Mark Tremonti Biography
After his freshman year in high school, Mark’s life was uprooted when his family moved to Orlando, Florida. Whereas his friends in Detroit were fans of Metallica and Anthrax, his new peers at Lake Highland Preparatory School in Orlando liked such pop acts as Milli Vanilli and C+C Music Factory. Also around this time, his mother was tragically diagnosed with lupus. Severely shaken by these events, he began to trend gothic at school. He got into bands like Megadeth, and could be found wearing black Megadeth t-shirts under his white school shirt. He would roll under his car during breaks, pretending to fix something, but actually smoking cigarettes.
Feeling like a misfit at school, and with his brothers having gone off to college, Mark found solace in his guitar. This sense of aloneness manifested itself in his music; in fact, Alter Bridge song "Shed My Skin" had its roots in these times of despair. During high school, mark formed his first rock band, called Wit’s End, playing Motley Crüe and other metal covers. He also became acquainted with classmate Scott Stapp, though they were not in the same circles of friends.
After high school Mark decided to go to college and major in Finance. He attended Clemson University in South Carolina for a year, where he again found himself on his own. He rented instructional videos from the local music shop, which increased his playing skills exponentially. After his freshman year, for financial reasons he transferred to Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, where he reunited with high school classmate Scott Stapp. At that time he also worked as a cook at a Chili's restaurant.
Creed began to perform shows, and before long they had recorded their first song "Grip My Soul," which was never released. They eventually landed a gig at Floyd’s Music Store in Tallahassee, where many up-and-coming bands had been noticed in the past. Jeff Hanson, the venue’s manager, was in attendance, and while the band played mostly covers at the time, Creed’s two original songs stuck out the most to him. Impressed, he asked if he could manage the band, and promptly started his own management and promotion company to support the venture.
Wanting to get the band into the studio quickly, Jeff matched Creed up with musician-turned-producer John Kurzweg. The band pooled their money together and began work on "My Own Prison," which would become the title track of their debut album. They recorded the album in pieces, returning to the studio whenever they had saved enough money to lay down the next track. Before the album was finished, Jeff got local rock station 101.5 to play the "My Own Prison" demo on the air, which prompted an instant reaction from listeners, with phones ringing off the hook from people wanting to know what this new song was.
With the album finished, Creed hit the US tour circuit with one thing in mind: maybe only ten people would come to their show, but they would tell their friends, and the next time twenty people would come, then fifty, then 100. While on tour they sold CDs at their shows, and managed to move about 5,000 copies in only six weeks. Despite this success, they realized that they could not make it big without the backing of a major label. They auditioned for many record labels, but none showed any interest, claiming that rock was dead. However, a new record label called Wind-Up Records indicated interest, and asked if Creed would sign on as its first act. The band agreed, and after remixing and re-recording portions of "My Own Prison," the record was re-released on Wind-Up in 1997.
Creed continued to tour, and quickly decided to forego the rock n’ roll lifestyle of drinking, taking drugs, and partying. After all, how could they play well if they were intoxicated on stage? Their live shows won over many new fans, who began requesting Creed on their local radio stations. As their fan base grew, the "My Own Prison" single began to chart. The band drew increasing attention, and soon went from selling 3,000 albums per week to 25,000 albums per week.
Without skipping a beat, Creed released their second album, "Human Clay," in 1999 to immediate success. It went on to sell over 11 million copies in the US, making it one of only about 100 albums to ever be certified diamond by the RIAA. The first single off the album was "Higher," which spent a record-breaking 17 weeks at #1 on the mainstream rock charts. In 2000, Brian abruptly left the band due to tensions with Stapp. Creed never inducted a new bassist, opting instead to hire touring bassist Brett Hestla of Virgos Merlot.
Brian’s departure did not impede the band’s success, as in 2001 they accepted a grammy award for "With Arms Wide Open" in the category of best rock song. At this point the band had sold a record 13 million albums in five years, and had charted seven consecutive #1 singles. In early 2001 guitar pedal maker Morley sought to capitalize on Creed’s meteoric rise and worked with Mark to deliver a signature wah pedal, the Mark Tremonti Power Wah.
Catastrophically, Mark’s world was shaken when his mother passed away in early 2002. By that time, Creed began to experience turbulence, as relentless touring and Stapp’s inflated ego took its toll on the band. Stapp had stopped showing up for sound checks, which is where he and Mark had previously goofed around and bounced musical ideas off of each other. After a car accident earlier in the year Stapp had begun to abuse prescription drugs, and developed a dependency on alcohol. He was also beginning to lose focus on the band, as he was occupied with other ventures including a clothing line and a potential acting career. Near the end of the tour, Creed hit a low point at a Chicago concert in late 2002 when Stapp took the stage completely inebriated. Embarrassingly, Mark’s father was in attendance, and in early 2003 the band was sued by a pair of fans, asking a judge to declare a class-action lawsuit against Creed for performing so incoherently. However, 2002 was not all bad news, as Mark married his girlfriend Victoria Rodriguez on December 14.
