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About Mark Crombie

Mark Crombie Bio:
"You can only control two things – your attitude and effort."

Mark Crombie is a dynamic and highly versatile guitar player, performer and musician based in Nashville Tennessee. Mark has performed in highly respected bands in the Nashville area since 2007 – including acts, such as, Acoustic Graffiti, Burning Ground, Contagan, Homestead, NIghtTrain, Rhyno and Swolemates. Members of these bands make up some of the best musicians in Nashville. As a result of this diverse set of bands, Mark has built a repertoire of over 750 songs in genre crossing Rock, Pop, Country, Metal and R&B.  Always stage ready, Mark has been described as a great bandmate, fun to hang with, fan friendly and professional in performance throughout his career.  Current projects include the multi genre, high energy band Burning Ground and the acoustic duo Swolemates. Current ambitions include picking up shift work on Broadway, hopefully impressing enough to get regular work and/or picking up a tour.


Mark's Influences:

Mark first picked up a guitar at age 12 and was heavily influenced by players like Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Peter Frampton, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Chet Atkins, Roy Clark and BB King. As early teen years ensued players like EVH, and twin guitar bands such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Tesla and Night Ranger shaped his guitar playing forever. Mark is an avid fan of almost all types of music and is always searching for licks to steal.  Current players getting his listening attention are, Ritchie Kotzen, John Mayer, JD Simo, Vince Gill, Johnny Hiland, Greg Koch, and any other older country players.


Mark's Highlights:

Mark has played many famous local stages including The Basement, The Basement East, Bowie’s, Exit In, Little Harpeth, Loretta Lynn’s, Mercy Lounge, Springwater Supper Club and The End. Playing on shows with bands the likes of Halcyon Way, 3 Minutes to Live, Little Ozzy, Powerslave, Killing Grace, Burning Yesterday and Honey Mouth. Mark has also been privileged to play charity shows the last few years with Rare Hare by Tyson Leslie and Industrial Nights by Jonn Nicholson.  These shows bring the best of the best Nashville has to offer to the same stage to play music we all love for our loyal local fan community. Truly some of the best shows / nights of the year.

My Mission: 

"My Mission is to ENTERTAIN always!!  Be great to EVERYONE!!  Be FUN!! Play with PASSION!!

Be AUTHENTIC in everything I do!!"

My Goal: 

Rejoin the Broadway grind, continue to improve on the instrument, meet more musicians and get picked up for a tour.

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"Happiness comes from within.
True happiness comes from MORE guitars!

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Electric Guitar

My History:

My love affair with all thing’s guitar started in the summer of 1976 (I was 8) when my Dad brought home the Frampton Comes Alive album (yeah it was vinyl and I still have it!!). I remember sitting in our living room with the stereo cranked just being blown away by the energy and the emotion. We listened to that album almost everyday for a few months. Later, Dad brought home the best of Steve Miller, an ELO album and the first Boston album.  I was absolutely hooked on guitar sounds at that point. It took me a few years to convince my parents that I really wanted to play and by the time I was 12, I had taken all those albums plus anything else I could get my hands on, Led Zep, Clapton, Rod Stewart (the gasoline alley album) a few Chet Atkins records, some Roy Clark (he was an absolute killer plus a real comedian), and some BB King, set up in my room and was lost in that music every day.

I got my hands on my first guitar when I was 12 – It was a G&L model – white with a maple neck and two humbuckers. I subscribed to all the magazines – Guitar for the Practicing Musician, Guitar Player, and Guitar World. It was the only way to get tabs and learn without lessons. Putting the needle down on the record player and picking it up again and putting it back down and picking it up again – listening to phrases that I wanted to learn over and over. I was beginning to learn things and then I discovered EVH and Randy Rhoads – changed my world forever. I was obsessed with everything they did and wanted to figure it all out. When I was not delivering newspapers, playing sports or sleeping – I was sitting with the guitar and something EVH or Rhoads trying to put it all together.  Later I got into Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, The Scorpions and Journey (Neal Schon is still underrated). I was starting to be able to play what I wanted but I didn’t know what I was doing musically – I had studied scales and exercises and learned chords etc. from the magazines but I had no context for any of it. 

When I was 16, I convinced my parents to help me with lessons. We found a teacher in the town next to us – his name was Bob. He was old looking to me and he smoked a lot. But he could play anything. I of course wanted to learn songs and licks etc. He was smarter than that and taught me ALL of the chords, helped me with connecting the fretboard and taught me a basis for music theory that has allowed me to build on to this day.  I only stayed with that about a year and then went on to college (yeah, I was 17 when I hit Boston University). Everything I learned from Bob – I still use.

