Long live The King
It’s almost 40 years since Elvis Presley died, but as Dubbo is about to find out, The King – or more precisely his music – lives on. Weekender spoke with renowned tribute artist Mark Anthony ahead of his visit to the city next weekend.
Tell us a bit about your personal and professional background?
I was born and raised in Adelaide, where as a young boy my ears and eyes were introduced to the music and styling of Elvis Presley.
Immediately loving this phenomenon, I immersed myself in everything Elvis and quickly found I had a natural talent for imitating The King. It wasn’t until 2004 that I decided to seriously and professionally portray Elvis with as much respect as it deserves.
I come from a very musical family going back to grandparents being involved with orchestras.
When and why did you start performing?
My first appearance was a benefit for a family member with leukaemia, and I haven’t stopped performing since, growing with strength and popularity as the shows became larger. These days I tour throughout Australia, America, Canada, Malaysia, UK and Europe all year ‘round.
What were the first songs you learned?
I don’t really remember. I’ve been an Elvis fan ever since I can remember, so I guess it’s just been a part of me from a very young age.
And your family is musically talented also?
As I said, my grandparents were involved with orchestras. My Father is a drummer and still plays to this day. He has played for more than 50 years. My brother is a guitarist; in fact he plays for me in my touring band. His style is so very similar to that of James Burton who used to play for Elvis in the 70s.
Which singers do you admire and have learned from? Why?
Frank Sinatra, his phrasing and timing. The Beatles, great harmonies; Dean Martin, his ease of singing.
Of course Elvis - he had a way of singing every line, as if it would go from his mind to his heart and then out the mouth. I believe you need to feel every word that leaves your lips, otherwise it’s not worth singing. Unless it’s just a great fun song.
Who was your first teacher and what have been other influences?
I guess my father and brother were my first teachers. They both influenced me in the style of music I appreciate today.
A big influence on my music is Bruce Springsteen. His story telling is amazing.
What are your fondest musical memories?
I think the first time I performed at Her Majesty’s Theatre with this show to a sold out crowd, really gave me a sense of achievement. Especially since I had created this show specifically to be for Elvis fans. I really wanted to put the spotlight back on the man himself and I guess the fans understood that. I was very excited and humbled and appreciative of that time.
How were you influenced by older records and tapes?
I would sit in front of my father’s old turntable – one of the ones where the front would open down and the lid would open up. My brother and I would sit for hours at a time just going through his vinyl albums, looking and listening intently.
Have you competed? What is your biggest career highlight to date?
I’ve competed extensively, winning numerous competitions around the world. However I don’t compete any more. It’s been a few years. I made a promise with a very good friend of mine never to compete again. I’m far too busy these days to take the time off.
What’s been the biggest challenge in your career?
My biggest challenge is taking about 70 plane flights a year (laughs). I spend a lot of time in the air.
How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
I laugh them off. But they rarely happen. There’s nothing you can change or do about a mistake in life, you can’t change it once it’s happened, so the best thing to do is have fun with it and laugh about it.
Do you get nervous before a performance?
Not any more. I get anxious now. I love being out on stage. Probably more nervous in front of a small crowd than I am a big one. The sound a huge crowd makes is very motivating and helps me to perform at my very best.
What are you looking forward to most about coming to Dubbo?
I’m looking forward to being able to
“I believe you need to feel every word that leaves your lips, otherwise it’s not worth singing.
take a good look around. Hopefully I’ll have time. Usually we just fly in, perform, and fly out. So hopefully I get time to take in the sights.
How often and for how long do you practice for shows like this?
We have been in rehearsals for about a month now.
How do you balance your music with other obligations?
I have a seven year old daughter in Adelaide so as much as possible I try to get back to spend time with her.
Do you think you’d be endorsed by the man himself?
Not sure about the man himself but Elvis Presley Enterprises has endorsed me. There’s only about seven of us they have done that for, I think.
What’s the trick to getting the American accent down pat?
I’ve always had a knack of being able to imitate accents so it comes easily to me. Plus, I have spent many years performing in the US and being around them you tend to end up sounding like them.
Have you ever met other Elvis tribute singers? What was that like?
Yes I am friends with many of them. In fact I think I’ve met most of them and still remain in contact them all. We are all very good friends.
What type of preparation goes into being a successful tribute artist?
Sacrifice. A lot of dollars spent on getting the correct costumes made by the same people who made Elvis’, that kind of thing, instruments etcetera. But mostly it’s a bit of a sacrifice from the normal life.
Do you think there will ever come a day when you get tired of the songs?
I will never get tired of Elvis music. That’s the reason I chose to perform as the King – its timeless music and always so much fun to perform.
Do you have any funny stories from experiences on or off stage?
I frequently go into a big story on stage about the next song that’s coming up and then after a few minutes of talking about the song I then turn to the band and they are shaking their head at me saying “that’s not the next song”.
Mark Anthony will be performing at the Dubbo Regional Theatre and Convention Centre on Friday, February 5 from 8pm in Elvis – If I Can Dream.