Some of you may know my brother, as he shed over half his body weight over the course of 365 days on the increasingly popular ABC show, Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition. (Shout out to the entire crew who worked with Mike that year. Y’all rock.)
Well, the host of EM:WLE is Chris Powell. I have not one bad thing to say about that man. He is everything he is portrayed as on tv and more. Look up a definition of genuine in the dictionary and a picture of Chris Powell should be right there. By the way, thank you Chris for being the initial spark that my brother needed to realize his full potential and strive to reach it. He has since become a beacon of hope for our entire family and the example of achieving our wildest dreams.
How does any of what you just read relate to me and my upcoming debut album “Reasons Why” ?
It was Chris Powell who first approached me with the idea of writing a song for my brother.
One night when the cameras had gone away and it was truly just Mike, Chris, and myself, we decided to break out a couple of old acoustic guitars and start jamming. Michael, being the on the spot kind of person he is, tells Chris that he HAS to hear some of the songs I’ve wrote over the years. So I obliged. After playing a few of my own jams (which are on this album) with Chris, it got pretty late and everybody went to their room for the night.
Or so I thought.
A couple minutes after heading to my room, I got a knock on my door. I knew it wasn’t Michael because he always barges right in, and so it was Chris. He had an idea and we talked very quietly so my brother didn’t hear us. The idea was simple enough. At the end of my brother’s year, at his big finale, I would play a song that would be dedicated to him.
Simple enough, right?
But in true Chris fashion, his idea was not only that I play a song in front of the hundreds of people at the reveal, but that I write the song as well.
Now, in that moment when Chris Powell asks you to do something, you’re automatically going to say yes. He just has a way of making you believe you can do anything. It’s truly a great gift he has. So long story short, I said yes. We decided we’d keep it a secret from my brother throughout the entire year, right up until I walked on stage and picked up my guitar.
So I had one year to write my brother a song. No big deal. Except when you majored in Procrastination with a minor in Tomfoolery. (School of hard knocks, represent!) So, a cool 9 months goes by and Michael had lost enough weight to get the skin removal surgery. The show wanted to fly me to L.A. so I could be there for him and help with his recovery. I agreed to go. I knew Chris was going to be out there and I knew that I hadn’t worked on the song at all. I had a vague idea of what I wanted it to be about but it wasn’t until I recalled a conversation Mike and I had years earlier that things really got rolling.
Many years ago, my brother played in a punk rock band. (It was a phase) So I have to give him credit for getting me started on guitar. Whether I like to admit it, his late night practices kept me up and annoyed and strangely intrigued. In 2005, I picked up the guitar, though only because I wanted to impress my then girlfriend. My brother taught me this neat little riff that he wrote himself, and I loved it. He told me I should use it in a song.
So I had my idea, I’d start the song off with my brother’s riff that he taught me so many years ago. It was one of the first things I ever learned on guitar. It seemed so appropriate and it fit in the songs easy going, conversational manner. I then sat down and wrote a long letter. I addressed it to my brother and I wrote it as if they were last things I could ever say to him. 🙁 Sad, I know. But it helped get me going. So days before my trip to California, I finished writing my brother’s song on my mother’s lawn. No joke. I brought my acoustic guitar as carry-on and met up with Chris upon landing in L.A.
The first thing he asked me was “Did you write the song?” with a big grin on his face. I said, “Of course. I had 9 months, didn’t I?” He wanted me to get my guitar and play it right away. We were in a hospital lobby. But again, when Chris asks you to do something, you feel compelled to do so. So, I busted out my O.G. (Original Guitar, which I still have to this day) and played the tune.
Chris started crying as he heard the lyrics. I finished the song and he told me he’d be right back. He came back with Matt, the director of the show and had me play it again. Matt listened to it and told Chris “You’re right. We gotta have that at the reveal.”
Fast forward 3 months and…
The place was packed. The entire town of Tarpon Springs showed up in our front yard. When the final weigh in was over, my brother had gone from 493 lbs to 237 lbs in just one year. Now the time came for me to unveil the song that we’d kept under wraps for so long. Michael looked confused when I walked on stage and one of the crew handed me my guitar. The look on his face was almost as priceless as what happened next.
I began to play the song. I sang a simple tune and the lyrics were even more simple, yet they described everything I could never say in words. I remember looking out into the crowd and seeing all these people silent. They were crying. Chris Powell was crying. (Again) People were emotionally connecting to this song I’d created for my brother. As the song ended and the crowd roared, Michael hugged me and asked “Is this real?” and I said, “I think so.”
Afterwards, the people who came to watch started asking me where they could get the song. That was a problem, because I hadn’t recorded it. I told them I’d get a recording of it done and let them know so they could have it. My brother and I eventually ended up alone and we talked about how we could get the song out. He said I had to not only record his song, “My Brother’s Song”, but that I had to record the rest of my stuff too. He used to dabble in recording years ago and told me he could help. He offered to front the entire cost of the album from start to finish.
I was blown away and The Mark G. Project was born.