I also had my first band experiences in high school. Names of the bands escape me but I was fortunate to be called to play a lot. We played covers from the Allman Brothers, Lynryd Skynyrd, Boston, Billy Squier, Twisted Sister, Night Ranger, EVH, Whitesnake, Journey, Led Zep, Ted Nugent and a whole lot of others.  I was also experimenting with original music with friends Tim Adams and Carey Harmon. Tim was and still is a fantastic keyboard player and overall musician – He was much better than anyone around and knew all the music theory – he is currently teaching music in our hometown and laying that knowledge on countless musicians to be. Carey was and still is a phenomenal drummer – we always knew out of all of us that played in high school he was most likely to “make it”. He did – currently playing shows all over the globe with Railroad Earth – He even played with one of my favorite guitar players, Warren Haynes.  I was a lucky guy to have jammed with those two in our garages and basements through our high school years.

I continued my guitar journey in college. I attended Boston University to earn an electrical engineering degree. My thought on going after that degree was, first, you get an electrical engineering job when you graduate and you make money (yeah, I like my nice things) second, I like math and third, I wanted to invent something for guitar that would make it easier to sound like any guitar sound I wanted. My keyboard friend Tim could sound like strings or horns or whatever at the push of the button. I always sounded the same through my amp and pedals. I could get a few sounds but not with the flexibility that I wanted.  

So off I went with the dream of setting Boston on fire with my guitar playing and my half-baked idea of the first guitar amp / effects modeler. Keep in mind this was the mid eighties and there was nothing like what we have today from Kemper, Fractal, or even Line6. I was fairly successful in my musical endeavors, playing in various cover and original bands around the area. I was able to play at The Paradise, The Rat and a few other Kenmore Square iconic venues, along with a host of dive bars outside of Boston. I was alright in the classroom as well (Earned my degree in 4 years with a 2.95 out of 4.0 GPA). The one thing that slipped was the amp modeler dream. The reason… Convolution. yeah Convolution… It's advanced math. The first class I was in, the professor filled two giant blackboards with a proof and concluded his dissertation with – “intuitively we can see the answer is….”  I stood up in front of about 100 other students and said “intuitively to who?” … Only three people raised their hands.  I met that professor later that week and he convinced me convolution was not for me…. So, the modeler dream faded.  A few years later the guys from Line6 launched the AxSys line of amplifiers and the modelling world was off to the races.

Upon graduating from Boston University, I started working in the real world, married my first wife and settled down to start a family. I put playing in bands on the shelf but kept playing guitar for myself and learning everything I could, from theory to favorite guitar player licks to full songs.  I was into everything from Joe Satriani and Steve Vai to Vince Gill and I even took some classical lessons. I also developed the bad habit of buying and selling guitar gear. I most likely bought and sold over 100 guitars from the early 90’s to the early 2000’s. Amps and effects were the same. My biggest downfall was when Musicians Friend sent me my first catalog and I started buying direct from them – it was too easy and they kept me up to date with everything new that was coming out…  Fun, but not the most productive use of time or resource.

My best overall purchase was the Ibanez RG 321 MH guitar you see me with around town today. It came from Musicians Friend in 2004, along with a set of Seymour Duncan pickups (JB and ’59). I replaced the pick ups and that guitar has had the most musical voice ever since. It plays great and it just feels like home to me. Around that same time, I started to get the itch to play in bands again. It wasn’t until about 2006 that I was able to make it happen again. Through a one-off show with a bunch of guys that I worked with. We played our national sales meeting, on a great stage and sound system at a fantastic resort in Palm Springs CA. We did so well the bartender would not serve us after our 12-song set because he thought we were the help… Our CEO fixed that and arranged for us to play another set on the Saturday night award dinner.  That became tradition for our company from 2006 through 2017.

After that Palm Springs experience the itch became a burn and I just had to get back to performing. After a few months of fits and starts I answered an ad on MySpace for someone looking for an acoustic guitar player to do unplugged 80’s hair metal. (Yup MySpace…)  I looked at that ad for about 3 weeks before I answered. I wanted to make noise, not play acoustic guitar. I finally looked up the guy who placed the ad and listened to some of his songs online. Holy S&*$....  he was fantastic!!!!  I had never played with someone who could sing with that range and tone… I thought what the heck Steve Braun, I will be your guitar player.  
Turns out Steve lived in a neighborhood I drove by everyday to and from work.  I stopped one evening and we talked like long lost brothers for about 4 hours. We picked a song list and we started to work on the first group.  About a week later we played for the first time, Bad Day by Fuel and Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi were our first two, when Steve started to sing, I could not play, He was (and still is) just soooo freaking good. I was intimidated and felt out of place. He did not let me feel that way long and we just dove in and learned our songs. About a month into it we had about 30 down and we invited our friend Jeff Clay to join on bass and sing harmony. Steve and Jeff were great singing together and after another couple of weeks Acoustic Graffiti was born.

