Friday, April 19Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Coffee House Sessions: Mark Sullivan

Beth Carr chats to Mark Sullivan after the first Coffee House Session of the term.

Mark Sullivan brought a mellow and mature feel to the first Coffee House after Christmas with what he deems “funky acoustic soul rock”. It has always been his dream to do music full time and I wanted to find out more about how this came about.

In early life, Sullivan was surprisingly not into music at all but that all changed after seeing Oasis unplugged on MTV. He obtained a guitar at the age of 14 and soon was choosing to play it over the classic teenage pastime of computer games. He also started to sing but in his own opinion he was bad at it, giving up for a period of time to concentrate on his band. 7 years ago he started singing again properly and has been solo for 3-4 years. However the guitar always comes first in his songs.

I was struck by the memorable nature of his songs and that was founded on the strength of his guitar playing. For him, in songwriting the melody or riff comes first and then his lyrics are written to fit this. He’s also a master of the loop pedal, something that really captured my ear. It’s a way to play alone, creating layers of music and adding that extra dimension to a song that can’t be created with just a single guitar. It’s his dream to play with a band but for Coffee House the guitar with loop sounds perfect.

For a man who’s played Wembley Arena, Tommy’s Kitchen is certainly a contrast but the familiar environment of intimate gigs suits Sullivan. The big gigs are a new thing and he finds himself somewhat detached from the audience. In smaller settings he can look people in their eyes and connect with them, which must be rewarding for someone who plays music full time.

In fact, Sullivan does little else other than gigging. He gave up his job two years ago because he didn’t want to do it, fulfilling his dream to do music full time. His aim is to survive week to week with his pub gigs but the money is secondary, his main priority is to feed the soul through music.

This is part of the reason why his previous releases are available for free on Bandcamp. There’s very little money in music sales but getting his name and sound out there gives people knowledge about him and gets them into his music. The value of enjoyment is priceless and his focus is now on his next EP, available on Spotify now.

Mark Sullivan’s next single is released next month on 10th March. You can find him on Twitter @marksullivanmus. Check out rhubarbTV’s coverage of the Coffee House Session below: