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Mark Ballas Talks Music Career

By Rich Heldenfels Published: May 10, 2013

This is being offered aa a trailer for Ballas's upcoming music, with the official word below. After the release I have also pasted an interview I did with Ballas in 2011 about his music.

The word: Mark Ballas, the popular, Emmy-nominated dancer and choreographer known for his role on 12 seasons of ABC’s Hit Series “Dancing with the Stars,” highlights his singing, songwriting and guitar playing in a new video released today announcing new music that he is working on as he plans for a debut full solo production album. The tease of this new music from the yet-untitled album from this multi-faceted performer falls on the heels of his recent major deal signing with publishing powerhouse BMG. Ballas has been packing shows, entertaining industry VIPs and fans alike with his new music at Los Angeles’ popular The Sayers Club every Monday following his performances on “Dancing with the Stars,” and will continue to do so into the summer.

 

“The video is a trailer for what you can be expecting at a live show or when the album is finally complete,” says Ballas. “I think it gives you a really clear taste of what's to come. All of this work will lead to my first full studio production album where I get to show my true style and musical direction.”

 

In the video, Ballas explains his passion for writing and performing music: “I had a very musical family growing up and they’re just really supportive. It’s something that as soon as I started applying myself and becoming dedicated to, I never wanted to stop.”

 

Working with such producing heavyweights as producers from Timbaland’s camp including Wizz Dumb and Jim Beanz, as well as the Stereotypes and doing co-writes with the likes of Jozzy, BC Jean and Clarence Coffee, Jr., Ballas demonstrates the breadth of his musical passion and abilities with sounds that fuse funk with flamenco and international pop, highlighted by big rhythmic beats.

 

“As a guitar player, a lot of my stuff has that percussive, rhythmic type of feel that flamenco has,” says Ballas in the video.

 

Classically trained on the flamenco guitar, and playing music since the age of nine, Ballas has been focused on preparing for this full production studio album for several years. In his more than 15 years as a musician and dancer, Ballas has developed a powerful stage presence and impeccable showmanship comparable to that of a veteran musician. Ballas has recently been praised for these talents, having earned the recognition of “Artist to Watch,” by Clear Channel in 2011 and more recently opening for Robin Thicke for two shows, earning standing ovations at these appearances. This year, Ballas sold out Los Angeles’ famed The Troubadour and later shared the stage with The Black Eyed Peas Band at will.i.am’s “TRANS4RM” Pre-GRAMMY Party, alongside Estelle, Ludacris, Bobby Brown, Alicia Keys and will.i.am, who also performed that night. Most recently, Ballas performed a high-energy acoustic set at the Chevy Tweet House at the popular SXSW music festival.

 

Clearly influenced by the likes of such eclectic artists as Michael Jackson, John Mayer, Prince, Gypsy Kings and Paco De Lucia, Ballas provides high-energy live performances – his movement on stage a reflection of his acclaimed dance background. Backed by a 7-piece band made up of a 3-piece horn section, a keyboardist, bassist, guitarist and drummer with Ballas on guitar and lead vocals, he has put together a band with some of the most talented, respected and highly regarded musicians in the industry. These tremendous talents have some incomparable credits that include having performed for or shared stages with the likes of legendary acts that include Prince, Stevie Wonder, Sting, James Brown, Robin Thicke, Jennifer Hudson, Jennifer Lopez, John Mayer, Michael Buble, Usher, CeeLo, Josh Groban, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews Band, Christina Aguilera, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin and many more.

 

Born in Houston to a family of international dance stars and musicians, Ballas moved to London as a child, where he attended the world-renowned Italia Conti Performing Arts School and graduated with honors. Here, he was required to not only dance, but to also sing, act and play an instrument. He began playing the guitar at the age of nine, training in classic flamenco, and by the age of 12 he was writing and performing his own music, playing guitar, drums and bass. His years of training paid off, as he’s currently a Martin Guitars ambassador and an official Kremona Guitars artist.

 

"Mark Ballas is a true showman – he owns the stage,” said Manager Rebecca Lambrecht, Chicane Group. “I can't wait for the masses to see what he's all about."

 

More from Mark Ballas:

www.markballas.com // www.facebook.com/markballas // www.twitter.com/markballas
 

My 2011 interview with Ballas:

To millions of TV viewers, Mark Ballas is a dancer: a two-time champion on Dancing With the Stars, and most recently the professional partner to Bristol Palin.

But just as long as he has danced, Ballas has made music — writing, playing, singing. Asked which matters most, dancing or music, he said: ''Music is a strong passion of mine, like getting my message out through music and singing, and with your hands and your instrument and your voice. And dancing is more about getting your message out with your body and being powerful in that way. I love both, but I definitely say that music's my passion.''

That passion will be on display locally when he plays at Akron's Northside Bar and Grille on Sunday and in Cleveland's House of Blues two nights later.

Both gigs are in support of his new CD, HurtLoveBox, and the accompanying single, Life Just Happens. Neither is his first venture into recording; he has worked in a band with Dancing co-star (and best friend) Derek Hough and on his own release Waiting for Patience, a downloadable EP, early in 2010.

While some people have seen the music as exploiting his Dancing fame, Ballas said: ''When they come to the show, or pick up the record, they're like, 'Oh. Damn. He really does play.' . . . I'm not too shabby on the old guitar,'' he said with a laugh. ''I would love to be a singer-songwriter pop-rock kind of figure like a John Mayer, Jack Johnson or Jason Mraz.''

