While his name might not be as familiar to the rest of the world as Ted Nugent and Hank Williams Jr., to the coal mining community of Seth, his country is their country.
Nashville singer Mark Alan Thompson was born in the coalfields of southern West Virginia, attending Boone County schools at Seth, where he eventually graduated Sherman High School in 1989.
One might think Thompson and the UMWA has their work cut out for them in drawing a crowd this year to the Racine Park, what with more than 50,000 people signed up to see Ted Nugent and Hank Williams Jr. this Labor Day in Logan County as part of the Friends of America Rally.
Yet, many Boone County residents are looking forward to hearing the music of one of their own, a man whose family still resides in the area, and who never lost sight of his dreams and ambitions.
A talented singer and songwriter, with a sultry sweet voice to match his striking good looks, Thompson will perform several songs from his album, “Green Grass, Blue Skies.”
“Green Grass, Blue Skies” is the title of the album and the title of a song on the album. The song is about West Virginia — about going to Nashville and getting your butt kicked, being homesick and wanting to get back home,” Thompson said.
This sentiment harkens like a siren’s call to displaced Mountaineers who have relocated to other areas of the nation and long to return to the mountains.
“I started playing music when in school, in a gospel band. When I got out of school, I went on the road and started opening for other artists,” says Thompson, who once had the chance to play with iconic music legend Jerry Lee Lewis.
“I guess in 1994 is when I moved here permanently and started working with producers and trying to get the record deals,” Thompson says during a phone conversation from his Nashville home. “That’s the story in Nashville, you write a lot of songs before they get cut.”
In 2001, Thompson wrote a song for the G. Gordon Liddy Talk Show contest. “I submitted for a patriotic song and we won that year. The title of the song was “Soldier with a Gun,” which is basically about Veterans,” he said.
When asked which he enjoyed more — singing or writing songs, Thompson responded, “It depends what day you ask me. Sometimes writing can be a lot of work and can get old. But sometimes, if there’s inspiration, it’s not work. Sometimes it’s fun, but a few years back I was burnt out in the whole Nashville thing and started producing new acts and helping new talent along. We started a company at that point called All That Productions. Eventually, we gradually changed the company model and it became a record label, ATP Records and we have since then put a few records out,” Thompson said.
“As an unknown company with unknown artists, we didn’t do too bad. We actually hit the Top 100 Music Row List. I was the guinea pig to test the water of the label,” Thompson said.
Performing song with titles such as “Perfume and Gasoline,” “Too Old to Grow Up Now,” and “Whisky Wind,” Thompson music is sure to hit a chord with listeners.
Surprising to Thompson, his music received a lot of attention in the European markets. “We got a lot of play in Europe after we put together a compilation CD that’s sent out to the radio stations. We’re not actively calling those stations over there, so that surprised me. The play we were getting in Europe was because they wanted to hear it, not because someone was calling them up trying to talk them into playing the music,” he said.
“Since then, our label has signed three additional acts that will be coming out soon. Everything’s growing. When I got invited to do this show, I was excited to get back in front of a hometown crowd,” Thompson said.
“Nashville is a change in terrain from West Virginia — it’s more flat. There are some hills, but no mountains. For a boy from Boone County, it’s a change. The traffic is horrible and I still hate that part of it. It’s kind of an intimidating city for someone to learn about the music business and a lot of politics,” he said.
“My mom and dad still live in Boone County and I am home at least three or four times a year. I always look forward to going home and being in the mountains and it is something I really miss. Going home and doing fishing and hunting,” he said.
Though most of Thompson’s family still resides in West Virginia, Thompson resides in Tennessee with his wife and high school sweetheart Ronda and their son, Brody.
Thompson is slated to perform two 30-minute sets. “The first is around 2:30 and the second around 4 p.m.,” he said.
“Anyone not going to see Hank Jr., needs to come out and say ‘hey.’ The UMWA has been great in helping put this together,” Thompson said.