Over the past few years, Mark Wright, President Show Dog – Universal Music, has become a member of the small, bold elite of Nashville music creators. With 56 #1 singles and over 40 Million accredited album sales, his richly felt and arranged hit productions – for artists as diverse as Gretchen Wilson, Brooks & Dunn, Joe Nichols and Gary Allan that have rendered it impossible for people to think of successful cutting-edge country music without considering his name. Because he refuses to consign musical innovation, stylistic progress and not least, plain old artistic passion to the boutique sidelines of the industry, Wright has assumed his place among Nashville’s handful of chief studio architects. His work represents broad-appeal country music, not as a place of stultifying rules and conventions, but a land of genuine excitement. He seeks freshness right in the middle of the mainstream. Or, as Wright himself says, “It doesn’t do any good to be hip if nobody hears it.”
Music has always consumed Wright. As a boy, he sang in the choir with his father, a Baptist Minister of Music, directed in Wright’s native home of Fayetteville, Arkansas. As a Belmont University student, he worked as an assistant to various publishers and producers, successfully finding his way—“I wanted a key to the studio,” Wright recalls, into Nashville’s professional recording arena, which fascinated him. By the late 70’s and early 80’s, Wright had already become a successful songwriter and today his credits in that realm range from compositions recorded by Amy Grant and Reba McEntire to Kenny Rogers, Alabama and George Strait. In 1994, Wright was appointed Senior Vice President of Decca Records, MCA Nashville’s now-dissolved sister label; five years earlier, he had worked as an A&R talent manager for RCA Records, a tour which ended with his co-production of the highly acclaimed 1989 multi-platinum debut of Clint Black.
Just before joining Decca, Wright’s production of Mark Chesnutt helped spawn another significant platinum career; a little later, his work with Lee Ann Womack ultimately yielded a new superstar.
Wright’s tremendous enthusiasm for music itself, he says, motivated in the early 90’s, his return to full-time record company life. “When I was an independent, I ended up doing some records because I needed to make a living,” he explains. “But then I found myself being miserable. I found myself making music that I really didn’t believe in. I decided to go back to work for a record company so I could pick and choose what music I turned my attentions to. This made me a much happier person. I really want to be passionate about every project. If I can’t, I just don’t think I can be any good at it. I need to be musically intrigued, musically satisfied.”
Before assuming his current position as Show Dog – Universal Music’s President, Mark held the same position for 3 years at Universal Records South and he was Sony Nashville’s Executive Vice President of A&R from June 2003 to December 2006. Before that he was Executive Vice President of A&R for MCA Records/Nashville. The creative executive possesses, clearly, the business acumen and awareness requisite for any high-level executive. Yet that remains not his central focus. “My contribution, the essence of what I do, is to continue to ensure that Universal be driven by music,” Wright says. Although he may have moved up in the ranks, what he hears will continue to function, for Wright, as the primary evidence. “I’m not going to begin to base my decisions on reading spread sheets,” he says. “I didn’t go to the Wharton Business School. I base my decisions on music.”
“Getting involved with artists and watching them progress,” says Wright, an enthusiastic husband and father of four, all of whom “sing like birds,” he claims, is like “having a bunch of children and watching them go off to school, getting their first driver’s licenses. It’s all one to me; the whole thing, from signing to recording to going to radio to going to retail; it’s all one big passionate thing to me. I’m a sports fan, too, so I guess you could say that I love to see the ball carried over the goal line. And if you just hand in a record, you don’t get to see that all the time. I like being a coach. But I also like being in the huddle.”
But for Mark Wright, an arranger who loves to experiment with instruments and sounds and melodies, and push them well beyond the expected, the conversation always returns to the music itself. “Artists have the key to the door,” he says. “I think it’s their responsibility to help us kick in a few more of them, provided that musically it fits their personas. Part of my place is to push that along with some of them – not to change them, just to challenge them.” Mark is currently working on projects with Joe Nichols, Randy Houser, Baylie Brown, Gary Allan and he co-produced Toby Keith’s single “Crying For Me”
Mark Wright Career Highlights
Producer, writer, executive, Mark Wright, is a member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame. He has won 4 ACM awards, a CMA award and has been nominated for 3 Grammy’s for album of the year. He was the 2007 ACM Producer of the Year. He is accredited with over 40 Million in album sales, and 56 #1 singles. He is a member of Leadership Music, CMA, ACM, NARAS, NSAI, BMI. He has produced albums for Lee Ann Womack, Gary Allan, Mark Chestnutt, Trisha Yearwood, Brooks & Dunn, Gretchen Wilson, Phil Vassar, Joe Nichols, Clint Black, Montgomery Gentry, Randy Houser & Josh Turner. He’s had 10 #1 country songs as and over 50 songs on albums, soundtracks and in movies as a writer.
Mark Wright Producer Credits