When Mark Heyes first heard The Beatles at age 9, little did he know it was the beginning of his life-long love for music — and a thriving musical career.
“From the beginning, my heart resonated with anything that George Harrison did, from his very tasteful lead guitar playing to the way he carried his life,” recalled Heyes, whose passion for music sparked when he heard “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You.”
“George Harrison was not afraid of breaking the mold and not afraid to break trends with the peace and love movement that was so strong in the middle ’60s,” Heyes continued. “I would say I was influenced in every aspect of my life, not just music.”
A Guitarist is Born
Born and raised in Hollywood, Heyes grew up in a family that has been involved in the entertainment industry for more than 100 years. “So they gave me permission as a young boy to follow my dreams,” Heyes remembered. He originally tried to play piano, “but my piano teacher was old school and would rap my knuckles when I did something wrong.” So he begged his parents for guitar lessons.
“The guitar became such an important instrument with The Beatles,” Heyes said. “So after a year of begging my parents, they said, ‘We’ll give you one more chance.’ So they rented one for me at age 9, and by age 12 I owned my first guitar. And I have not put my guitar down since.”
Today, Heyes is known as a singer, songwriter and guitarist who performs country, bluegrass, blues and folk. He has opened for groups that include The Marshall Tucker Band as well as Dave Mason, a singer, songwriter and guitarist who has played and recorded with Paul McCartney, George Harrison, the Rolling Stones and more. Most recently, Heyes finished touring with Kenny Loggins and Joe Walsh.
“I just got back from Nashville. I went to write two songs with legendary songwriter Gary Nicholson,” Heyes said. “We hit it off and wrote four songs.” On Jan. 5, Heyes will perform these new songs during his show at The Canyon Club in Agoura Hills.
“Outrun the Law” is about two of Heyes’ favorite things: antique cars and liquor. “This song traces the beginning of bootlegging and the bootleggers souping up their ’40s and ’50s cars to make it to the county line so they wouldn’t get caught,” Heyes explained. He will also perform the song “Red and Blue.” “I played blues for a long time before I got hit with the country bug, so we wrote two blues songs,” Heyes said. “They’re both about marriages and what can happen when you get married.”
Living the Dream
Heyes will be joined by special guest Jonathan McEuen, and backed by an eight-piece band that features drums, keyboard, bass, kettle steel and two background singers. “And I have a friend that I’ve toured with before, a well-known comedian, Dick Hardwick, who is going to open my show,” said Heyes.
As far as the future is concerned, Heyes is working on CDs for the U.S. Department of Education. “These are some children’s records coming out and that’s ongoing,” he said. “I’m just seeing how far I can take this.”
The entertainment industry also has figured large in Heyes’ career. He has worked as a musical director or composer for TV shows, including 7th Heaven, Grace Under Fire and The New WKRP in Cincinnati, and won a Primetime Emmy in 1996 for outstanding sound editing for the movie The Tuskegee Airmen. But performing is where his heart truly lies.
“I loved my job on television but it was lonely because I lived in my studio sometimes 80 hours a week,” Heyes said. “Getting to perform — not only for audiences but with band members playing on stage — is truly a dream come true.”
Mark Heyes performs on Thursday, Jan. 5, at The Canyon Club, 28912 Roadside Drive, Agoura Hills. For more information, call 818-427-4540 or visit www.canyonclub.net. For more information on Mark Heyes, visit www.heyesmusic.com.