He hopes HurtLoveBox and the tour will move him in that direction.

''I'm really pumped,'' Ballas said before Christmas by telephone from Salt Lake City, where he was visiting friends. ''I funded and did the acoustic EP all by myself. It was all independent. This [HurtLoveBox] is a full-length album with all live instruments, a great, live, studio album. . . . It's not so stripped down, like the EP.''

The tour, though, is somewhat stripped down: acoustic sets with three musicians counting Ballas, a second guitarist who also played keyboards, and a percussionist. Ballas is OK with that.

''When I write the songs, I write them stripped down,'' he said. ''It's like playing them how I wrote them . . . with acoustic guitar and vocals.''

Performances will all be from his solo material, ''maybe one or two from the old EP and most of it from the new record.''

Ballas calls his music ''acoustic rock/pop, a little bit like John Mayer/Maroon 5 meets like Robin Thicke kind of thing. . . . There's a lot of acoustic guitars. There's electric guitars, too, but acoustic is my forte. I've been playing it a long time. I started as a flamenco player, so I have a different way of playing.''

And many influences. He said he has been in metal, rock, punk and jazz bands. Asked the most-played things on his iPod right now, he first mentioned Florence and the Machine's album Lungs, calling it ''obnoxiously amazing'' and ''a musical aneurysm.''

And what else? ''Probably John Mayer's Continuum. And then — man, so much. I've got this really cool acoustic guy from Utah: Kalai. He's actually from Hawaii, but he's based in Utah and has this record Acoustacism, which is just ridiculous. It's amazing. It's so tender and intimate and soulful. It's really good.''

And Ballas's thinking about music extends to seemingly constant songwriting.

''I usually start with music, like the guitar riffs and chord changes and structure. Then I'll hum melodies or play melodies along. Then I'll record on my iPhone or this JamMan I have, and make sure it's catchy and hooky, and then I'll write the lyrics afterward,'' he said.

Asked how many ideas he has percolating at one time, he said: ''Oh, man, hundreds. Hundreds. Guitar riff after guitar riff after melody after lyric idea. . . . When we sat down to pick songs [for the album], I had 30 or 40 to pick from, and a load of ideas, too. . . . We picked all the songs, and finished recording, and then when I was away for a couple of days, I wrote a new one.'' It, too, ended up on the CD.

Nor does Dancing slow him down much. ''I take my guitar with me everywhere, so when we have breaks, when I'm just chillin', I'm playing guitar,'' he said. ''I try to get in two hours a day of playing guitar at minimum.''

But that shouldn't make you think he does not concentrate on Dancing — and especially on what he sees largely as a teaching role.

''My goal [on Dancing] is honestly to get to know my partner very well . . . to make them comfortable, make them feel safe and make them enjoy the process. At the same time, we create great relationships,'' he said — adding that he's still good friends with partners Kristi Yamaguchi and Shawn Johnson, both of whom won the competition, and Kim Kardashian. And what about his most recent collaborator?

''Bristol and I are such good friends,'' he said. ''We still talk every other day. I was very protective of her because she picked up a lot of heat in the press and whatnot. It doesn't bother me what people say about me but when you're saying stuff about a 19-year-old, innocent girl who can't help who her mom is, and is such a good person — it's just sad. And she worked really hard.''

And he said, she was immune to most of the criticism.

''Her backbone was like steel. What they said rolled right off her back. I think she had one week where she was upset and cried because her son went home for a week to be with her mom, and she missed him. . . . But as far as the tough media . . . she was a tough girl.''

At the same time, though, Ballas was surprised that he took heat for working with Palin.

''I don't pick my partners,'' he said, the italics audible. ''I have no choice. It's like, you walk in a room, you sit down, the producers hand you a piece of paper with your partner on it, and then you go straight to the studio and you meet them. And [the celebrities] have no idea who they're getting. When Bristol walked into that room, she had no idea who it would be.''

Of course, there are some noticeable recurring elements in the selection. When I mentioned that Hough seems to end up with tallish, leggy women, Ballas said: ''Derek is a tallish, leggy dude. . . . I'm shorter and stockier, and Derek's tall and lean and leggy, and Maks [Chmerkovskiy] is tall and wide. It's mostly all on height — and personality. You couldn't put Bristol with Maks. Because Maks is really tough and more like [Ballas's voice went deep and accented], 'Girl, what are you doing? This is no good.' With me, I can sit there all day and watch her do the same thing over and over. I've got the patience.''

Reminded that Hough now has three Dancing trophies — with Jennifer Grey, Nicole Scherzinger and Brooke Burke — to Ballas's two, Ballas laughed. He had heard it before — and was ready to backtalk any smack his friend Hough had to offer.

''I'm like, dude, he got his third mirror ball with Jennifer Grey and Nicole Scherzinger,'' Ballas said. ''Anybody could do that. I made the finals with Bristol Palin. That's something to be proud of.''

But while Ballas enjoys the competition of Dancing, one of the things he likes about music is that it's not the same kind of battlefield.

''With dancing, you stand people side by side and you compare them on the same technique, the same style, the same dance. . . . With music, Jason Mraz is Jason Mraz. He doesn't do what John Mayer does. John Mayer doesn't do what James Morrison does. And I'm a separate artist. I'm not like a copy of anybody else. I would love to end up on a tour with Jason Mraz or John Mayer. . . . That would be a dream come true.''
 

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