Today's highlighted Madison-based musical act is Mark Croft.
In the year or so since the release of his debut album, Mark Croft has rapidly made a name for himself as a dynamic singer-songwriter. Hailing originally from Columbus, Croft is distinguished by fast hands and a memorable groove as he combines folk, pop, funk, blues and rock in his upbeat compositions. Croft has also been distinguished by numerous awards in 2006, enough that his profile is threatening to extend well beyond Madison into the wider world afar.
His bio follows below:
Mark Croft is a Madison, WI based singer/songwriter, whose talents as a writer, performer, and acoustic guitarist have garnered him critical praise and public attention quickly gaining him recognition as one of the rising stars of the Midwest music scene. Known for his unforgettable melodies and infectious grooves, Croft breaks the genre barriers to create a mainstream sound from the heart of a folk musician.
One of the A&R reps in attendance that night quickly signed Mark to record label Abacus-Music who released Mark's debut CD, Sympathetic Groove in the closing months of 2005. The CD is a strong representation of Mark's ability to wrap frantic acoustic riffs around unforgettable melodies and heartfelt lyrics. Whether it's a groovin' pick-me-up to a friend ("Angela"), a bluesy woman-done-me wrong tale ("She's a Landslide"), or his power-funk anti-war cry ("America"), Sympathetic Groove perfectly captures Mark's talents. Radio stations around the US found reason to spin Mark's rocker "Don't Speak" launching it to the number one spot on 15 stations!
While he may have strode onstage only recently Croft began his study of music at the tender age of six, plunking out tunes on his family's old player piano. His first piano teacher quickly recognized Mark's talents and dropped the rest of his students to focus efforts on developing Croft's burgeoning abilities. Mark began experimenting with writing by composing some of his first works on the piano. But it wasn't until he joined his friends in a garage band in high school that he picked up a guitar and realized he possessed a talent and love for the six-string as well. After taking a songwriting class in 2003 Croft's talents as a songwriter and performer became obvious.
Recorded at Smart Studios, Sympathetic Groove features ten tracks of Croft's acoustic compositions. These songs have propelled him to a number of honors since the album was released. The first award came in January. "I was informed recently that I was the winner of the Inaugural American Idol Underground Rock Contest," noted Croft. "It was quite a shock since I didn't even know I had been entered in it," he continued.
Barely a week later, Croft announced another award. He was the first place winner for his song "Don't Speak" in the Pop/Rock category of the 2005 Midwest Song Contest. This is an annual amateur songwriting competition for denizens of the upper Midwest that's sponsored by the Madison Songwriting Group.
Then, as winter came to an end, Croft won two Madison Area Music Awards in the event's third annual edition. "There were some great performances and I got to meet some fantastic people," wrote Croft, as he announced his new MAMAs for Best Male Vocalist and Best New Artist.
Quite a bit of Croft's music is available online for listening, starting with markcroftmusic.com. Multiple formats of all ten tracks on Sympathetic Groove are available there. Four songs can also be found at his MySpace page, namely "She's a Landslide," the award-winning "Don't Speak," the patriotic and anti-war "America," and "Just the Same."
In addition to winning songwriting contests, Croft taking a turn leading them. He is the host of the Madison Songwriters Showdown, a monthly competition held at Brocach Irish Pup on the Square and organized by the Madison Songwriters Group. Entrants perform three songs (one of which must be original) and are subsequently judged on their songwriting, the quality of their performance, and the response of the audience. The monthly winners, then, are invited to compete in the final showdown of the year, at which a Songwriter of the Year will be selected. This final competition is on Wednesday, Dec. 13. On weeks with no Showdown, he also hosts the weekly open mic at Brocach, with two more scheduled through the end of the year.
Croft's final shows of 2006 is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 28 at the Club Tavern in Middleton, with another gig set for the following night at Cheeseburger in Paradise at Greenway Commons. Then the New Year brings touring, with Croft set to play shows in Chicago, Winona, Appleton, Minneapolis and Stevens Point, before his next scheduled local shows set for March.
This is the latest featured entry from the Madison Music Project, an online database of Madison-area musicians. Please register or update your current profile on the project for consideration in these highlights.