Mark Bryan takes center stage with a breakdown on all things Hootie
Stalwart ‘90s hitmakers Hootie & The Blowfish may have announced their hiatus a decade ago, but the members regularly put their solo careers on the side every year to resuscitate Hootie for their Homegrown Concert weekend in Charleston. Now, in its 16th year, the event has grown into an impactful charitable offering showcasing popular songs from the band’s discography.
Some 15,000 fans are expected to pack in for the band’s two sold-out shows this Friday, Aug. 10 and Saturday, Aug. 11 at Volvo Car Stadium on Daniel Island. In anticipation of the concerts, The Daniel Island News caught up with guitarist Mark Bryan to get the details on what fans can expect, his solo music, and the future of Hootie & The Blowfish.
The Daniel Island News (DIN): You guys just came off of a big performance in Atlanta with Jason Aldean on July 21. Can you tell us a little about that show?
Mark Bryan (MB): Man, it was a lot of fun. I tell you, it was the biggest crowd we’ve played to in 15, 20 years. So that was fun, playing to that size stadium, again. It was kind of cool because we did our old set, so it’s pretty engrained. It didn’t take much to pull it off, and I think we sounded really good and had a really good time doing it. We’ve been doing that set on and off for the last few years, even though we haven’t been touring or anything. We still do our annual events here in Charleston, so we’ve stayed sharp doing that. We just got to do that in a bigger crowd.
DIN: How many people were at the show?
MB: I think it was 43,000, while we were playing.
DIN: So, we heard that your Waffle House stage backdrop made an appearance at that show. Will it return to Daniel Island?
MB: I don’t know. Our production manager has been doing that for fun, and last year, they brought a trailer backstage that was making waffles and hash browns. It comes from— we named our album Scattered, Smothered and Covered— the one we released with all the covers. So, that’s sort of the connection, but we don’t have a long term thing with that, yet. Maybe on the next tour next year, we’ll come up with something with them. We’ll see.
DIN: Did you ever expect a backdrop to get that much attention?
MB: If you’re going to throw one up there, people are going to talk about it. That was our production manager’s idea. It was not ours. He was like “man, I think I want to do this backdrop. What do you think?” We were like “yeah, go for it.” So, he gets the creative credit for it.
DIN: So, this is the 16th annual Homegrown Concert in Charleston. What can fans expect from this year’s show?
MB: Hopefully, we’ll dial in a new song or two in the next couple of weeks. We’ve been writing lately. But, if not, you’re going to get great energy, because we’ve kind of got renewed spirit right now with writing new songs and doing that show in Atlanta. I think there’s a good renewed energy right now that you’ll be able to feel and that will come through in the show.
DIN: What do the new tunes sound like?
MB: Hootie & The Blowfish, amazingly.
DIN: After all these years?
MB: You know you can’t really change it. We always try different stuff. One of the songs Darius likes is this acapella song that I brought in. We’re maybe going to add music to it, maybe not. We try stuff all the time. I think, stylistically, it could fall all over the place, but at the end of the day once we start playing and Darius starts singing, it sounds like Hootie & The Blowfish.
DIN: I bet that feels good getting new music out.
MB: It does, it does. It’s still the early stages, but it’s been fun to be creative again.
DIN: Last year, you said that there were plans for an album and tour in 2019. Are those still on track?
DIN: The Homegrown Concert is a fundraiser for a cause that’s very dear to the band members’ hearts (the band asks fans to bring school supplies on the nights of the shows and then hosts a “Homegrown Roundup” back to school event to serve underprivileged kids in the community). Can you tell us about the fundraiser?
MB: It’s a chance to give the community something that’s missing. And that is the back to school essentials. And not everybody is privy to all of that, and if we can provide that service, along with the people in the community that are providing their services, that’s a big deal. I think that’s really connected for a lot of people in the community and it really helps a lot of people. It’s something that directly helps. All of that is really important to all of us, and it’s something that we’ve been able to turn into a tradition.
DIN: Can you describe what it’s like to see the benefits of those donations in this community?
MB: If you’ve never been to that round-up at Burke High School, a thousand people go down there throughout the day. You see people who are dentists, for instance, who are just volunteering their time doing dental exams. And if they see a kid that needs assistance, they’ll give their mom the card. Then, kids just getting haircuts— what a cool thing to go get a free haircut for back to school. Everybody’s in a good mood around that, and all the barbers are having a good time, laughing, making jokes with the kids. You just see the connection and it’s just fantastic.
DIN: It started off as just school supplies, so how did it branch off into dental exams and haircuts?
MB: People from the community offered their service, but also we got the idea to do that when we were on tour. I believe we were in San Antonio and we saw the school district doing exactly that— bringing in a bunch of people from the community and offering their services. Darius was like “why couldn’t we do that in Charleston?” And we were like “well, let’s try.”
DIN: You just released your solo album Songs of the Fortnight in August 2017. What have you been up to since then with original music?
MB: I played a few shows last fall. Around the release, I played D.C. and New York, I did a big show down here on the day of the release at the Windjammer, and that was kind of all the live stuff I did for the album. I did release a video for the song “Forgetting About Me” right at the end of last year. That got some really good response and that was fun, but that was it. Whenever I do a solo album, for me, it’s about releasing the material more than it is about touring. I’m not in the mindset to tour as a solo artist, being a father and having these other endeavors that I do, like teaching college. It just keeps me from touring. I just do spot shows here and there. I’ve got some cool dates coming up this fall. But, the rest of the time, I’m being a dad, or working on writing, recording, or teaching.
DIN: Anything new for your solo career in the works?
MB: No, everything is geared towards the next project for Hootie. The way I’ve released solo albums over the years, whenever I have a batch of songs, then it’s time. So, we’re three [solo albums] in, and I’m sure after this next Hootie project, there will be a batch that we didn’t use that I feel good about, and that will be your fourth. That’s just how it rolls, I guess.