When Mark and Stapp sat down in 2003 to write the fourth Creed album, they were at each other’s throats, and found they were getting nowhere creatively. Creed announced their breakup in early 2004. Wanting to milk Creed for all its worth, Wind-Up went against the band’s wishes and released Creed’s "Greatest Hits" album in November 2004.
With no band or future plans, Mark spent 2003 and 2004 at home honing his technical skills, practicing for eight hours a day. He bought a Pro Tools setup and attended classes to learn how to use it. He also took singing lessons, and he started recording demos at home, not knowing what might come of them. In early 2004, before Creed’s breakup was announced, Mark and Phillips decided that they should part ways with Stapp for good, and start a new band. Mark says of the decision, "after all Creed achieved professionally, I felt that I needed to refocus on the goals that I had personally. One of those goals was to get back to my rock and roll roots. After Creed took a break, band-mate Scott Phillips and I started to jam together again and realized that we both shared the same vision and were surprisingly anxious to get back out there and start doing it again."
Also while Mark was between bands, he got involved with Submursed, a new band on Wind-Up’s roster. He introduced Eric Friedman, Mark’s friend and mentee who Mark had met at a guitar exposition and was impressed by his blues playing, to the band, and he was added as their lead guitarist. Mark produced their debut album "In Due Time," and played a cameo intro on acoustic guitar in the track "Flicker." He also took the band out as an opener in support of Alter Bridge’s 2004 and 2005 US tours. Eric would later leave the band due to directional differences with singer Dan Carpenter. The band was dropped from Wind-Up’s roster in 2008, and ultimately broke up.
With the band lineup fully fleshed out, Alter Bridge hit the studio in 2004 to record their first album. Commenting on the album’s increased focus on guitar, Mark said, "When we turned in our first single, it had a long guitar solo on it. At first, they edited it out and said, "A lot of radio stations won’t play a song with guitar solos." And I said, "Well, then they don’t play it." I didn’t spend years locked up practicing to have to compromise." Committed to the instrumental side of Alter Bridge, Mark said, "Kurt Cobain may have killed the guitar solo but we're going to do our best to bring it back." Mark took a much greater role on the album; where with Creed he focused on writing the music and melody, on this record he also contributed many of the lyrics, as well as much more prominent backing vocals (a trend which continues to this day with Alter Bridge and Creed’s latest release). Notably, the album contains two of Mark’s most personal compositions: "In Loving Memory," a tribute to his deceased mother, and "Shed My Skin," which refers to his isolation after moving to Florida as a child.
In 2006, Alter Bridge ran into trouble with its record label. Wind-Up was not providing adequate support given the band’s lackluster mainstream success, and hinted that it wanted its cash cow, Creed, to reunite. Fed up with this attitude, Mark and Phillips engaged in a multimillion dollar buyout in order to release Alter Bridge from its recording contract. They also dug into their own pockets to finance the recording of Alter Bridge’s second album, "Blackbird." This drawn-out struggle fueled much this album's composition.
Despite their label woes, Alter Bridge toured the European summer festivals in order to maintain momentum, showcasing some of their unfinished new songs. After returning to the States they tried out for numerous record labels, and optimistically signed with Universal Republic, who was excited to let Alter Bridge maintain their creative independence. Also in 2006 Mark welcome his second son, Pearson, born November 19. The band finished up "Blackbird," and finally released it in October, 2007 to mostly positive reviews. It was the first of Mark’s albums to incorporate a second guitarist, with Myles contributing much of the songwriting, guitar layering, and even half of the title track's solo. This cemented Alter Bridge’s sound, and the album achieved moderate success with its leading single "Rise Today," reaching #2 on mainstream rock.
Although Alter Bridge continued to tour small clubs in the US, they began to blow up in Europe, most notably in the UK, as well as Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain. They would actually tend to lose money when they toured the US, so they returned to Europe frequently, where they played larger venues in order to sustain the band financially until they could return to the US. With such a dedicated European fan base, Danish pedal maker T-Rex Engineering offered Mark a signature phaser pedal in 2008, which Mark based on the MXR Phase 90 that he had been using in his live rig.
With two successful albums and a loyal following, Alter Bridge set out to record a live DVD in 2008. They originally planned to film it at the landmark Brixton Academy in London, but logistics issues forced them to move the shooting to the Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam. The venue, which holds about 6,000, proved to be the perfect place to film the show, and the DVD was titled "Alter Bridge Live From Amsterdam." Unfortunately the band experienced label trouble yet again, as the DVD was delayed multiple times due to being blocked by Universal’s lawyers. In late 2009 Alter Bridge were able to release a limited concert-only version (no documentary or other bonus features), which reached #1 on Amazon.com’s music DVD charts, but the full version was ultimately not released until January, 2011, over two years after it was filmed.
