Val Chmerkovskiy. That’s the answer to the question: What celebrity does Minneapolis singer Mark Andrew resemble?
Though I studied Andrew’s face during our lengthy interview, I still could not dredge up the name of his celebrity look-alike, pointed out by “American Idol” judge Jennifer Lopez. Great observation by J Lo, although I could’ve been thrown off by the “man bun” worn by the 2015 “American Idol” and 2013 “The Voice” contestant. I don’t think “Dancing with the Stars” pro Chmerkovskiy has ever had hair long enough to bun.
That raises the question, why, Andrew?
“More of the rock star look,” he laughed. “My hair is so crazy, I can’t let it down but I still like having long hair. It gets pretty big — kind of like the Jheri Curl or a big ol’ ‘Mop Afro.’ It’s almost like Carrot Top’s but not red.”
Andrew is hoping to let his hair down doing some rock music on his upcoming CD, a departure from the folk/jam direction. He is seeking an undisclosed amount of money for the project at pledgemusic.com/markandrew. “It’s going to pay for the studio time, the producer, the musicians and copies of the CD. Pledgemusic.com doesn’t want [the amount sought] out there. They say when you put a number value on something, people don’t take it as seriously or are less apt to help. If I don’t reach my pledge goal I won’t be able to complete the record so it’s a make it or break it proposition.”
Benefactors will experience various levels of access. Any pledge level gets them the whole digital album, which include the first song “Last Chance,” already available. Significant contributions come with perks such as: a cover of your favorite song ($250); A VIP Acoustic House Concert ($1,000); a “96 American Strat” he has customized and will autograph ($2,000).
“Last Chance” will be on the play list the night before Thanksgiving when Andrew performs at Famous Dave’s in Uptown with his older brother Matt Pudas’ honky-tonk outlaw country group White Iron Band. “It’s like Waylon Jennings type stuff,” said Andrew. “I am opening for my brother, whose band will close the performance. This might be the 10th year my brother has performed what we call ‘Drinksgiving’ at Famous Dave’s. I have performed only a few times with them. This will be a bigger deal with me being fresh off ‘American Idol.’ ”
Until music starts paying the bills, Andrew will continue to be the foreman at his family’s landscaping company, Pudas Landscape & Construction. Meanwhile, we had a great chat about song lyrics that drive us crazy; famous singers that should not sing outside the shower; and the dangers of microphone spittle. Oh, and you don’t want to miss his dog Elvis, provider of some background vocals during the interview, after the credits. I laid Elvis’ vocals over Andrew noodling around on The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face.” Andrew was amused that I wasn’t worldly enough to recognize that Weeknd’s hit (with the Michael Jackson riffs that Mark digs) is a carol to cocaine.
My startribune.com/video also includes Andrew telling one of the best stories about Prince being publicly playful in LA. We begin here with Andrew demystifying how it seems that performers are able to memorize lyrics, which led to the recollection of his recovery from a bad auto accident.
Q: How do you memorize lyrics?
A: I don’t. I have a Teleprompter. [Big laughs] I’m really bad at that because of my bad car accident when I was 18. I just can’t remember lyrics for the life of me. I remember lyrics I learned before I was 18 and stuff I do a lot, I remember those. I have an iPad on a stand that I hide really well [on stage]. There are a lot of people who do that. But a lot of the big pros have [what looks] like one of their monitors for sound, that has a screen on it, and scroll through the set list. I would ask them [at “American Idol”], “Can I have a Teleprompter?” and they were like, Noooo.
Q: Tell me more about your car accident.
A: I was living in Phoenix, Arizona, and I had just lost the drummer, Nolan Myers, from my high school band to a drunken driver a couple weeks before. My guitar player and I decided to move back to Minnesota. We decided to drive and after coming up through New Mexico he fell asleep at the wheel and rolled my little S-10 pickup, and neither of us had our seat belts on so I was ejected. I got thrown out at 80 miles per hour; the spot I was sitting in was completely crushed. If I’d stayed in there I would have been killed. He stayed in the car. Craziest thing is neither of us broke a single bone. We just had cuts and scrapes but I had a pretty bad concussion. I couldn’t remember who people were for a while.
