By SERINA MARSHALL
Staff Writer [email protected]
Though he was born in the foothills of East Tennessee, musician Mark Larkins has always had a love for the ocean, and he decided that he would take that connection and turn it into something more.
Local to the Tri-Cities, Larkins, who has recently performed for the Jonesborough community several times, including at the Tennessee Hills Distillery and the Jonesborough Barrel House, has released several CDs, including “Feet in the Sand,” which sold out during its first release in 2009. The project re-released in July 2022, with the addition of two songs that were not on the original.
Prior to sell-out albums and calling East Tennessee home, Larkins lived in a quiet suburb in California, where he made his first guitar out of scrap wood and began playing guitar at a very early age. This action, he said, would help him expand his musical horizons from shoreline to mountain range.
“(While in California) I spent a lot of time at the beach,” Larkins said. “I loved beach music and began play- ing around with it. When my dad saw the possibilities, he signed me up for guitar lessons and voice lessons.”
Larkins said that, after a while, he decided to form his own garage band and it went pretty well.
“I also played with several established groups and sat in playing guitar for some pretty big country artists that toured during the ’70s,” he said. “They would come to Kingsport and need a band for the night, and me and some of my peers would be the band that night. It was fun. I did a couple of fair acts for some big names that needed a band for the night for whatever reason, and we would just have a crash rehearsal for a short period of time.”
After playing on stage with various bands, Larkins said he went back to his own thing and formed another group called “Tangent.”
“I was in my late 20s and it was my first professional rock group. It went pretty good,” he said. “In that group I was the lead guitarist and lead singer, and we toured the southeast. We had guitar, drums, bass, keyboard, sound and lighting guy; I was pretty proud of it. We all went in and made it a real business.”
Though it was a lot of fun, Larkins admitted that it was also a lot of work.
“I had to manage it and be the leader of it, that took a toll on me,” he explained. “That’s when I broke away from that. The band kept going for another year, but I left on good terms while they brought someone in to take my place. That’s when I went to the country side of things.”
Larkins had started out in country and ended up having a couple of country bands that were successful.
“We had a nice country feel, we even had a fiddle. And that went great for six or seven years,” he said. “And then from that I had a CD out, ‘All or Not at All’ that won some awards and decided to take a whole other direction.”
With a journalist calling it “A New Wave. A New Mark,” Larkins went on to begin his solo career with beach music.
“It had a tropical feel and sound and that seemed to be less stress,” he explained. “Even though I was doing the entire show (on my own), I had no other (band members) to deal with to make sure they would show up on time, so that helped with the stress also. And with the solo, just like a quarterback, you get all the praise, but you also get all the blame.”
According to Larkin, the aptly titled CD is now known as “The Sound of Summer All Year Long,” a catchphrase coined by his daughters, Courtney and Chelsea, and sums up Larkins’ philosophy of life.
For further information, please visit the website at www.marklarkins.com.