister.”
Who are your main musical influences?
“Well, there are a lot of them. Rush is the reason I got into music, but I don’t think I sound like them. Sometimes I think my guitar phrasing choices are similar in ways. I do my best to not sound like anyone else, but occasionally you will hear the influence of Rush, Yes, Tool, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Incubus, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Shihad, Deftones, Hum, Jimmy Eat World, Depeche Mode, Led Zeppelin, The Cure and so many more. If I am incorporating something from my influences, it’s usually for emotional effect. I look for the vibe, the mood or how a section moves me, but I always try to make something that is my own.”
If you could be a fly on the wall for the recording of any album in history, what album would it be?
What’s the story about your stage name?
“There’s no big story. About 20 years ago I came up with the name, because it describes how I feel about music. It feeds my being. I like the way the name Fedbysound makes me feel.”
I always love hearing about the songwriting process so I was wondering if you could give me a glimpse into that.
“When I play guitar, I tend to create rather than learn other people’s music. You might be shocked at how few covers I’ve ever learned. I know the riffs to a good number of songs, but if I picked up a guitar right now, there isn’t a single song I could play correctly all the way though, except a few of my own or something I wrote with my band 25 years ago. It may be odd, but it was rarely something that interested me. I just like playing guitar. I’m no fun by the campfire!”
“As for writing, these days, if I want to play guitar, I typically plug my guitar into my computer interface and play virtual amps inside Logic Pro. That means at any moment I am a click away from recording an idea. I enjoy creating parts and then layering parts. I like building moods and crafting things into songs. It’s so easy to arrange or rearrange things on the computer. With very few exceptions, what you hear in my songs is the first time I played it -without a mistake that I couldn’t fix with an edit! Sometimes it takes 50 attempts to get the part or the feel right to my ear, but other times it’s just the first time. I don’t record songs all the way through, just one section at a time. I often copy those sections into an arrangement. Sometimes I will modify the copy if it feels like it needs it or to vary the part. I don’t know. I just listen. The song will tell me if it needs something more, less or different.”
“As for the words, being an over-thinker means I usually have something weighing on my mind. I know it sounds cliche, but the songs kind of write themselves. As I mentioned, most of the time what is recorded is the first time I sang it without it being awful and generally the words just come to me in the moment. Honestly, I kind of hate the process of recording vocals and am terrified every time I sit down to do it that nothing good will happen. I just want to get the idea across, capture the emotion and be done with it. I spend far more time mixing my vocals than I do creating them. Editing pitch, timing, EQ Compression and the spacial effects like delay and reverb or whatever to get the sound that comes out of the speakers to sound & feel (timing) right. How something sounds is incredibly important to me. I have tinnitus & some hearing loss in the 5-8kHz, so I’m very sensitive to getting the sound right.”
“I think my favorite aspect of creating my music is when I surprise myself with something, which is probably why I try not to overthink the creative part. I cherish that “in the moment” aspect. That is why my guitar solos are pretty much all improvised and often the first take. It gives me the opportunity to listen back with fresh ears, because often if I work something out beforehand, I focus on every variance from what I “meant it to be” but failed to achieve. I prefer it when it just is what it is and it captures the mood of that moment. I also think it gives the music a little more excitement and energy.”
You’ve mentioned before you write from personal experiences. Does that make it hard for you to listen to your own music?
“There is one song that is occasionally difficult for me to listen to. ‘Inside My Head’ off my first album is about as deeply personal and raw as I can express. Ultimately, it’s a song about hope, but sometimes the wave of emotion crashes down on me just a bit too heavily. It was the hardest to release. I almost didn’t release my first album because of it. I was terrified that friends of my family would view my family members differently, because I was openly admitting to battling suicidal thoughts. People like to say they support mental health issues until you lay it bare before them. Then they often recoil, because they don’t understand or understand all too well. I have received some private messages thanking me for writing that song. Those people made me glad I released it, but it is a sad thing that so many quietly struggle with such painful feelings.”
