We sat down with Nashville singer-songwriter Mark Elliott to interview him about his new book The Sons of Starmount, which is about childhood innocence and adventure, to see what the response has been since he released it back in February. The audiobook will come out in the fall. There also is a companion EP Sons of Starmount now available.
The book was born from Elliott’s love of songwriting, blogging and telling stories about his childhood. We found the book intriguing, quirky, funny and reminiscent of what life was like growing up in the South in the late 70s. Everyone who grew up in that era had a pack of friends who were adventurous, who dared us to do things, who we got in trouble with and who helped us shape who we are today. Elliott’s book takes you back to days when kids let their imaginations captivated them, and before children lost their innocence to screens and instant notoriety.
Where did you get the idea for your book?
Mark Elliott: I’ve been a singer/songwriter for the past three decades, and have written for many of Nashville’s music publishers. With the music business changing by the day, and sometimes not for the better, I thought I’d search out the one creative industry uglier and more poverty-producing than music. I found it in being an author.
Mark Elliott: In all seriousness though, starting a blog a few years ago, and having the room (500-1,000 words a week) to write, intrigued me and sparked a new interest in writing. I enjoyed having room to develop thoughts beyond a two-and-a-half-minute song. As I began thinking beyond the blog, a book seemed the next step for me.
“The memories of friends, the outdoors, and all the adventures I had on Starmount, in 1977 have stayed with me throughout my life I wasn’t necessarily looking to start my author career with a memoir, but you tell the story begging to be told,” said Elliott.
What is the Sons of Starmount from your perspective?
Mark Elliott: We all have a place and time in our childhoods that help define the adults we eventually become. Seeds are planted, and habits are formed. The experiences and relationships we share when the world is still wild, and our hearts are still open to it all – sculpt a life like the forces of wind and water do upon canyon walls and ancient river beds. This is the story of how an era as free as the seventies, with its parental permissiveness and music, coupled with a one-in-a-million neighborhood filled with friends, swamps, creeks, woods and tree forts, set in motion a creative and adventurous life rarely devoid of either.
What did your friends think of The Sons of Starmount?
Mark Elliott: Two or three of the old friends seemed interested and enthusiastic and helped to fill in my 40-year-old memories. And others were either care-a-less about me telling our story or outright uncooperative. It had been 40 years since I had seen all of them and nearly 20 since I had seen some of them. I thought that the dilution of time and circumstance was the main problem.
Mark Elliott: But in writing the book and having some of the conversations, it became clear that I left Starmount at the perfect time. I left the neighborhood while the waters were still wild and the trees were still tall. I left before the bull dossiers pushed through the dead end and the woods, all the way to the mall parking lot. The rest of my friends, those who stayed on Starmount through their teen years, witnessed the slow undoing of Neverland, to the point where it was just another street in any town USA.
What do you hope people take away from the book?
Mark Elliott: The stories in the book are, I hope, funny and poignant, and filled with an Americana zeitgeist that most will relate to. My earnest hope for the reader is that they find their own Starmount, no matter what generation or geography it may lie in. The experience of finding those straight lines between the man or woman you’ve become and the boy or girl you once were, is a unique one. The journey is not always easy or obvious, but I believe it to be for all of us, a journey well worth the taking. I hope my Starmount points the way to the reader’s Starmount.
Mark Elliott and Runaway Home
We first met Mark Elliott and his band Runaway Home six years ago in Alabama at the Black Creek Arts Festival. The band was the headliner for the festival. He continues to tour with the band. He also has received accolades for his songwriting. The song he wrote for Neal McCoy, Everyman for Himself, hit the top 40 Billboard Chart. Billboard called the song, “a song with rare lyrical and musical edge and the best cut on the album.” He also has written other award-winning songs. Elliott is currently working on Rippers, a novel with co-author Joe Johnston. Click to purchase The Sons of Starmount and companion EP.