It must feel good being Mark Tremonti right about now. Among the 20th century’s most respected guitar players, he is sitting on top of the world with not one but three bands: Creed, Alter Bridge and his new power trio Tremonti. Not bad for a heavy metal loving math nerd who once worked at Chili’s. “The whole time I worked there, “Tremonti told me last year, “I kind of felt that I was going to be a musician one day. I always had a backup plan with school and I was realistic about that but I felt like if I tried hard enough and was dedicated enough, I could somehow make it work.”
Deciding to bring to life some musical pieces he had tucked away, Tremonti pulled in Creed touring bandmate Eric Friedman and drummer Garrett Whitlock, and let the songs run wild with a heavier sound than his other bands are known for. And what came from those sessions is All I Was, a strong album featuring bare bones lyrics and plenty of heavy duty power chords and a demolition ball drum sound. Songs such as “Proof”, “Decay”, “Giving Up”, “Things I’ve Seen” and “Brains” turn over a new leaf for the guitar player in that he wrote all the compositions and sang all the lead vocals.
Glide was able to talk with Tremonti not long ago while he was still out on the road with Creed. With that leg of the tour just ending, he is now bringing his namesake band out to test drive the new songs in a live atmosphere, with Wolfgang Van Halen taking on the bass parts.
It must feel really good to finally have All I Was out there for the fans to hear.
Yes, it’s been a real fun process and response has been great. We played a couple of shows and they were fun as well so we’re very happy.
How long did it take you to record this CD?
It took a while because I’d record a bit on my tour breaks and I’d go out on tour and come back and record some more. So it took about three or four sessions of two week sessions. So probably all in all it took a couple months.
Who played on the album with you?
Eric Friedman played rhythm guitars and bass and then Garrett Whitlock played drums.
Garrett definitely has some heavy duty drums going on.
Oh yeah, he’s a maniac (laughs)
You’ve said that these songs are from pieces that you’ve had from your past. How did you pick these particular pieces to work on?
Well a lot of them I had played with the other guys in the other bands and they didn’t quite fit. They were a little too heavy metal for them so all the ideas that I had that never made it to a song, I wanted to pull out first for this album.
Was it easy to pick from all the music that you have lying around?
It was a very easy process of picking them and putting the record together and I can’t wait to do it again. I’ve got enough material to go out and make a second album now.
When I talked to Myles last year, he mentioned that he never really was like a hundred percent confident with his lyrics at first. What about you and your songwriting? How easy or natural was it for you to write these little mini-stories?
Well, I’ve been a songwriter for most of my life now so it was pretty natural for me to make the transition to singing cause I’m always writing and singing for myself. I just never thought I had a good enough voice to reach my full potential. But now, finally after all these years of singing and singing and practicing, I think I got to the point where I could do it myself and try my hand at it.
Your vocals are very solid and very confident and just different enough to set Tremonti apart from the other bands you’re in. You didn’t mind being the lead singer on every song?
No, I loved it. I think it was a really fun process.
How did it feel handling so many of the responsibilities with this – doing the vocals, writing the songs, playing the guitar parts, noodling around with the production – did it ever get stressful?
No, I think the way we recorded it made it easy because we would track a bunch of stuff and then I’d go on tour and work on my next part that I’d have to track and then go on tour and then work on my next stuff. I had to be busier on this record just because I had to completely write all the lyrics and that was the only thing I really had to focus on a lot on this record. That was probably one of the biggest challenges but I still had a good time doing it.
Do you have a favorite song?
No, it depends on what day you ask me but I have a few favorites.
Well, let’s talk about a couple of the songs. How about “Things I’ve Seen.”
Yep, that’s one of my favorites. That was a song that wasn’t actually going to make the record. We had worked on it but didn’t finalize it until the very end when the producer, Elvis Baskette, said, “You’ve got to put together that song, you’ve got to finish that song.” He was like, “If there is any favor you can do for me on this record as a producer is finish writing that song.” So I finished it towards the end and I’m glad we did because now it’s one of my favorites. It’s just a song about kind of being jaded as you grow older and you see how people are; there are people that betray you and I’ve been betrayed many a time. And this whole album is kind of inspired by that (laughs)
What about the song “Decay” which ends the album?
Yeah, “Decay” was another one that almost didn’t make the album. I had to rewrite the verse on that song because I didn’t think it was good enough for the album. So I rewrote the verse and it finally made the record and now people really dig it. But that’s a song about people just being wasteful and complacent and given a silver spoon and not taking advantage of that. I’ve seen it time and time again with folks that are given an easy life and just kind of let it go to waste.
Being in Creed and Alter Bridge, how do you go back and forth between them without losing focus on each band’s individuality when you have primarily the same members in each band?
Whenever I’m working on a band, I’m 100% into that band at the time and it’s easy to shift your attention fully to whatever you’re working on. That’s what I do. I love having all these outlets cause I love writing music and putting out new music.
All musicians want to keep growing and learning. What is something that you’d like to focus on more in the future?
The same thing I’ve been focusing on. I love writing songs and I just want to put out the best music possible and I love doing it with all these different bands. It’s always a new and exciting adventure when I work in all three of them.
All I Was has a lot to do with your love of the heavier metal and you’ve brought some of that in with you without going really, really deep into the hardcore metal. Who were some of your favorite bands growing up that have inspired you?
Early on it was Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax. I got into King Diamond and Mercyful Fate, Celtic Frost, Black Flag. punk and speed metal and thrash, Death Angel.
What turned you on to them?
I grew up in Detroit and my brother Dan listened to a lot of metal, and I borrowed his Master Of Puppets record and that’s what really introduced me to it. Then from there I kind of stretched out to the heaviest, meanest sounding stuff and for some reason that
is what I was into. It was kind of my earliest influence.
And now you’re on the other end of the rope, so to speak. How does it make you feel when people come up and tell you what an influence you have been on them?
Oh man, it’s awesome. When somebody says they started playing guitar because they liked your playing means that you’re doing something right so it’s a huge honor.
So what are you planning for the rest of the year?
I’m on the Creed tour that will last through September 09th and then I’ll follow up with some touring on my solo record for September and October. Then in late October we’ll go back out on some Creed dates. They’re not set in stone yet but they’re thinking about going to Indonesia and the Philippines and Brazil, Chile, Argentina. Then we’ll get back with Alter Bridge in late December and January to write the next record.
Sounds like you’re going to be busy. What do you do when you actually have free time?
I spend as much time as I can with my kids. I love my kids and when I’m touring I bring them out with me in the States and when I’m at home I spend as much time as I can with them.