Released in May from EMP Label Group, Halfway There is a stunning return to form for legendary rock vocalist, Mark Slaughter. His new album channels the classic feel of early Slaughter albums like Stick it to Ya and The Wild Life while at the same time providing material with an adrenaline-fueled, twenty-first century appeal.
Slaughter also does a bit of soul-searching on the new release. Particularly on the album’s emotionally-driven title track. A ballad that’s easily on par with hits like “Fly To The Angels” and continues to showcase Slaughter as one of rock’s most recognizable and versatile artists.
AXS recently spoke with Mark Slaughter about the new single and more in this new interview.
AXS: “Halfway There” is your new single and the title track of your album released earlier this year. Can you tell me what inspired it?
Mark Slaughter: The concept I was speaking to with Bill Jordan [co-writer] was a song that talks about how things change as we get older. At this age, we’re all starting to lose our parents and many others around us. We thought this is where we are in life. So, we wanted to write a song that really got in there about what we’re going through. It hits the nail on the head.
AXS: How would you describe the new album in terms of its sound and how it relates to some of your previous work?
MS: There’s definitely an aspect of Slaughter in there. A lot of people don’t realize that Dana Strum and I wrote, produced and perform the music to this day. We’re the only guys from our genre that had that much control back then and still carry it. The records I’m doing now are ones where I’m in control and making the songs come across the best they can be.
AXS: What’s your songwriting process like?
MS: I usually write music first. I hear orchestras in my head and then follow the bouncing the ball with what the melody is. There’s something about how the song feels and how the melodic structure works that’s important to me. The lyrics usually come after the fact.
AXS: Let’s discuss a few other tracks from the album, beginning with the song, “Hey You.”
MS: I was going for a concert vibe on that one. It’s a standard rock track and something that people can rise to and give them an adrenaline rush.
MS: That song has a funk influence. There are all kinds of crazy things that go on in life. I recently had Tim Kelly’s guitar make it back to me through a gentleman named Rodney Hardison. [For those unaware: Tim Kelly was Slaughter’s guitarist who tragically passed away, and one of Tim’s prized guitars was later sold and eventually acquired by Rodney]. Rodney shows up with Tim’s guitar (which I hadn’t seen in years), hands it to me and says, “I think Tim would have wanted you to have it.” It was one of those times where something was above and beyond just happenstance.
MS: That’s what I would consider a standard Slaughter-ish song. It’s reminiscent of where I came from. I wanted to write a song about everlasting love. It’s got a great melody.
AXS: Did you always know that you wanted to have a career in music?
MS: I did. I’ve always loved music and never thought about doing anything else. Records were actually one of the things my parents would reward me with for doing chores. They’d get me a record or a 45 each week as long as I kept up on them. Then when I was in fifth grade, there were two ladies who played folk music on guitar and sang harmonies. For me, it became a lesson of how did they do that? How did they get those sounds and how did they do that on guitar? Those were the questions I asked, and that’s when I started playing guitar.
AXS: Can you tell me the origin of the Slaughter song, “Fly To The Angels”?
MS: That song was written about a girlfriend who I went to high school with. I remember I came back from touring and couldn’t get a hold of her. So I asked a friend and he told me he hadn’t seen her. The next thing I know, he calls me back with the news that she had passed away and the funeral was the next day. It was one of those surreal moments. I went to her funeral and it inspired me to write a song about letting go. There’s a real sense of composure in going through those life events that I’m always very conscious of in my music. Seeing what it does for other people is why I continue to write.
AXS: Of all the highlights of your career, is there anything that stands out to you as most memorable?
MS: I always look at things in life events and things that have emotion. I remember we were doing a motorcycle rally once and I brought a Vietnam veteran up on stage. I thanked him for his service and all that he’d done and then we dedicated a song to all of our fallen brothers and sisters who’ve served. We did the rest of the show and afterward, I saw that he was in tears. I was like, “Oh, man. I’m sorry. Is everything ok?” He told me that everything was ok. He just wanted to thank me. He said that when he came back from Vietnam people spit on him and that this was the first time he ever felt thankful for what he’d done for our country. Those types of moments are the ones that make me realize I’m doing this for the right reasons. It’s not for ego or adoration. Music moves mountains and people, both mindfully and spiritually. It resonates in people’s lives. Ultimately, that’s what I want to continue to do. Let people see a brighter side of things. That’s the key!