Mark Tremonti has already proven himself as one of the greatest guitarists working in hard rock.
But outside of riffing in Alter Bridge and his solo band, his heart is in giving back to the community, partnering with the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) for his movement Take a Chance For Charity. To raise money, he has been moonlighting as an old-school crooner, making an album of Frank Sinatra covers titled Mark Tremonti Sings Frank Sinatra with the same touring band Ol Blue Eyes used.
The album itself also comes as one of the biggest surprises in metal this year. Mark has done his homework and has a vocal range similar to Sinatra, with an added gravel from his own background. This is as far away from Alter Bridge as you can get, but it’s an amazing ride to go down.
The fun hasn’t stopped for Mark either, having performed yesterday in Orlando singing Sinatra.
“I had loved singing Sinatra just in my spare time and had been working myself up to actually perform it,” Tremonti says. “I think I’ve put more into this musically than I’ve put into anything my whole life. I’ve been listening to Sinatra’s music forever. I spent hundreds of hours going through and sort of analyzing everything that he did. ”
Outside of the album though, Mark’s challenge to get outside of your usual wheelhouse is what metal needs today. Life is always about taking chances, and musicians will be doing it for a good cause when they jump on board.
Mark has more than a few musical tricks up his sleeve, but underneath all of that headbanging is a heart of gold that’s looking to do some good. You have a lot of weight on your shoulders in the public eye, but Mark is the perfect example of the best the metal scene can do when coming together for a good cause.
For anyone looking to get involved, head here and you can donate to the cause to raise money for Down Syndrome.
We sat down with Mark about what makes this charity drive so important to him.
The Pit: What was the defining moment that made you want to partner with the NDSS?
Mark Tremonti: It all started when my daughter was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. When we got that news, the lightbulb went off about giving back. It’s close to home for me and assisting the foundation has become my new cause in life, so we do our best to support in whatever way we can. I wanted to raise as much money as I could for families that are going through the same problems with their children. This project is the start of my new purpose in life.
There’s also a bit of a challenge to fellow musicians with Take a Chance For Charity.
The whole point of Take A Chance was to get musicians out of their comfort zone. The goal is to challenge the fanbase by showing a side of yourself that you wouldn’t normally show. It doesn’t even have to be for music either. I was talking with Tyler Connolly [from Sevendust] and he’s actually going to be raising money by running the Boston Marathon. It’s more about shocking your fans with what you can do. I want it to be almost like what the Ice Bucket Challenge was for ALS, where musicians challenge each other to work outside of their wheelhouse.
The list of supporters online has been stacked as well including Slash, Paul Stanley, and Kirk Hammett. How has the support been from your fellow musicians?
When everything started, we were actually working to get people outside of my general wheelhouse as well. It’s not just with music either. I wanted to challenge anybody with a platform to get involved. Some of the first people we worked with for Take a Chance were actually [comedian] Larry the Cable Guy and [WWE Star] Edge. While out on tour, I was talking to the guys in Halestorm about potentially getting involved as well. I’m just trying to make sure I can get people to commit. When it comes to getting other musicians involved, people say one thing in person but it takes a lot of work to actually get it done.
Is there any chance we could see something like this out of Alter Bridge? Maybe a cover album with the rest of the guys?
I wasn’t looking to get the rest of the band into the equation when it started, but I definitely want to do something with them later. I had already talked with Scott [Phillips] and Myles [Kennedy] about getting involved. You might be seeing something from us…
You also mentioned working with Frank’s original band on the project. Was there ever a moment when everything came together?
When we came in, we knocked out the first two songs ‘That’s Life’ and ‘Luck Be a Lady’ and that’s where everything really started to click between us. But when you’re singing something like ‘Fly Me To The Moon,’ you’re just making sure you can add something to the performance that wasn’t there before.
Did you end up playing any guitar on the record or was it strictly singing?
Mainly singing. I had made a conscious effort before going in to do something different, so there wasn’t really any guitar playing from me. When working with the band, I was more focused on the direction of the song and what kind of arrangements we would be using.
Pit: Were there any songs that were more of a challenge for you?
I made an effort to come in knowing the songs like the back of my hand. But when you’re singing something like ‘My Way,’ you want to make sure it stands out against the original, so we went with a nylon string guitar and turned it into more of a ballad than what the original did.
There were some that were challenging for the band. Like ‘Nancy With the Laughing Face’ was about keeping up with the different key changes and time signature changes that happen throughout the song.
You’ve also been wrapping up some Sinatra shows overseas. How has the reaction been from the crowds?
It’s been great. Mostly the crowds are fans who want to see me sing Sinatra, but this is one of the first shows where I’m seeing moms and grandparents coming to the shows. There are people there who would never turn up at an Alter Bridge show. It’s a much more family-oriented show this time around.
You also were giving away guitars on your recent tour. Your post on Instagram showed you in Milan handing one off to a young girl in the crowd.
We actually had gotten in touch with her before the show. We had heard that she had Down Syndrome and was a big fan, so we brought her down to soundcheck. Once we played the show, I brought out one of my guitars for a song and said ‘Whoever’s the craziest fan gets this guitar,’ and handed it off to her. We still keep in touch with her family as well. They had sent us messages and pictures of her with the guitar and being so happy. Seeing her reaction was one of the greatest feelings in the world.
What would be the long-term goal of Take A Chance?
My initial goal for the whole project was to generate about $100 million dollars for charity. And if we were to get as much as 100 other musicians onboard with it, the numbers would go through the roof.
The ‘outside of your comfort zone’ angle is definitely going to be intriguing for musicians.
It almost gives musicians the green light to do whatever else they would want to do other than their main gig. I wanted to use Take a Chance almost like a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for musicians. To try something that’s way out of context. It’s like you could be one of the heaviest metal guys in the world and then do ballet and it would be totally fine. And if it goes well, it can also open up a whole different career for you.
What’s the most rewarding moment to come from the charity?
Just seeing the look on the faces of the people we’re helping. When I gave away that guitar in Milan, seeing how happy that girl was what made it all come together. You see the people that you help and when they get so happy you realize ‘that’s what it’s all about.’