A little bit of “Nashville” is coming to Wilson, Arkansas.
Mark Collie made a name for himself as a country star with top ten hits, “Even the Man in the Moon is Crying” and “Born to Love You.” Described by the Grand Ole Opry as a “Rockabilly Renaissance man,” Collie has written songs for artists such as Martina McBride, Billy Bob Thornton, Tim McGraw, Randy Travis and Billy Ray Cyrus.
His success as a singer-songwriter opened the doors to opportunities to expand his skills as an actor with appearances in TV series such as “Walker, Texas Ranger” and blockbuster films such as “Jericho,” “The Punisher” and “I Still Miss Someone.” Currently, Collie plays Frankie Gray on ABC’s TV drama, “Nashville.”
Off the stage, Collie has dedicated his life to raising awareness and research for diabetes. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes more than 40 years ago, Collie has worked to provide hope for those living with the disease, raising millions of dollars for diabetes research through his Celebrity Race For a Cure. His efforts led to the establishment of the first Chair in Diabetes Research at Vanderbilt University in 2006.
Collie will play at the The Delta School (5101 Hwy 61)at 7 p.m. on July 30 as a part of the Wilson Music Series. We sat down with Colle to talk songwriting inspiration, ABC’s “Nashville” and his work as philanthropist.
Wilson Music Series: What first sparked your interest in becoming a singer-songwriter?
Mark Collie: Songwriting has always been the way I express myself. When I was a child, I was always playing around with the guitar, so I began to make up songs, stories and ideas and put them to music. My uncles and grandparents were great storytellers, so I was able to hear some really great stories and tall tales from them, which inspired me to become a storyteller through songwriting. I think growing up in a very rural setting, where there was nothing to do, gave me a fertile ground to create and to imagine (laughs).
WMS: What’s the biggest challenge of writing your own songs?
MC: You go through seasons as a writer where you evolve and your perspective changes. In the creative field, you either evolve or go out of fashion. The biggest challenge I have is writing something from a fresh perspective.
WMS: What inspires your songwriting?
MC: I start every day in the word of God, and I find hope and inspiration in that. I sometimes go to the book of Psalms and take ideas from King David – you can’t plagiarize the word of God (laughs)!
WMS: Tell me about the philanthropic work you’ve done.
MC: I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes more than 40 years ago. Since then I’ve worked to try to inspire people to take care of themselves, because it can be a catastrophic disease, and often is, but it doesn’t have to be. I’ve worked with my friends in Nashville racing legend cars for charity. We used that money to start the first research chair in diabetes at Vanderbilt in 2006.
WMS: Tell me about your character on “Nashville.”
MC: You’ll have to watch season four rerun on CMT (laughs)! I play Frankie Gray, who is the AA (alcoholics anonymous) sponsor to my friend Charles Esten’ character, Deacon Claybourne. It’s really interesting how he and I were able to explore what it’s like to deal with addiction, including relapse and recovery. I think it was good we were able to explore that because I think it helps families that are affected by addiction to see us live out a very real and honest relationship. The writers on the show are really great and allowed those characters to evolve in a very honest and sometimes painful-to-watch way.
WMS: What attracted you to the Town of Wilson?
MC: I was familiar with the area from my friend Billy Bob Thornton and my travels in Arkansas. I’ve got a lot of fans in the Arkansas and Missouri area from my travels as a singer. I’m looking forward to getting back there to see new fans from the TV show and long time fans that are familiar with the early work I did.