Growing up, Jamaican born singer-songwriter Mark Clennon was surrounded by music. His father was a Trenchtown-bred sax player while his brother became a successful dancehall producer. While this environment helped Clennon transition into his own musical career, it didn’t define his sound. Drawing from his unique range of influences (from Everclear to Lenny Kravitz), and his love of experimentation, Clennon began writing music that was distinctly his own.
“My goal as an artist is to create something that hasn’t been heard before or to take something and make it my own. I’d much rather do my own thing than follow a trend,” explains Clennon. Between his first single, “Blood,” and his newest, “Don’t Die,” it’s clear he’s doing just that.
On “Don’t Die,” Clennon finds that middle ground between drama and accessibility. The production has originality, yet never veers into the overly cinematic realm. The melodies, carried by Clennon’s smooth vocals, have mainstream tendencies, but still pack an edge. Most impressive though, is that it’s stylistically different from “Blood;” showing the range Clennon has as a songwriter.
“Don’t Die” is the second single off his upcoming EP, When The Smoke Clears, due out August 19.
Your father and brother are both musicians. Was your interest in making music natural, considering it was so prevalent growing up?
Yes and no! I grew up in a very creative space and had a passion for the arts, such as film making, acting, drawing, and painting, at a young age. My parents really encouraged me to be creative. Along with that, somewhere mixed in was music and I eventually realized that music allowed me to do all of these things. That’s where my journey began.
Being born in Jamaica and having a brother who is a dancehall producer, the safe bet probably would’ve been to go down a similar path musically. Yet your sound is incredibly different. Who would you cite as your personal influences?
Growing up in Jamaica was an amazing experience in regards to music. Everywhere you go there’s someone that can sing or DJ or “whole a tune,” but I always gravitated towards American music. Rick Dee’s Weekly Top 40 was my main source of non-Reggae and dancehall growing up, and acts like Everclear, Third Eye Blind, Lauryn Hill, Fiona Apple, and Lenny Kravitz were a big part of that.
Montreal producer Joey Sherrett, who also is part of Montreal rap collective The Posterz, produced your first single “Blood” and you can tell that the dynamic between the two of you is really organic. Did he have a hand in the rest of the EP as well?
Joey from The Posterz produced the entire EP. Joey and I have an awesome dynamic where we both bring our unique musical tastes and experience together to compliment the music. It wasn’t about us or our egos, but instead it was about what needed to be done to make the songs special.
On the EP, you effortlessly adapt your voice to a range of different production styles; which I really liked because your voice is so strong that you easily could’ve played it safe beat wise. How important was it to you to explore and experiment on this debut project?
Essential! Experimentation is a big part of what I do. My goal as an artist is to create something that hasn’t been heard before or to take something and make it my own. I’d much rather do my own thing than follow a trend.
Now with the EP almost out, are you taking a break to write more or are you going back to work to record a full length? Will you be touring?
I’m always writing and I try to write a song a day. They aren’t always the best songs but it allows me to constantly express myself. I’m currently in the beginning phase of working on my next project and hopefully a tour in the works.