Mark Tremonti’s greatest passion in life, aside from his family, is his guitar. It has been that way for the twenty-three years since he picked his first one up and continues to this day.
Introduced at an early age to music by his brothers while growing up just outside of Detroit, Mark spent his youthful days listening to many of the classic rock bands of the 70’s and 80’s. Music was a major part of his life in every aspect and he was drawn to the guitar like a moth to flame. At age eleven he got his first guitar, a cheap imitation Les Paul, and proceeded to begin playing with his thumb. He had no clue how to play the instrument, yet he did not care. He had a guitar and it was making noise. He was in heaven.
After the initial excitement wore off, Mark decided to get serious and take lessons from a professional. It turned out to be only one lesson. The teacher wanted to teach Mark the basics while Mark wanted to jump straight into a Metallica song. When the teacher told Mark that he “wasn’t ready to play Metallica,” Mark left and vowed to teach himself.
Now bear in mind that Mark was not a virtuoso at a young age or anything. He did not think he was better than the teacher nor did he think that the teacher did not have anything to show him. He was just determined to do things his own way, and that single-mindedness and dedication he showed at age eleven was the genesis of the unique style and sound Mark Tremonti has created over his career.
Mark continued to teach himself guitar throughout middle school and early high school while at the same time joining bands to learn how to write songs and perform in front of people. Mark never felt truly comfortable on stage performing during this period as he always thought he was not good enough but he did enjoy writing songs immensely and focused his energies on melody and song structure. It was also during this time that Mark began attending live concerts. At his first concert, where Iron Maiden and Frehley’s Comet performed, Mark could not take his eyes off the guitar players and pushed his way up to the front. That night, on his way home, he vowed to his older brother that one day he would play on that same stage.
After Mark’s first year in high school, an event that would change his life forever occurred. His parents moved him to Orlando, Florida and his older brothers went to college. He was alone for the first time in his life with no brothers and he was the new kid in school. Even worse, the kids at his high school were more into pop music than rock. Imagine being the one kid wearing a Metallica shirt in a sea of Milli Vanilli fans. It was traumatic to say the least.
With so much time on his hands and no friends initially to speak of, Mark locked himself in his bedroom with his guitar and really focused on songwriting. He picked up a four-track and used it to record the first full songs he ever wrote. He learned during this time that adversity and turmoil (or any strong emotions for that matter, good or bad) lent themselves well to mining the creative depths deep within his heart and soul.
After high school, Mark attended Clemson University in South Carolina. Again, he was the new kid in school so he turned to his tried and true companion, the guitar. He discovered a local guitar shop and started hanging out there looking for musicians to play with. He found the musicians he was looking for but not in the way he originally thought. He discovered that the music store rented guitar instructional videos so he took home as many as he could as often as the store would let him. So now, his focus returned to guitar technique after years of working on songwriting. Mark found that these instructional videos had an exponential effect on his technique and that, in one year of watching hundreds of hours of video, his playing abilities increased dramatically.
Due to financial reasons, Mark only stayed at Clemson one year. However, he decided to continue his college education in Tallahassee at Florida State University. Mark was growing as a songwriter and a guitar player and even though he was shy and nervous, he managed to get on-stage at several of the local bar’s open mike nights. He also ran into Scott Stapp whom he knew in high school. They started writing together and soon Scott Phillips and Brian Marshall joined the fold and Creed was born.
Between 1997 and 2003 Creed had a run of success that was absolutely stunning. In seven years they sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, had numerous singles that went to the top of the charts and played to sold-out audiences wherever they went. Mark really focused on his song-writing during those years and was recognized by the recording industry in 2000, winning a Grammy Award for co-writing the song “With Arms Wide Open.”
During those years, Creed won many awards from the American Music Awards to the Billboard Awards but one thing in particular was the crowning achievement for Mark Tremonti…. his endorsement deal with Paul Reed Smith Guitars. PRS made Mark a signature model guitar, and at the time the only other artist with a signature model was Carlos Santana. Mark was humbled and deeply honored to help design a guitar that would bear his name. Around this time Mark was also honored by Guitar World magazine’s readers as the Guitarist of the Year and he won that award three consecutive years in a row.
Even with the success he was having, Mark did not feel that he was a good enough player yet to deserve the signature guitar or the awards. So from that point forward Mark made it his mission to validate all the accolades he was receiving by spending every ounce of free time he had to be the best that he could be on guitar. He placed a renewed focus on guitar technique and sought out advice and assistance from many of the finest guitarists in the world and also continued to purchase any guitar instructional DVDs that he thought could help him. He started practicing up to eight hours a day and that regimen still continues to this day. Mark never felt that he had the latent talent that some are born with so he offset that perceived liability with hard work and determination.
Morley was the next company that offered an endorsement deal to Mark and he was very flattered that they chose him. Mark helped them design a pedal to his specifications and the Mark Tremonti Power Wah Pedal was conceived.
In 2004 Creed broke up but that did nothing to stop Mark’s love for music and playing live for the fans. Mark was very proud of the songs he wrote in Creed so this was very hard on him but instead of looking at the break-up as the end, he looked at it like a new beginning. He bought himself a Pro Tools workstation, took classes to learn how to operate it, and built a home studio so he could record songs. He even took singing lessons so that he could lay down vocal tracks in the demos he was working on. He wrote and recorded these songs for over a year, not knowing where they would end up.
Mark’s hard work paid off in 2004 when he founded the band Alter Bridge. He tapped his Creed band mates Scott Phillips and Brian Marshall for this project and together they found the missing piece of the puzzle in singer/guitarist/song-writer Myles Kennedy. Together they have written two albums: One Day Remains in 2004 and Blackbird in 2007.
Creed was an amazing yet sometimes frustrating journey and Mark will be forever grateful for that experience, but Alter Bridge has turned into the band he had originally envisioned when he was young. Alter Bridge has allowed Mark a freedom in his guitar playing and song-writing that he never had in Creed. Alter Bridge has also allowed Mark to play with many of the bands he idolized as a youth such as Metallica, Van Halen, Moterhead, Slayer, and Black Sabbath to name a few.
Alter Bridge continues to have success in 2008 and they are currently gearing up for a tour of Europe at the end of the year. Mark was also recently offered an endorsement deal from T-REX that he is very proud of and in 2009 the Mark Tremonti Phaser Pedal will be unveiled. Throughout 2008 Mark also worked hard on an instructional DVD entitled: Mark Tremonti “The Sound and The Story.” He created this DVD in the hopes that it will help other guitar players as he has been helped by so many DVDs and videos over the years.
Mark Tremonti has shown time and time again that if you want something bad enough, hard work and determination will get you there. At age eleven, Mark swore that one day he would play on the same stage that he first saw Iron Maiden. In 1998 he accomplished that dream in Detroit, playing with Van Halen. That was only one of many dreams that have come true for Mark. Yet those who know Mark know that he is not a person to rest contently. He always strives to better himself, be it on guitar or just in life. That is his mantra and he continues to live by it every day.