Q: And why didn’t you have on your seat belt (although that may have been a good thing in this case)?
A: I don’t know. I was young and dumb.
Q: When was this?
A: It was 2003 or 2004. I still get headaches and my spine is a little screwed up still. [Laughter] And I work construction, so the weight of lifting things makes migraines kick in from time to time. I’m the foreman for my family’s landscaping business. I try to be out there every day when I’m not doing some music stuff. It pays the bills. Music isn’t super lucrative right now. I wish it would be. I’m working toward it.
Q: When your career takes off, whose career would you like it to resemble?
A: Ooh, wow. Probably say Zac Brown Band.
Q: If your music career doesn’t take off, I guess there’ll be landscaping, which brings me to this question: Ever get the idea the pansies are making faces at you?
A: I don’t know. My dad says you have to talk to the plants. I’ve never had the plants talk back to me. [Laughs]
Q: Lot of women flirting with you when you’re out working with your shirt off?
A: No. That’d be nice. It would make it a little bit more fun to be out there. Pretty busy organizing everything and keeping everybody on task. No, no flirting. That usually happens more at the concerts.
Q: They don’t know you’re married?
A: I don’t wear my ring because I work construction and I know too many guys who have lost fingers or almost lost a finger due to something. My brother doesn’t wear his and my dad doesn’t wear his either. [My wife] doesn’t mind.
Q: What is your process when you write a song?
A: It’s always different. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and have a good idea. Sometimes I’ll be driving around and I have a little app on my phone that I’ll pull out and sing some lyrics. I’ll come home later and add some chords to it and figure out if it works or sucks. The great songwriters say you have to continuously write; otherwise you become stale.
Q: Sing me song lyrics you wish you had written.
A: There is a song by this band called the Wood Brothers. It’s singing about a guy trying to pick up a girl at a bar. He compares it to a loaded gun. [Singing] You never smiled at my opening lines. If I remember it right you might have been crying. I didn’t know you but I thought it was time. I was loaded, loaded. I would say I was loaded. Sometimes the tip of my tongue is like the barrel of a gun and it’s loaded. [Laughs]
Q: Is that the most perfectly written song or is there another one?
A: That’s tough. I’m a fan of so many varieties of music. People make fun of me, but I love Peter Gabriel. “Sledgehammer.” Songs that grab you, and you are like, Yeah!
Q: You know you must be talented if you’ve made the cut to be on “American Idol” and “The Voice.”
A: The producers saw something in me, I suppose. [Laughs] Both of those shows were pretty awesome. I think I was more prepared for “American Idol” than I was “The Voice.” Having already been on a reality TV show kind of helps you set the stage for what you are getting into. I was a little green going onto “The Voice.” I didn’t know what to expect with cameras in your face all the time. And big-time celebrities in your face.
Q: Favorite “American Idol” judge?
A: Harry Connick, Jr., because he’s the musician’s musician. He was playing with some of the greatest players in jazz when he was like 13 years old. He’s the real deal. His critiques — you know they don’t show everything — were more musician-based and really got to the point of what he wanted you to do, to improve on. Some of the scenes they kind of edited and made it seem they were rippin’ on me. But they never actually said anything bad. [Hearty laugh] So Harry and Keith Urban were always kind of supporting me. I don’t think they ever said anything as a negative critique.
Q: So how did it come off negative on TV?
A: I forgot my words during one of the songs for “Hollywood Week,” ’cause they keep you up for three straight days. I completely fumbled the words. Harry Connick, Jr., was like: What happened, man? That doesn’t seem like something you’d do? I was like, ‘You guys kept me up for three days straight. I can barely think.’ At the time my son was three months old so I hadn’t slept much after that point. I was being the good husband and going down and getting the kid every night.
Q: You know that’s called parenting? It’s not as if your wife was alone when she conceived your son.
