Mark HillmanThe life & times of a guitar man
Every now and then you come across a musician with the ability to share his soul
The acoustic soulful blues man
Mark Hillman is currently based in Townsville, a South Australian native and long-term resident of North Queensland, Mark has been playing guitar for 17 years, Marks music is soulful and emotional , but its his live performances that leave you with the wow factor, this man knows how evoke the soul of music
Mark finished high school in Broken Hill (NSW), after which he worked a variety of different jobs; he worked on the local mine as a metallurgy technician, before moving to Townsville (Qld) with his parents and taking a job as an IT trainee with the local TAFE. After a short stint at university doing a Bachelor of IT, and some more office-based work, Mark became a bottle shop attendant and finally a bartender.
He started playing at the local open-mic nights at the pubs in the area. Eventually he met Jeremy Hawker, the lead guitarist from a local band, and guitar tutor. After striking up a friendship, Jeremy saw something in Mark’s playing offered to teach him more. To this day, Jeremy will still critique Mark’s playing and drive him to improve.
Beginning his professional career in 2008, Mark quit his job as a bartender and took to the streets as a busker. Mainly performing on Townsville’s night club strip on Flinders Street East (affectionately called “Freedom Street” by some of the local buskers), Mark developed his abilities and built a fan-base in Townsville, mainly playing covers and improvised instrumentals.
It was during this time that Mark Hillman met Michael Bowkett (aka Tiny The Bad Teddy), the other founding member of one of Mark’s current projects, “Sons of Ra”, the pair forming a busking duo that would often gather crowds of revellers. They also worked together on a charity busking event for Camp Quality that had been organised by Tiny and was supported by Bullwinkle’s Nightclub. Over $500 was raised in a few short hours. Other local musicians, including Tasha Zappala and Luke Thomas, also contributed their talents.
In 2010, Mark joined a band (called “The Walkers”) with Ilona Bienkiewicz (now front-woman for Crossroads), Feraliza Feral Eyes and Yiss Mill. The four embarked on a journey on foot, destination Cairns Winter Solstice Festival, near Mt Garnet, N. Qld.
Playing at small town pubs and busking along the way, the band entertained crowds from Townsville to Cairns before arriving at the festival. (Mark and Feraliza arrived two days early to volunteer also). Thanks to Jake and Sue (Kit n Kaboodle Productions), whom Feraliza had recorded with in the past, and just happened to be running the Market Stage; the band ended up playing on the Sunday night, turning what had been a journey to check out a festival into the performance of their lives to date. This was also Mark’s first ever festival.
Each of the members went their own way after the festival, and Mark took with him a desire to write more of his own material, and continue his musical journey. Eventually ending up in Cairns, Mark discovered the Digger Street Arts Collective (diggerstreet.com), which was alive with activity after the festival. Finding a place full of such creative and inspiring people, Mark ended up staying for 3 months.
After returning to Townsville, Mark continued busking and started working on his own songs, and played more and more of his improvised material – which he found to work almost as well, if not better sometimes, than his cover material. Encouraged by this, he continued to work at it, building his skills and writing new songs.
Mark also began attending festivals whenever he could, and found himself returning to Digger Street Arts collective for at least a few months every year. In 2012, Mark went back to South Australia for a family visit, and travelled back to Townsville with his partner at the time (artist Hils Clair). The pair hitchhiked the entire way, taking two months to explore the places in between. During this time they survived just on money from a commission Hils had received painting a mural for a family friend of Mark’s, and his busking along the way.
This and an earlier visit to Melbourne for Rainbow Serpent Festival at the start of the year, followed by the Solar Eclipse Festival in North Queensland at the end of 2012, left Mark more inspired than ever to put everything he had into creating something original that he could share with the world.
Shortly after this he released his first EP, entitled “The Digger Sessions”, (recorded, produced and mostly written at Digger Street). This EP ran only 50 physical copies, which were given to friends, family and other artists, or sold on the streets during busking performances.
(The Digger Sessions continues to be available at Mark Hillman bandcamp.com)
Around the same time, Mark began work on another project with a producer and other musicians he met in Cairns on an experimental live/electronic project (called “Fuck Yeah! Small Dragons”). What resulted was a collaborative effort that spanned three months, producing an hour of glitch-hop and progressive psy on a 3k rig in the loungeroom of a house in urban Cairns.
This project took Mark to Sydney and Canberra for his first insterstate festivals as a billed performer (Tribal Rhythms as FYSD and Dragon Dreaming as FYSD and Mark Hillman). By this time Mark had started experimenting with looping technology, and added a 12-string acoustic guitar to his sound arsenal. After two successful performances on the Earth Stage at Dragon Dreaming, and drawing and holding a decent crowd of people while playing at the Psybus Cafe at the same festival, Mark returned home with the desire and the confidence to move things along with his performance. Acquiring a loop station, he began developing his current material, which is a blend of written tracks and improvisational frameworks using live looping and multiple guitars.
Mark spent the remainder of 2013 developing his original material and in the later parts of the year, attended Wallaby Creek Festival and Mission Evolve Music Festival over two weekends with Tiny. Volunteering to help the crew at both events; they ended up on stages in impromptu performances both as a duo, solo and with a host of other incredibly talented musicians.
Mark went home for a time after this, and by sheer luck or stroke of fate, scored a setup crew position at Woodford Folk Festival over 2013/14 new year. Getting to spend a month at Woodfordia, playing music at any opportunity, Mark was humbled to find so many wonderful people enjoying both his music, and that of his and Tiny’s duo, “Sons of Ra”.
After Woodford, Mark hit the road south with Tiny, intending to take Sons of Ra to Rainbow Serpent Festival. Mark didn’t make it, but instead stayed in Melbourne; working on his second music release, the self-produced “Finding Dragons”.
(Mark would like to thank Ross, Shane, Linc, Bossy and of course Tiny for all their support and input.)
Mark has released his “Finding Dragons” extended EP on Bandcamp and printed a limited number of physical copies for sale at his performances.
After two months in Melbourne, Mark and Tiny hit the road again, taking Sons of Ra to Regrowth Festival to open their Wildflower Stage. Mark also played a solo set in the Evolver Lounge on the Saturday night which he considers the set of his life so far.
From Regrowth, Mark headed home, returning to Townsville by late March and beginning work on his debut album and working on various collaborations. For the remainder of 2014, Mark has spent his time writing songs for the album, playing various pub gigs around Townsville, and working with community groups to set up and run various music/arts events.
The latter half of 2014 saw Mark deciding to take a few of the tracks intended for his debut album to Green Studios, to record his debut studio quality EP. This project is currently underway, with an estimated release time of early 2015.
Mark Hillman Bio taken from Mark Hillman facebook page