We played our first two shows at Starbucks in Antioch and Hickory Hollow in the summer of 2007 – packed both places and had a blast!!!  We started playing regular downtown at a few places including our standing Friday and Saturday night headlining shows at Joe’s on Second Avenue.  As we got into that we added our drummer Barry Becker and began to look for more places to play. It was all going great until early 2009 when we booked at the French Quarter (now Howling Wolf restaurant) – we were acoustic – the rest of the bands on the bill were loud, rude, aggressive rock and roll.  We did our thing well that night but all four of us realized that what we really wanted to do was make a lot of noise!!! We adapted our song list to a four-piece rock band and started to get busy again.

In the summer of 2009, we got a great break – VIP Rockstar bar had just opened and we were fortunate to get a call from our friend VIP Mike Hendershot and play one of, if not the first show at his new bar. It was a great night, we killed and Mike asked us to be the “house band”. That started a string of about four years where we played at VIP Rockstar Bar, Decades, Buffalo Billiards and a few other dives in and out of town every Thursday to Sunday night. It was great experience, I learned to entertain, I learned about the grind, and I learned to be a much better guitar player with a much larger repertoire. By mid-2013 we were all pretty burned out and throttled things back quite a bit. Acoustic Graffiti changed names to Burning Ground during this time and we decided that would be the name of “full band” going forward.

After a bit of a break, Burning Ground started to play some of the marinas around town as well as other bars and restaurants. This was ok with us as we were all kind of done with downtown grind. Born out of those opportunities was also an opportunity for Steve Braun and I to get back to our roots of playing together. We did a few acoustic duo shows together and decided we would do both the full band and the acoustic duo. Our only issue… we needed a name for the Duo act.

In 2015 our families took a vacation together to Panama City Beach, Florida. One day we walked into the t-shirt shop in Pier Park. Steve and I saw the shirts at the same time and said – "hey that’s the name!"  One shirt said Swole with half a dumbbell, the other said Mates with the other half of the dumbbell.  We both hit the gym pretty regular so we thought it fit well. Check out our Facebook page for pictures from that day in 2015 along with a 2019 reenactment with our new updated logo. Swole Mates | Facebook

We continue playing both Burning Ground shows and Swolemates acoustic duo shows from 2015 to today. We average about 60 shows a year with both acts, playing many of the bars, restaurants, and marinas in the area. Our set list has evolved over the years and we have been described as an iPod on shuffle with the diversity of material we tackle, anything from Alice in Chains, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Maroon 5 to Billy Joel, Johnny Cash, David Allen Coe and Garth Brooks, and we might Rick Roll you at any time during a show….

In late 2017, I had the great fortune of forming a band with my friends Todd Tackas on Drums, Tommy Moran on guitar and vocals and Jason Dempsey on Bass.  We played heavier rock material from AC/DC to Alice in Chains, Guns and Roses, and Van Halen along with great songs from John Mayer, Jonny Lang and even Lou Reed. A NIghtTrain show was truly an experience and we worked hard at growing and entertaining our loyal fan base. We played all around Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky and Florida, averaging about 50 shows a year in 2018 and 2019. Our final show as a band was in February 2020 in front of about 300 people packed shoulder to shoulder at MJ’s in Murfreesboro TN. It was magic that night- the highlight was our mash up of Simple Man and the end of Stairway to Heaven. When we broke into the final choruses of Stairway the place just exploded. Unfortunately, due to Covid and other issues NightTrain is currently on extended hiatus.

December of 2018, I had an opportunity to try out for the metal cover band Rhyno. Rhyno was known for playing material that not many bands would ever attempt. All of the members are well connected in the Nashville metal community and they were always playing on the coolest shows with the top original bands in the area. The ad I answered said if you can play Tooth and Nail from Dokken you might be our guy.  I soon received the set list and began to work through – Tooth & Nail, Emerald from Thin Lizzy, Fear of the Dark from Iron Maiden, Green Manalishi from Judas Priest and Into the Pit from Fight.  I met the guys at a rehearsal studio in LaVergne and came to find out lead singer Charlie Kavanaugh (Medicine Man) grew up close to me in Connecticut. We attended some of the same shows and frequented many of the same clubs. Although we never met before that day in December it felt like we were old friends. We launched into Tooth & Nail with Mark Warner on bass, Kenny Knight on guitar and Jay Peyton on drums.  I think I impressed, but they made me play it two more times to be sure it wasn’t a fluke. We finished the other songs and it seemed like I had the gig on the spot. Wrong… They had some “other” guys to consider. About a week later I got the call that I was in.