A: Yeah, yeah.
Q: Do you find yourself editing other people’s songs? It’s always bothered me that Tina Turner’s song “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” includes the lyrics: “What’s love but a secondhand emotion.” Why didn’t the person writing that song choose the phrase “second-grade emotion” or “second-class emotion?”
A: Interesting. The one I can’t stand is that Katy Perry song [“Firework”] where she talks about the plastic bag floating through the wind. “Do you ever feel like a plastic bag floating through the wind.” I’m like, “What? Why didn’t she say feather?” Come on, a plastic bag? There are better literary things than plastic bags. Plastic bags are so nonorganic and … litter. Leaves float in the air. [Laughter] I do that all the time. I’ll be listening and hear a line and [groan], “We should fix that.”
Q: Who are some of the best songwriters?
A: I was really in love with Civil Wars. They were two songwriters who got together and formed a band. Paul Simon, Bob Dylan. I love the work that Nile Rodgers does. He worked on David Bowie’s album “Let’s Dance.” Just recently, working with Pharrell. I was looking at a David Bowie documentary and [Rodgers] asked: Why did you choose me? [Bowie said] Because you write hits, man. David brought the concepts and then Nile funked ’em up. It takes two sometimes.
Q: You mentioned Bob Dylan. Do you think that Dylan, Burt Bacharach and the woman who is the voice of Florence and the Machine know they can’t sing?
A: Yeah, probably. Sometimes it doesn’t matter. Sometimes that tone is what they are going for. I’ve heard some records where Dylan actually sounds really nice. Then other times it’s about the writing and the phrasing. Dylan was a master of phrasing. His cadence, the timing he [used] to put his lyrics down.
Q: I have to change the channel every time that Florence sings. Why is she singing outside her shower?
A: She’s making lots of money. [Laughter] I’ll take her career.
Q: Who is somebody you would geek out about if you met them?
A: Well, I already did geek out when I met John Mayer. It was kind of embarrassing. When I was on “The Voice” he was rehearsing at the exact same place that we were rehearsing. And he walked around the corner. I dropped a curse word and didn’t really know what to say. I was caught off guard so I said, “Really huge fan, you know,” and he was like, Cool. What’s your name? Just a normal person. He was really nice. There was a group of us and he sat and talked to us and I was being an idiot. Now just being around some major, major celebrities has brought them down to earth. Now I don’t think I would be as weird or freak out [except for] Prince …
Q: You live in the Twin Cities and you haven’t met Prince?
A: No, never met him but I kind of met him. I was working at a Tyler Perry play back in 2005, “Madea Goes to Jail.” I was an usher at the Kodak Theatre, where they held the Oscars. I was living in LA and going to music school. Prince showed up with Chaka Khan and they were sitting in front-row seats. Prince’s bodyguards were there. I grew up a mile from Paisley Park. I said, “Tell Prince I’m a local kid.” [Bodyguard] walked over and said something to him and Prince gave me [a two-finger salute and head bob]? I was like, “Yeaaaaah!” Then it was awesome; in “Madea Goes to Jail,” there’s a part when Tyler Perry comes out with a guitar and starts singing “Purple Rain.” I had seen the previous nights and Tyler was singing “Purple Rain,” but this time he was mouthing the words and Prince was actually singing “Purple Rain” with Chaka Khan in the front seat. I was like, “Oh my gosh!”
Q: You mention Chaka Khan and Prince were in the front row. Isn’t that the row where people spit on you?
A: [Laughter] Right? I don’t know.
Q: Speaking of spit, mike spittle. Everybody is using that same mike. Is that a real concern or only something about which a germ freak would worry?
A: Oh, it’s a concern. If I am performing and I know I’m really sick, I’ll bring my own microphone. But the big professional gigs have disinfectant wipes they use so typically everything is OK. In professional singing competitions, getting sick is your worst nightmare.
Interviews are edited. When C.J.’s e-mail is working she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and she can be seen on Fox 9’s “Jason Show” and “Buzz.”