Mark U is a musician and artist based out of New York City. He strives to "elevate consciousness and improve human connection through creative communication."
I first got to know Mark on the set of his music video, "Lost in the Tide", in 2012.
In tandem with the release of his new music video, "My Heart Knows" (watch above), we caught up on life, music, touring, and more. Read our conversation below.
The song and video feel as if you’re working through your own thoughts, visually and sonically. A meditation of sorts. What message were you to trying get across with the song and accompanying video?
Well the song is a journey through my introspection. In the verses I’m contemplating the struggles of wavering emotions and the conflict of trusting your intuition in the face of the unknown. The video captures me working through these thoughts in an open space as I embark on the journey detailed in the song.
In the editing, a lot of the cuts show you fading out graphically, and there’s multiples of you at one point. It’s all very fantastical. What were you and Tari hoping to demonstrate with these techniques and overall mood of the visuals?
I’d be lying if I said I played a major part in those particular visual choices, but prior to shooting we talked about the constant ascending and descending sounds within the song. The vocals and the production kind of ebb and flow as I calmly work through my emotions in the verses and make a more emphatic declaration in the chorus. The cuts kind of mirror that balance of urgency and calm.
You’ve been touring and performing much more frequently it seems. How has this experience influenced your songwriting and human perspective? What’s it like to be now back in New York City?
Touring has made me more committed to the ideas and sounds that I’ve been cultivating. I’ve always been drawn to different sounds of the world and based my focus in making the best possible song and not the best hip hop, r&b or reggae song. It reinvigorated my process and made me think more about how certain songs translate to different spaces in performance and what brings the best out of me as a songwriter/performer at the different times.
Being able to share my music in spaces all over the country and other countries has broadened my perspective on the power of music. I’ve known this truth throughout my life, but it has a different impact when it’s my own music being shared and requested in new spaces.
It feels great to be back in NYC. It’s my home, my genesis, the root source of my inspiration. It’s nice to compare the vibes, and the high energy of being here always intensifies the reflection.
The city is a recognizable character in this video. What role do you see the city, and also the choice location of your performance on Roosevelt Island, playing here?
It was important for me to capture some aspect of the city in this video. As I said before it’s the root of my inspiration. It’s the catalyst in thought for the message in the song. New York City forces a lot of people to contemplate the state of their being and the steps in their journey. It also allows for great exploration and finding these areas that allow you to introspect while also observing the flow of the city. Roosevelt island is one of these places.
Your music contains a lot of introspection and thoughtful social commentary. With this song, your own self-reflection jumps right out. What are you hoping a general listener can take away from these lyrics, outside of understanding your personal narrative?
I hope whoever listens understands that the gut feeling is a lot of times rooted in truth. That our intuition, even if it’s wrong, or doesn’t result immediately in the way we envisioned, can still be the healthier choice. I think and feel that It’s one of the essential parts of clear thinking and choosing.
You’re a co-producer on this track. What leads you to decide to get behind the boards? Describe a bit of your workflow and collaboration with Don Heru for this song. How early in the process did you get each other involved?
What led me to get behind the boards was necessity. I was looking for beats in 2010 and I couldn’t afford to pay $500 for one beat so I learned how. A little after that I started to study the songwriting processes of my favorite artists such as Stevie Wonder and Bob Marley. They both played a major part in the production of their music and they both mentioned that it allowed for a easier meshing of their voice to a track because no one can find the comfort of their tone better than they can themselves. That proved to be true in my own production journey.
Don Heru is one of my best friends. I’ve known him since I was 10 years old. We were born and raised in Brooklyn and grew up culturally the same in Jamaican households loving dancehall and reggae but also hip hop and r&b. That info is key in our collaborative process because he speaks my language in taste and listening. I lay out the skeleton for all my songs, I’ll have the bass, drums and synth sounds finished with the writing also and then I’ll bring it to him and he’ll clean it up with his engineering and add the subtle things like an extra synth, more drums, drops, fills or sometimes just an approval that it needs nothing else. It’s minor at times but its what makes a song whole.
You've done a few video projects with Tari Wariebi. And you’ve been working together since 2012. That’s a long working relationship. What is your creative process like as a team? What about his work or process leads you to continue to collaborate? What qualities of you both do you think work well together, and lead to such a fruitful output?
This is my third video project with Tari.
He’s also one of my best friends and we share a similar upbringing, but more importantly we have a similar evolving outlook of the world and how we want our art to reflect that outlook. We always start with what the song means to me. We work from that root and he understands and values that it’s important to me and important to the finished product. From there I step back, trust and let his intuition and artistry take shape.
Let us know what we can expect from Mark U from the remainder of 2018.
In the second half of 2018 I’ll be continuing the promotion of “My Heart Knows” on top of two more single releases and videos. I’ll also be more shows and finishing up the my album for a fall release.
Follow Mark on Instagram, @markumusic.