Why “Rocky Mountain High”?

In today’s hard-to-get-recognized music business, when a new artist is breaking onto the scene, labels often suggest a cover song be included on their debut release. This ensures that listeners already have some familiarity with the music. To maximize this tactic the song selection is crucial.

When the label approached me about doing a cover song on “The Gasoline Blues” the wheels in my head immediately began to turn. Doing another artist’s song can be dangerous territory. If you don’t live up to the original version people will tear you up. And if you don’t make the song your own, they will say you have no creativity. Making a good choice was critical. We needed to select something we could update, and personalize too, that would be the perfect song for the project.

When I was a little boy living in a small suburb of Denver Colorado, my mother introduced me to the world of music. The song she played for me that I remember most was “Rocky Mountain High” which made it my first choice to cover. But, this was not the main reason I wanted to re-do the song. Rather, it begins poetically with lyrics that describe the story of my life.

The song begins: “He was born in the Summer of his 27th year; coming home to a place he’d never been before. He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again. You might say he found a key to every door.”

Prior to my relocation to Baltimore, where my CD was recorded, I was tending bar in south Florida and not accomplishing much. I had given up my musical aspirations and was just barely existing. Then one morning I woke up and realized – I wanted more from this life and was determined to do something about it. I was 26 years old and my life was about to take an unexpected turn down an old familiar road. You could say I was born again in the summer of my 27th year when I began recording again. And yes, I certainly left my old life behind to begin this exciting new journey!

It was clear, John Denver’s song would be my obvious choice to cover.

When I first told my producer Dave Simmons I wanted to do Rocky Mountain High he was reluctant. If you’re going to do a song that’s 40 years old, you have to carefully update it without losing what made the song special to begin with. After banging around ideas we decided to speed it up and turn it into a quick two-step. The song turned out great! In fact, it sounds exactly like I had imagined when I first thought about covering it. I’m really happy with the results, and hope you will be too!

– Mark Bray

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