A Musical Home
May 2015 | Profile by Jane Ledwell
In April, Mark “Lefty” Geddes arrived at East Coast Music Week in St. John’s, NL, straight off a five-week tour of Australia with Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys. The roots musicians toured their energetic show through Australian outback towns in Australia’s own version of a Festival of Small Halls tour—inspired by PEI’s own Festival of Small Halls, which began with Mark’s roommate Ward MacDonald. Small world, indeed.
Playing in country communities of 100 people, seeing wild kangaroos, Mark loved “bringing live music to places that don’t usually have access to it.” In one town of 80, there were 150 people there for the show. He says, “It really felt like home – but it felt like an authentic Australian experience as well… There’s a guy out in back running a spit, and there are kids running around…”
After that, “Going to Newfoundland was like going to our other home. We were so close to PEI—but flew over,” he says, with an open, easy laugh. Homes away from home are important for a guy who tours seven months of the year.
Music has always been part of Mark’s life since he was sixteen and got his first guitar. “I played rock and roll and metal and teenage angst stuff, and I loved it—and I still kind of do,” he laughs. (When he plays with not-so-much-roots band The Love Junkies, he says, “That’s where I get that out.”)
He first came to PEI to do dinner theatre, and with only a few periods of uncertainty when he went back to school or took a day-job, he has been a PEI professional musician since.
“When I got here from New Brunswick and said ‘Yeah, I’m a musician,’ I heard, ‘Yeah, well so’s everybody else around here.’ There are no big egos. There’s no room for it.” He also says of the PEI music scene, “There are no cliques. Whether it’s rock or roois or hip-hop, people are very collaborative and willing to try everything out,” he says.
Country musician Nudie gave him his “first real band gig, doing original music. He said, ‘If you buy an upright bass, you’re in the band. I drove to Callais, Maine, with my brother to pick up a new bass, and it looked so new…” They panicked about paying duty. “We were scuffing it up so it wouldn’t look too new. Then we drove up to the border, and first thing the guard said, ‘So, what’re you bringing in other than an upright bass?’” They laughed, and he let them through.
Mark toured a lot with Nudie and then put down his musical “roots” in the PEI music community next with Grass Mountain Hobos, then with Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys.
“A lot of times we hear, ‘I don’t really like this kind of music, but I like this,’” Mark says, describing their energetic shows as “very visual, family-oriented. We keep it clean, fun, and upbeat.
“I am incredibly grateful to work with Gordie,” Mark says. “He’s the best entertainer you’re ever going to meet. He’s a dancer too, and I remember the first time I saw him perform, and I saw him start to dance. After the show, I was nervous to meet him!” On stage with the band these days, “I look at the audience and think about that moment I first saw him dancing, and now I see the same looks on people’s faces that I first felt.”
When not on tour, Mark works as a recording engineer specializing in “natural, acoustic sounds, and I really like if you can do things live or mostly live.” He’s currently working on projects with Liam Corcoran and with Kinley Dowling. The East Pointers album is one of his projects.
Mark loves that on PEI, he doesn’t have to justify music as a career. He finds people respect art-making as a job. “One thing I love around here is that nobody’s really impressed by money… Not very often do you hear ‘But what do you do for a living,’ or ‘How long are you gonna do this?’” It means for Mark that his music can always be his home.