INTERVIEW WITH SONGWRITER MARK ANTHONY BARTOLO

Mark Anthony Bartolo is a versatile 23-year old musician, songwriter and singer with vast knowledge and training in music. As a musician doing what he loves in life, he has participated in operas as part of the chorus, performed gigs in hotels and busked in Valletta.

Initially self-taught as a vocalist, at the age of 12 he developed his singing skills to gain more experience in the music industry studying Music up to advanced level. He has played the guitar for eight and saxophone for six years.

Mark Anthony is currently a student at the University of Malta following a bachelor’s degree in music. Enjoying further exposure, he recently participated in the first ever season of the Maltese X Factor.

Eve: Is there a hidden meaning in any of your music?

Mark Anthony Bartolo: With my music, I try to express my feelings and my identity. I find it easier to communicate through my music and voice. My main message is simply to do what your heart desires. Music allows me to express myself in ways which I find hard to through other ways. I enjoy music making so much that I find myself sometimes getting carried away when I make covers mine.

If possible, I also interact with other artists to learn about the combination of their personalities, capabilities and philosophy of life, both personally and with regards to music. The reason why I do it is to make new friends and contacts, to learn other ways of dealing with the music industry through their experience, and because I really enjoy discussing music with people of the same interest.

Eve: Have you ever dealt with performance anxiety?

MAB: It really depends on how I’m feeling at the moment and who will be watching me. If there are a lot of people I know personally, then I do get quite anxious before going on stage. My message to all artists is that it is good to feel a bit anxious before, yet the best thing to do is to stay relaxed and focused at the same time. If one is capable of doing that, he or she will be OK.

Eve: How do you balance your music with other daily obligations?

MAB: In my mind, when it is time for me to study I study, and when it is time for me to practise my music, I would do that. I use music to take breaks too. However, sometimes it depends on my mood, especially if I get an idea for a song. You will never know when that can occur, so you have to take opportunity if possible. Of course, deadlines have to be met, so I prioritise what I need to do at the moment.

Eve: Since you’re also a songwriter, how does a song usually develop?

MAB: I don’t have a fixed scheme of how I write my songs. Sometimes I start with writing the lyrics. It takes me from an hour to three hours in one day, depending on my mood. Then, I play around with chords and fingerstyles on my guitar. Finishing it completely is quite time consuming as I have to figure out which chords match with my meaning, also which words and consonants sound perfectly with the rhythm.

I sometimes start a song with creating a wordless melody, taking some of my techniques that I have learned through my covers. For instance, I memorise the chord progressions on a cover to insert part of them in my songs with a combination of other chords that interest me. I love using certain sounds, especially adding in surprise changes.

I usually show the lyrics to my family, who are my best positive critics. I feel that my forte is coming up with good melodies, but I prefer writing my own lyrics too. I find it harder, because usually I would like the words to fit theme that I have pictured for the melody.

Eve: What do you enjoy during your time off?

MAB: I like to listen to all kinds of music from YouTube like 70s, 80s, 90s, House, Progressive Music, Rock, Acoustic, Ballad, Classical, Eurovision, etc. I also write poems . I have been writing them for a long time on and off as I find it good way to express myself. I also play in a marching band with the Mellieha Banda Imperial as an alto saxophonist, and I sing while I’m playing with my guitar. Sometimes I play online games when I have time to spare, which is not often.

Eve: What are your music plans and hopes for the future?

MAB: At the moment, my career is a bit on hold as I am studying for my upcoming exams at the University, which is Bachelors in Music. However, I am currently looking for new places to perform in gigs in order to gain more experience as an artist. Furthermore, I now have a Facebook page where I’ll be posting my covers, which I used to post on my profile, hoping to increase the number of my followers. I will also be exploring how best to start producing my own music to share through recordings.

My hope for the future is to perform on a bigger stage, and to collaborate with different singers too. I would love to continue to make friends with people have the same interests I have because we all benefit from learning from each other.