BY: MICHELLE PEREZ-VEGA
Mark Tremonti just never knows when to quit writing when he’s ahead.
And he is the first to admit that doesn’t think he can.
“I’m possessed and obsessed,” Tremonti deadpanned. “I’m always writing, always organizing ideas. I tend to overwrite, so when it comes to doing an album, there’s always plenty to choose from.”
Professionally, the last two decades have been non-stop for the founding member and lead guitarist of the now-defunct band Creed – which saw Tremonti and singer Scott Stapp win a Grammy for their songwriting efforts of “Arms Wide Open” – the currently-raging Alter Bridge, as well as his own eponymously-named project. In addition to writing, add recording, touring, and overseeing his company, Fret12, and you have one happy over-achiever.
Tremonti acknowledged that 2016 was spent being “hyper-focused” on the latest Alter Bridge album, The Last Hero. Released this past October, he was hailed by Team Rock for his “never-ending arsenal of gut-punching precision riffs and wildly-inventive solos.” He has notably won “Guitarist of the Year” for three straight years by Guitar World and has received other awards from the music industries notables Loudwire Music Awards and Metal Hammer’s Golden Gods Awards respectively.
The guitarist in Tremonti is always appreciative for those noticing and recognizing his skill and techniques with the six-stringed instrument that began as a pre-teen in Michigan before moving to Florida, where he currently resides with his wife, Victoria, and two sons. Fans of Tremonti know, however, know that one of his biggest frustrations is not being fully acclaimed as a writer.
BIBLICAL QUESTION FOR THE DAY: IF GOD SAID, “MARK, YOU COULD ONLY BE IN ONE BAND…ALTER BRIDGE OR TREMONTI…WHAT WOULD IT BE?” MARK: “TREMONTI BRIDGE!!! I’D SAY, ‘GOD, IF YOU MAKE ME MAKE THAT DECISION, I WOULD HAVE TO RETIRE, IT WOULDN’T BE FAIR!!!’”
“Songwriting always comes first.” Tremonti stressed. “I’m definitely 95 percent writer and five percent instrumentalist. It’s always been a big frustrating thing for me throughout the years. I’ve always been considered as the lead guitarist, whether it was for Creed or Alter Bridge. I’m a melodic writer – it’s what has always excited me since I was a kid. People don’t really realize what goes into a song. If you’re not the lead singer, you tend to get overlooked for the work that you really do.”
While Tremonti is known for his love for bands like Celtic Frost and Mercyful Fate, he also lends credit to other artists his fans might be surprised to hear.
“I follow where my passions are,” Tremonti revealed. “I’m a mixture between 70’s soft rock and speed metal! I really love listening to Rod Stewart and Gerry Rafferty. I don’t mind putting down the electric and picking up the acoustic and writing soulful, melodic songs.”
Tremonti acknowledged that while Alter Bridge gets heavier and heavier each year, there are no blurred lines between the band and his solo efforts.
“The only time I know something is specifically for one band is when there is a super-heavy speed metal idea…that’s definitely Tremonti stuff,” he stated. “While Alter Bridge is getting heavier, there is definitely no thrash sound to the band, and I don’t think there ever will be.”
“If Alter Bridge wants to take a certain direction, we have plenty of options,” he continued. “That’s why it’s great to have The Tremonti Project, because there are so many songs that haven’t been used and I can take those favorites ideas and apply them to Tremonti.”
Regardless of where Tremonti’s artistic efforts are being applied, he said one thing is for certain.
“I try to write what’s better than the previous albums,” Tremonti stated. “That’s my only goal. I really only write for myself – never anybody else.”
Which is not to say that Tremonti isn’t grateful when people connect to his songs.
“I put everything I have into it,” he said. “I try to tap into what other people might naturally feel, and I try and make it as personal as possible. I have a lot of people come up and say thank you, that the music helped them through rough times. I love that.”
He also has an affinity for those serving in the US Armed Forces.
“I love hanging out with those who serve our country,” Tremonti said. “People always made it a point to come up to me, said that my music helped keep their spirits up through their deployment…that’s an added bonus to me, it’s awesome to hear. They deserve all the support they can get.”
THE BUSINESS MAN
To many, it might appear that success – and the maintenance of that success – has come easy to Tremonti. He chuckled at the statement.
“What’s behind ‘easy’ is a lot – and I mean, A LOT – of hard, non-stop work,” Tremonti said. “The Internet is changing things so drastically, so fast, that it’s hard to tell where things will end up even a year from now. I see first-hand how it affects the careers of millions of musicians who are trying to make ends meet in this business.”
