Mark Lettieri is a guitarist, composer, and producer based in Fort Worth, TX. Proficient in a multitude of styles, he records and performs in virtually every genre of popular music with both independent and major-label artists. He also composes and produces original instrumental music under his own name.
Playing in the vibrant Metroplex gospel and R&B scene led Lettieri to join jazz/world group Snarky Puppy in 2008, where he contributes as guitarist, as well as arranger and composer. The group has earned three GRAMMY Awards: Best R&B Performance ("Something" feat. Lalah Hathaway in 2014), and Best Contemporary Instrumental Album (Sylva in 2016, and Culcha Vulcha in 2017). Snarky Puppy tours constantly, having performed on every continent except Antarctica.
An in-demand session guitarist, recent work includes David Crosby, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Adam Levine, Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, Anthony Evans, Eric Roberson, Lecrae, Lupe Fiasco, Keyshia Cole, Xzibit, as well as numerous radio and television jingles. Lettieri is also a member of Team SKP, a production collective led by GRAMMY Award-winning producer Symbolyc One (Kanye West, Beyonce).
PRS: What inspired you to pick up the guitar, and at what age?
ML:My earliest memories of guitar were of my dad strumming Beach Boys and Byrds songs on an old dreadnaught acoustic. Then around age 11, I started discovering modern rock radio. So, I figured “I like rock music and there’s a guitar in our house. Let’s see if I can do something with this combination.”
PRS: When did you realize that you could do this for a living? Was there ‘a big break’ for you?
ML: Not necessarily one “big break” – it’s been a steady process of many small ones - but I vividly remember my life around the time I left my last 9-5 job. There were mornings where I’d literally wake up on a couch in a recording studio, drive home, shower, and go to work. It became apparent very quickly that I’d rather wake up on a studio couch and go back to work at a studio!
PRS: Who are your three biggest influences?
ML: It’s almost impossible to list just three, but I suppose I could pick Prince, Jeff Beck, and a tie between Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix.
PRS: If you had to name one song (or record) that changed your life, what would it be?
ML: I think the Jimi Hendrix compilation record, “Ultimate Experience” was pretty important to me at an early age. I was about 12 or 13, and passionately absorbed all the sounds on it, solidifying my obsession with the guitar. I still hear something new every time I listen to those tunes.
PRS: What advice would you give to all the young and emerging guitarists out there?
ML: If you want to play music for a living, have an idea as to the kind of career you want, and the directions you can take to get there. And don’t ever stop chasing the “sound in your head.”
PRS: When you aren’t writing music or touring, what do you like to do during your free time?
ML: I’m kind of a foodie, so we’re always looking for new restaurants or culinary experiences. I enjoy staying active, being outdoors, and traveling with family.
PRS: Why do you choose to play PRS?
ML: Well, to be honest, I think PRS chose me! Haha! But now that I’ve “seen the light,” it’s become one of my main axes. I can cover many styles with my PRS. And when you work as a session player with artists in several genres, that versatility is very valuable.
PRS: What’s your go-to PRS model?
PRS: What’s the rest of 2017 looking like for you guys?
ML:I’ll be hitting the road this Spring with Snarky Puppy, and then later in the Fall with my trio. My trio is also starting a residency at a Dallas club, called The Independent, in May. All this, plus working on online guitar instructional videos, session work, and raising a little family!