FORMER FRONTMAN FOR GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA BASED ROCK BAND BIG SKY PLOWS THROUGH THE ROUGH PATCHES—AND THE CORPORATE DAY JOB—ON ‘WE ALL NEED LIES,’ HIS CATHARTIC, ULTIMATELY HOPEFUL SOLO DEBUT
The Singer Songwriter With A Lyrical Knack, Chronicles His Band’s Rise To Mid-Level Fame (Including Opening Slots With Sheryl Crow, Matchbox 20, The Wallflowers and Gin Blossoms), His Subsequent Fall From Grace To Mere Survival And His Newfound Desire To Rock Again On The Indie Label Backspace Records
On “Tinseltown,” a key autobiographical track on We All Need Lies, the compelling solo debut by singer/songwriter Mark Gaignard & The Also Ran, the former longtime frontman for Gainesville, Florida band Big Sky lyrically sketches a fictional character that closely resembles a blunt snapshot of his life as a rocker.
“It’s about a midtime warrior who never quite made it big,” he says, “but now he’s out of the band, an also ran hanging out at the bar with no career and just enough hope to survive, like he did before he started shooting for the stars.”
“Midtime” is an ironic phrase coined by Ben Rowell, Gaignard’s former bandmate in Big Sky who is the founder of Backspace Records, a newly formed, Atlanta based label that released We All Need Lies in 2008. It means that while the band was a local legend in Gainesville—where the group formed when its members were all students at the University of Florida in the early 90s—and did over 1,600 gigs over the course of 12 years, they still never hit the big time.
Not that this mattered much when Gaignard and company were having a blast rocking out before hundreds of people a night, averaging 180 shows a year, touring everywhere from Miami to Los Angeles and up the East Coast to New York and Boston and opening for superstars Sheryl Crow, Matchbox 20, Soul Asylum, Gin Blossoms, Better Than Ezra, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and The Wallflowers. The band sold over 50,000 copies of their six albums, which included 2000’s Live At The Sapphire and their final salvo, the appropriately titled This Monstrosity (2003)—all of which have been be re-released on Backspace.
Everything fell apart during the making of that last album. Problems with management and a huge mounting debt left the members of Big Sky fighting with one another and also day-to-day survival. For the final two years of the band’s existence all monies went to paying down this debt and the guys received no pay.
With an inability to commit to “regular” nine to five work they each made ends meet with odd jobs. Mark took a position as a maintenance man in his worn down apartment complex, changing toilets, as well as picking up cat waste, dirty diapers and other garbage his neighbors left on the pavement. He’d experienced hard times before, having lost his dad, his dog, his cousin and best friend during a two and a half year period when Big Sky was just starting to hit the road. A period that should have been the time of his life foreshadowed the long hard road ahead.
Though Big Sky received a great response to “This Monstrosity” and still enjoyed a large loyal fan base, the band decided to call it quits. Mark was writing some of his best material during this time, but these mini-consolations weren’t much in the face of personal bankruptcy and the rewards of the road no longer justified the commitment. Gaignard, who had defied the odds by rising to a degree of fame from an extremely poor childhood, woke up one day to find he had no band, and no straight career to fall back on.
After the break-up of the band Mark was a wreck. “It’s a huge chemical withdrawal when you’re not up there in front of those fans anymore. But you learn never to take any of this for granted. Success is how you see it and being able to make a living doing music is a great gift.” He finds it difficult to answer strangers when they ask about his band days. “It was hard to explain to people that 700 fans came to our last gig when they knew Big Sky was breaking up, many of them crying and now I was picking up the crap people wouldn’t even take the time to put into dumpsters,” says Gaignard. Having once vowed that all he wanted was to be known as a legitimate artist, Mark swallowed his pride and tried out for the reality TV show “Rock Star: INXS.” He placed in the final 20 but didn’t make the show.
All this pain and frustration has a silver lining, just as the lyrics on We All Need Lies are dark and cynical in some spots, cathartic and cautiously optimistic in others. The Mixtape Maestro Blog says, “The premiere effort takes Gaignard’s matured male reflections on everything from relationships and the struggles of everyday mundane living to the false facades of Hollywood and neatly wraps them in a crisply produced package of radio-friendly guitar-pop with a slight rootsy edge.”
The album cover, a photo of a sliced red necktie, is a metaphor for his reluctant acceptance of getting his first corporate job as a manager in a real estate law firm and trying to survive the nine to five world with a noon to sunrise resume. He still can’t say he loves it, but it’s definitely been a step up and reflective of a more positive, garbage-free outlook in his life.
The driving rocker “Parade” is an edgy look at self-righteous people, while the easy jangling “Flawless” is about being in love with a good friend who doesn’t reciprocate in the same way. “This Monstrosity” was the title of Big Sky’s final album but never a song title of theirs; Gaignard expounds upon the idea to include everyone who has ever been in a mode of just surviving, being frustrated by the clusterf** of life and getting nowhere despite their best intentions. “Apology” is his own melancholy pep talk to himself that somehow, starting maybe with the release of We All Need Lies, everything will be all right and Gaignard will be back up there, stirring joy for fans old and new.
He’s off to a great start, Mark performed his first show in several years on August 5 in Tampa as part of a fall promotional slate of gigs that includes stops in Orlando, West Palm, Atlanta and—coming full circle at last—Gainesville. His “Also Ran” concept will allow for a rotating crop of his favorite musicians. Each of these colorful characters has his own hard knock story to tell.
“The album title is a line in ‘The Inside’, which is a mocking view of those who leap in front of the paparazzi and are famous for just being famous,” he says. “We all buy into lies at some point in our life, and sometimes they help our egos cope with reality and get us up in the morning. People lie at work and in their relationships all the time. The one we most often buy into is, ‘don’t go for your dreams, you’re better off where you are, not risking anything.’ Over the past few years and during the making of this album, what I’ve learned most is that the worst thing we can possibly do is live a life that isn’t true to ourselves. I write songs because I don’t know how not to and because I had a three year withdrawal. I am overly proud of these songs and how the album came together. All I know is, I am finally writing for an audience of one and my hands are sore from clapping.”