Rhyno did not play a ton of shows but when we did, we played great venues and we really challenged ourselves to dig deep on material. In February 2019 we played direct support for Little Ozzy at Little Harpeth Brewing – was a great night with Rhyno performing a set of Rob Halford classics including material from Judas Priest, Halford and Fight. Our next show in May opening for Halcyon Way we went with more Iron Maiden, a few challenging songs from Bruce Dickinson, some deep cut Metallica (closed with Creeping Death) and some AC/DC, Thin Lizzy and Fastway. At a November 2109 show, Rhyno headlining with support from Iron Maiden tribute Powerslave we introduced Max Frye on guitar and added songs from Dokken, Ozzy and Chickenfoot to our set. The highlight was Martin Motnik from Accept joining us on stage for a killer version of Teutonic Terror. Turns out that Accept original bass player Peter Baltes was in attendance that night. It was definitely a special moment for the whole band, as well as the 300 plus fans in attendance. 
The final Rhyno show was in late February 2020 – fitting that we would do our last show at Little Harpeth Brewing, where it all started for me, even though we didn’t know it at the time. We played our best show even throwing in 2112 from Rush. Little did we know Covid was coming and that would be the last we would be on stage together as Rhyno. I am forever grateful for the time in this band, my bandmates and the people I met along the way. It changed me and gave me new desire, passion and work ethic both on the guitar and as a band mate.

2019 was a crazy busy year for me. I played close to 150 shows between my time in Burning Ground, NightTrain, Rhyno and SwoleMates. The material was all over the board from strumming chords for Maggie May in my acoustic duo to shredding dual guitar harmonies with Max Frye in Rhyno. I was also fortunate to play a song at Rare Hare 9 in April that year with Kris Vox, Dave Marshall, Jack Gibson and Kurt Olson. All of those guys are pros and they were and continue to be awesome to me! Can’t thank them enough for that. If you know Rare Hare you know the guy that makes it all happen - The Tyson Leslie. Tyson gave me a shot with a great band (Playing a Y&T song Mean Streak, that I absolutely love) I will be forever grateful to him for that night and all the other great stuff he has done for the Nashville music community since then! 

From Rare Hare I was introduced to Jonn Nicholson who puts on the Industrial Music Night celebrations each quarter. I was fortunate enough to play on 8 songs on the August 2019 show and another 6 on the January 2020 show. Met so many great musicians and people through these shows that have become great friends and even band mates. Again, Covid wreaked havoc on the 2020 and 2021 schedules for these shows. Fortunately, both these two shows and a slew of other charity / tribute night shows made their return in Spring and summer of 2021. Hoping to play in these events again soon!!

2020 was not the greatest year for any of my bands or projects. From almost 150 shows in 2019 to only 40 in 2020 (counting some live stream events Burning Ground and Swolemates did from our studios and our driveways) it was just a tough year all around. I took the time to work on some guitar skills and things I wanted to do for me versus any of my band projects. By the fall, things started to open up again and I received a message from Mr. Ron Katt of Contagan. Ron was looking to rekindle the band with a new line up. Secretly, after meeting Ron about two years before, I wanted to be in a band with him. Naturally I said, Yes, I would love to play guitar for you!!  

Contagan started rehearsing in December 2020 and worked hard to get a great set of 80’s 90’s and today rock and metal together again for their loyal fans. With Egon Savino on drums and JP Stout on bass we set out in March 2021 with about 20 shows booked through June 2021 – we set out to be busy. Some highlights include play the famous Shagnasty’s in Huntsville Alabama each month and a few absolutely killer shows at Bowie’s in Nashville. The set was hard hitting with material from Metallica, Mega Death, Guns and Roses, Van Halen, Foo Fighters, Bush and Ozzy. I loved being in this band but in May of 2021 decided I wanted to pursue some other things musically. The guys were great about it, we played our shows through June and had a blast every night we hit the stage.  Contagan has found a great addition in Mr. Steve Kaynan holding down the guitar duties for them now. Go catch them sometime – you will not regret it. Its not just a show or an event, it is a full body experience.

If you made it this far – wow…  you know my history and how much I love playing guitar and playing in a band. I am currently still doing my thing with Burning Ground and Swolemates – you can catch us around town just about any time. (check out the schedule page on this site for dates). 
As of this writing I am working at picking up Broadway work, putting together another project with a really cool line up of players and I have been asked to audition for a band that I have always wanted to play with – stay tuned – exciting things in the works!!!!

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