We had the good fortune of connecting with Mark Ramirez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mark, what inspires you?
As a songwriter, I am inspired by a great many things: personal experiences, relationships, historical events, travel, cities, nature, and more. Name it, and a song can be written about it. However, I find that songs—my songs, anyway—are most successful when they are grounded in a specific place and time.
I was born in the Philippines, and one of the most formative experiences in my life was moving to the United States at the age of 17. It was a dramatic change that permanently altered my perspective on life. I find myself preoccupied with geography and geology and architecture, with weather and seasons and the passing of time, and how all of that is different between city and country, between Southeast Asia and North America, between New England and the Rocky Mountains.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As a writer and former journalist, I’ve always placed great value in the power of words. If anything, that’s what would set me apart—putting care into each word, each turn of phrase, making sure to offer new ideas, avoid cliches, subvert common tropes.
It’s funny—I feel like I’m at the peak of my songwriting powers and regret not coming into them earlier in life. But I don’t think I’d be the songwriter I am now, releasing a debut solo record I am quite proud of, without the benefit of the past 20 years of just living life.
Beyond the lyrics, I am also striving to expand my sonic palette. I’m obsessed with using chords, chord progressions and rhythms you don’t often encounter in an indie rock or indie folk context, such as jazzy major-sevenths and bossa nova tempos. This year, I started taking trombone lessons. I had zero experience with the instrument, and it’s been an avenue to learning more about music theory. It’s also been a lot of fun, despite the occasional frustration, and I hope to get good enough to actually incorporate it into my original music.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
You can’t go wrong with Red Rocks—it’s an amazing place to catch a show or just explore during the day. Planet Bluegrass is another option that combines live music and the great outdoors—if the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival or something similar is happening, that’s the place to be.
I’d take them to a Rockies game, which is never too crowded as of late, then explore a little bit of downtown Denver. Nip into Union Station, stop at a couple of breweries, maybe head down to Larimer Square.
For the more culturally inclined, the city’s museums are world-class. The Denver Art Museum is brand-new, the Museum of Nature & Science is great for kids and adults alike, and the Museum of Contemporary Art is pretty darn hip, with lots of cool events and live performances.
Boulder’s not too far. Golden is fun, and Clear Creek is a blast in the summer. During ski season, it’s also a good stop on the way to the mountains, though I recommend going during a weekday to avoid that I-70 traffic.
It’s really easy to keep anyone entertained here.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The open mic scene in the metro Denver area has been incredibly welcoming since I moved here in 2015. It has allowed me to make a lot of great friends and connections and discover talented musicians, and given me the confidence to put myself out there as a performer.
Syntax Physic Opera’s open mic, hosted by Anthony Ruptak, was my introduction to the scene. It transitioned into the Broadway Roxy, with an open mic now hosted by Meg Rice, and remains one of my favorite places to play. The open mic at the Corner Beet, overseen by Gio Barabadze (a virtuoso musician), has been inspiring. More recently, I have discovered the open mic at The Lodge at Woods Boss, a hotbed of talent, and have had the pleasure of getting to know host and trombonist extraordinaire Luke Tredinnick of the Dollhouse Thieves.
Other: Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/2CH3ZyiLsjNfCHZihIMt0j Bandcamp: https://desertatlas.bandcamp.com/