Tremonti acknowledged that finding the right people to trust and work with is always first and foremost in his mind.
Calling it a “big, convoluted business,” Tremonti said an artist has to definitely be on top of it all with finding the right manager, the right agent…”people who will be with you through good and bad, those who can recognize your talent and potential and consistently aid in your development,” he began.
“I’ve seen so many of my friends – and I’ve been doing this for 20 years – so many good people being used by their record labels,” Tremonti continued. “There’s some good labels out there and some good people behind these labels, but for the most part, they’re just big businesses that only care about the bottom dollar. I’ve seen so many people just giving up 10 or 15 years of their lives just chasing something, and then being hung out and left to dry.”
Tremonti shared that one of his greatest – and costliest – professional failures was when Creed came to an end as a band and Alter Bridge took center stage.
“We really felt the record label was just sitting on our albums,” Tremonti remembered. “We kept hearing rumors that the record label really wanted Creed back and that Alter Bridge was just considered a side project.”
Tremonti said that the band had no choice but to take it off the label.
“We spent an absolute fortune to get Alter Bridge off,” Tremonti continued. “We’re still paying that debt. That business side really, really hurt us. All these years paying and still to this day we’re only half-way through. But, if we didn’t buy Alter Bridge off, who knows what would have happened to our careers? You never know. I’ve learned my lessons so many times.”
Which is why Tremonti has branched out into other areas of the music industry, such as Fret12. Created in 2008 by Tremonti’s brother, Dan, Fret12 “peels back the curtain that provides a raw, behind-the-scenes look into today’s Rock N’ Roll culture and its artists,” according to the company’s Web site.
Tremonti credited his brother as the “brains of the family and fantastic businessman” who has the patience to do all the things the guitarist said he would never be able to stand doing. He is also quick to attribute the help of his other brother, Michael, who has handled the social media-end of Tremonti’s career “since Day 1,” according to the guitarist.
“My whole childhood, I collected hundreds of guitar instructional tapes and DVDs,” Tremonti stated. “Dan suggested that I do one myself, that he would get his production company to shoot it and make it bigger and better than anyone else. The Cadillac of Guitar Instructional Stuff,” he chuckled. “I said no for years before he finally convinced me to do it.”
Fret12’s first release Mark Tremonti: The Sound & The Story was released to positive critical acclaim and sales success, and was eventually followed up with Alter Bridge: The Sound & The Story and Alter Bridge: The Story of Fortress. Tremonti is continuing his Artist Sessions, which includes a one-hour group guitar lesson, a meet-and-greet, and on-stage rig tour.
Although starting out as a guitar instructional tool, Fret12 has also evolved into a business where professional guitarists can share their sounds and stories in order to help others to enhance their playing. In addition to being able to listen to request and answering fan-based questions, the artists can sell their signature instruments, personally signed as a buyer’s option as well. Hundreds of other guitarists ranging from luminaries such as Clint Lowery of Sevendust, Zakk Wydle of Black Label Society, and Joe Bonamassa, have chosen to participate in the site. Fret 12 also turned into a record label for Tremonti’s solo projects, which include All I Was in 2012, Cauterize in 2015, and Dust in 2016.
WHATEVER THE FUTURE MAY BRING
Tremonti, who is in his early 40s, said he envisions himself touring more selectively in another decade.
“Touring maybe only four months out of the year,” he shared. “I think that would be perfect. When a band gets by like Metallica, you know, being able to pick and choose where you want to go…go out for three weeks, take a month or two off, yeah, keeping it fun. That would be the end game for me.”
While he is keen on helping up-and-coming bands, Tremonti said being a manager is not on his agenda.
“No, it’s not something that I love,” Tremonti firmly said. “I only get into stuff that I love, that I’m passionate about. I’ve tried to get into other things in the past that I won’t go into here,” he continued with a laugh, “resulting in that I’ve learned I need to just focus on what I’ve been doing my whole life…writing foremost, and playing the guitar.”
Asked if he would rather be remembered as an artist or musician, Tremonti thoughtfully cast his opinion.
“Hmmm….artist, I would say,” he mused. “I think there are a lot of people who pick up an instrument and they try to be the best they can, playing that instrument. That’s what they become known for. Artists pick up the instrument and try to express themselves with it. The artists are the ones who will have the longevity in their careers, with world-class musicians always chasing down these songwriters, these artists. And that,” Tremonti ended with a laugh, “will always hopefully be me.”