“I do write from personal experiences and there have been many times that my own songs have made me cry, but listening to my own music ultimately brings me joy. I am proud to have created songs that are honest and pure. The songs are the fulfillment of a dream. I still have a hard time believing that I am the one who made them. They come from a very sincere and real place. Each one is very special in their own way. They represent deep emotions and concepts that I think a lot about. The music that I have released has been made in a moment when I feel connected to my truth. Listening takes me back to that elevated state.”
Are you someone who continually writes?
“I am often thinking about music. If I pick up a guitar, there is a 95% chance that I will play something that I’ve never played before. But there is also a 95% chance that I won’t record it. Creating things on guitar…it’s just my relationship with the instrument.”
“As for lyrics, I’m always thinking about human interaction, how we create and assign meaning, what effects that has on our own lives and the lives of others. I am immersed in introspection most of the day. I’m pretty sensitive and it really hurts me when someone that I care about is not happy for whatever reason. I don’t have a notebook or a journal that I keep. Sometimes I may type something into my phone, but that almost never gets made into anything. They are just bits of ones and zeros floating in the cloud somewhere, destined to one day be discarded by me before they can be discarded by others.”
What keeps you making music?
“Probably emotional defects. (Laughs) It makes me happy and it helps me heal. I am not a disciplined musician, but I do get passionately obsessive. If I get inspired, the magnetic pull to bring that idea out of the speakers drives me relentlessly. If I am not inspired, then I’m usually just noodling and having fun. Or I am listening to music. Or I am doing all the normal human things like laundry or watching a bit of TV with my family.”
You’ve mentioned music has gotten you through many difficult moments in life. What songs have changed your life?
“It’s true that music has gotten me through many difficult moments in my life. It has given me an opportunity to be “present” in moments within the song when I didn’t want to be “present” in real life. There are too many songs to list that have been there for me. Songs like ‘Nutshell’ by Alice In Chains give me a sense that I’m not alone in the universe when every other atom seems to say otherwise.”
“Yet, I can’t point to a song that has changed my life. There are so many that were there at pivotal moments and will be forever linked to those memories, but I can’t say with some poetic certainty that one song changed the course of my life.”
What would the world be like without music?
“A library…without books. (Laughs) I’m not sure. Probably more violent…and that’s scary.”
Imagine you’d been given € 15.000 to spend on anything music-related. How would you spend it?
“Better monitors and proper sound treatment. That way I couldn’t blame bad mixes on my room anymore. I would only have myself to blame!”
What’s next? In the Release Talk for ‘Let Go’ you mentioned you don’t set goals for your music.
“I still don’t set “goals” for my music. I feel lucky to be free from those pressures. Even though music is one of the most important aspects of my existence, it is functionally a hobby. The rat race of building momentum, scheduling releases and doing endless promotion is not for me. I just want to create and be happy.”
“My new album ‘Understanding’ was released last week. It has 10 songs, four of which have already been “properly” released as singles.”
“Looking back at the four albums, three with vocals and one instrumental album, I have created, I can say that I am very proud of what I’ve accomplished. There is so much of me in the songs…I feel like if you wanted to take the time to listen, you could learn a lot about me. I’ve learned a lot about myself. Formalizing ideas and articulating them in meaningful ways can put things into focus. A lot of what I have written about comes from a place of pain or confusion, but I feel that it is usually imbued with hope.”
“As for the future, I never know if more music will come. It likely will, but I have taken major breaks from it before. If inspiration happens, I will likely record more. If not, I won’t and that’s ok, too. I don’t expect the world to care much either way…and I am happy about that, because I don’t think I would process it well if there were a bunch of people who had expectations of what I may or may not do with my music.”
What’s your favourite song from the Cool 20?
“I am a big fan of Sophie Dorsten (and Alex). Her voice soars and she transports the listener to a magical place. ‘Red Skies’ is yet another wonderful tune from her.”
What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?
“If I had the opportunity to add a track, it would be ‘Little Secret’ from HD Bradley. He is one of my favorite indie artists. There is so much sincerity in his voice, it just pierces my soul.”
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
“I just want to thank the kind people that have let me know that my music has meant something to them. While I make it for myself as an exploration of my truth, it is nice to have a little connection with another person over something that means so much to me.”