Throughout Alter Bridge’s career, Mark constantly sought to distance himself from his past with Creed. Creed were continually ridiculed in the media for (falsely) being a Christian band and its hits were often parodied. Alter Bridge were a completely new band, not concerned with mainstream success, and Mark wanted to prove his writing and guitar playing abilities. This was something Mark made clear in interviews over the years, "There is no way in the world that Creed would get back together – unless it was for world peace." In fact, the August, 2005 cover of Guitar One magazine read "Creed will never ever happen again!" Additionally, Mark resented that Stapp had been performing Creed songs during solo concerts, ignoring his agreement with Mark to not play Creed songs unless the whole band was represented. By 2008, Alter Bridge had firmly established themselves as a standalone band, and with almost five years since the breakup, the questions regarding the specter of Creed finally seemed to be a thing of the past.
In early 2009, however, rumors of Creed’s return began to resurface. While the band initially knew nothing about these rumors, evidence began to mount for the possibility of a reunion. At some point in 2009, Stapp’s management got in touch Alter Bridge’s management and arranged a meeting between the original members of Creed, including Brian Marshall. Stapp sat down with the band and apologized for his behavior which led to the downfall of the band. He said the last five years had changed him, and put a new perspective on what is important. He and Mark had both matured and, now that they had families back at home, they put the pettiness of the past behind them. Before long, the band got together in a room and started to practice some of their old songs. The first song they played, "My Own Prison," gave them chills, and they knew immediately that they had to set up a tour.
Also during the 2009 tour, Creed recorded their first live DVD in Houston, Texas. The show was broadcast live on rockpit.com, and simultaneously was delivered halfway around the world to US troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the end of the show the band received a Guinness World Record for the most cameras (239) ever used in a live recording, mainly due to the pioneering use of "big freeze" technology on stage, which was popularized in the film "The Matrix." However, the "big freeze" footage has yet to surface; the concert-only DVD was released in December, 2009, but the deluxe edition has not been released.
After Creed wrapped up their 2009 tour, Alter Bridge began to prepare for their third album, referred to internally by the code name "AB III." The band continued to face record label issues, some of which was manifested in the live DVD delays, so they parted ways with Universal. Without a label behind them, Alter Bridge once again self-funded their album, and wrapped up recording in the spring of 2010, just before Creed embarked on their "20-10" tour. During this time "AB III" was mixed and mastered, and the business end was worked out. Alter Bridge eventually landed on Roadrunner Worldwide, everywhere except the US, where they released the album on Alter Bridge Recordings via Capitol Records, a subsidiary of EMI.
While Alter Bridge toured in support of "AB III," in various interviews Mark slowly solidified his intentions to record a solo album. Before long he announced that his friend and Creed touring guitarist Eric Friedman would join the project on guitar, and former Submursed drummer Garrett Whitlock would handle the drums. The three began composing and recording during the early 2011 break between Alter Bridge tours, while Myles toured with Slash. Though the album is well underway, Mark notes that the album may not see release for another two years.
As far as is personal life is concerned, Mark is known to be a collector of pinball machines, and was noted during the old Creed days to enjoy playing table tennis backstage before concerts. Mark is a car enthusiast; he owns a black Hummer H2, and was featured on the cover of the June 2010 issue of Mopar Collector's Guide while rebuilding a 1970s Plymouth Barracuda. In the article, he discusses opening a hot rod shop in Orlando, as well as possibly producing a children’s TV program. In spite of his formidable fame and success, Mark remains one of the most down-to-earth people, to an extent that Myles characterizes as comical. He cherishes the gift of fatherhood, making sure to fly home for his sons’ birthdays if he happens to be out on tour at the time. Mark is a Christian, although he is less interested in the organized religion side than he is with the spiritual side, and he finds ridiculous the idea that billions of non-Christians around the world would be condemned to hell.
Going forward, Mark plans to continue to pursue his professional and personal goals with Alter Bridge and Creed. Describing his songwriting process, Mark categorizes riffs and progressions that he writes as bridges, verses, or choruses, and fits them together later like a puzzle. Nowadays when he writes, he dumps these ideas into Alter Bridge and Creed buckets, based on his vision for each composition. Therefore he sees a future where Alter Bridge and Creed can peacefully coexist. In fact, one of the primary reasons for pursuing a solo album is that he writes so much material that he doubts a lot of it would ever see the light of day, even with two bands. Whatever happens, Mark is truly passionate and hardly ever rests; some would describe him as a workaholic in that respect. As he continues to produce new music, he will surely cement his name into the list of history’s great guitarists.
Prepared in March, 2011
Please note that this biography has been pieced together based on various sources across the internet. If you notice any inaccuracies at all, please be sure to contact me.