By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Influenced by the likes of Santana and Joe Satriani, hard rock guitarist/songwriter Mark Tiarra has been a fixture in New Jersey’s underground music scene since the 1980’s, as well as YouTube, where he operates a guitar-focused education channel called “Music With Marky,” which garnered over 500,000 views in less than two years.
With nearly 20,000 monthly Spotify listeners, Tiarra has found ways to keep the momentum going, especially with his latest single “Don’t Let Me Down.”
Tiarra declared that the song was dedicated “to anyone who has ever taken that leap and trusted someone after they’ve been let down before” and showcases his ability to tag a modern spin on a sound fastened to the glory days of 80’s metal.
The Music Bugle had the opportunity to talk with Tiarra about what he’s been up to lately and more.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?
Mark Tiarra – I love when I hear a song and it makes me feel super motivated. I want music to energize me and make me want to move and take life by the horns. This is why my lyrical content is often about taking action in one way or another. Even when I write about a sad topic, it usually winds itself to some form of overcoming it.
Music Bugle – What is your favorite guitar riff to play?
Mark Tiarra – Probably the opening to my single, “The Devil’s Prize.” I’m probably like most musicians though, in that I end up in love with my latest song for a while and forego the older ones. “The Devil’s Prize” riff is so fun though, because it mixes elements of shredder playing where I can show off some skill, as well as getting groovy and in the pocket.
Music Bugle – Which of your songs were the hardest to write?
Mark Tiarra – We have to go back into some of my older material for that. The instrumental songs on “I Think Therefore I Jam” and in particular, “The Bounce” took me nearly a year to be able to just perform some of the parts I’d written. I had wanted to push myself on the instrument and so, I was writing stuff that I couldn’t actually play at the time I came up with it. I had to practice a ton before I could record.
Music Bugle – How would you describe New Jersey to someone who has never been there before?
Mark Tiarra – Well, it’s not how it’s usually portrayed at all! It’s a shame that most people only get to see the corridor between Newark Airport and New York City. The majority of the state is rural or suburban, actually. If you like a place where the beaches and oceans are an hour away, skiing is an hour away, hiking in the woods is less than an hour away and one of the biggest cities in the world is an hour or so away, then you can go live about anywhere in the state and have that. The amount of variety and exposure to different cultures, while still having quiet options for living are tremendous.
Music Bugle – What made you want to release “Don’t Let Me Down” as a single?
Mark Tiarra – It is actually the first in a two-part love story. In this song, there is a guy begging a new love not to break his heart. He’s been badly hurt before and their relationship is facing some outside influences that are trying to rip at the seams. The music has that slow, grinding feeling that’s almost sexy, but also shows the almost pleading nature of the emotion happening underneath it. I’m excited to release the second part of the story too, where we find out just what happened to them. That one will be two songs from now. I’m really enjoying releasing singles instead of full albums. I really get to focus on the story of each and give them full attention. Nothing is just “filler” anymore.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Mark Tiarra – I bounce all over the place because some of what I listen to is just in the car, driving music and some is meant to expand my musical abilities on guitar. I’m digging Dirty Honey and Crown The Empire and Of Mice and Men for just a drive around. I’m learning from players like Andy James, Guthrie Govan and Andy Timmons for guitar.
Music Bugle – What did you focus on primarily while on your hiatus?
Mark Tiarra – Oh, I was just trying to be a good dad and make ends meet back then. Musically, I was still working on technique and every so often, writing something that was just intended for my own ears. I wasn’t sure I’d ever release music again, but I never lost any love for it. Now, I can’t imagine not playing for hours a day. I almost don’t know who that guy was!
Music Bugle – What frustrates you the most about the YouTube platform?
Mark Tiarra – I think maybe just trying to get seen more. I frequently get comments from people wondering how my channel isn’t more vastly followed, but I would guess it has mostly to do with coming to the platform as late as I did. It’s so much fun to do though and I love knowing that even a handful of players are able to make use of lessons I put up there.
Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians?
Mark Tiarra – Both, really. When I learned, I was figuring out parts off vinyl records and it really developed my ear. I’d also wait for magazines to come out with tabs for songs and work through those. It gave me time to absorb the info and also forced me to develop my ear. The benefit of social media is that you don’t have to wait around and hope for answers and info to learn techniques or get tabs for songs you want to learn. The downside is that access to all that info at once can make a player go in too many directions and end up right back where they started. You have to have the discipline to follow a direction and path and then use all this access to information to populate that path with answers. If you let the info lead you in every direction you see, you’ll get nowhere fast. As for musicians trying to get their music out there, social media allows you to be a miniature version of a record company, building your own following and getting instant reactions from your fans that help you know what people want more of from you. It’s a great feedback loop.
Music Bugle – What’s some advice that you would give to younger musicians just starting out?
Mark Tiarra – First and foremost, understand that musical skill is a never-ending journey and that is what makes it so incredibly rewarding. There is no endgame. There are rewards all along the way. Secondly, I would say, try to create your own music as soon as you can. Some of the best songs ever written only had a few chords. Don’t think you need to be some master-level player to write good music. Put what you learn into creative expression as soon as you can.