Back to where it all started, Mark Guebert performs at The Old Grind in front of his hometown crowd on Dec. 27.
His music is now better known under the stage name Mark Shepard, and since his days in Hinton he has put together his own band, called Shepard, in Victoria, B.C.
As a Harry Collinge High School (HCHS) student, around five years ago, he played a few open mic nights at the Grind and was part of the schools’ rock and pop program.
Lead by band teacher Jayden Madsen, he formed a school band through this program and practiced twice a week before their big Alberta tour at the end of the year.
“That gave us the tour experience and [it] promoted the program to other schools,” said Shepard.
He then moved to Victoria to study computer science and music as a combined degree, while at the same time playing shows with his band, Shepard.
“Jayden [Madsen] also went to [University of Victoria] so when I went to Victoria he was telling me about all the spots to go,” he said.
His studies focus on the digital music industry that have created the technology for Spotify, Bandcamp, Shazam, and so on.
While he and one other band member were both studying, they also played gigs almost every weekend over the past two years, he said.
To make their schedules more manageable, they’ve planned to play fewer but bigger shows.
“For our big release show in September, we had an intro track that we came out to and our set was mapped out to a tee. We were given a strict time limit at the bar we were playing and they will cut you off if you go over. We rehearsed it and made sure all the transitions were down,” said Shepard.
His band released their EP called Once When I Was Young in September with four songs.
He added that he’ll likely perform all but one of those songs at the Old Grind, as one is hard to perform acoustically. Hinton can expect to hear a couple of sad songs, a couple of happy songs, but also a couple of songs about Hinton and Victoria.
His main music influence is Dallas Green from City and Colour and Alexis on Fire, he said.
“Both vocally as in technique and lyrically, he’s a massive inspiration. A lot of my first songs were very similar to his music because I didn’t have a ton of other influences at that time,” he said.
Other influences are Dan Mangan and Max Kerman, the frontman of the Arkells.
Currently, Shepard is looking for a new bassist, which has slowed them down a bit but was also one of the reasons why Shepard booked his solo tour.
“The local crowd has seen me play at the open mics but they haven’t really seen me play since I’ve taken music a little bit more seriously. I think I’ll be able to show a lot of people that I’ve been working really hard on this for the last five years,” he said.
Since being back in Hinton he also performed at the HCHS christmas concert together with Jayden Madsen and brother, Jared Madsen, who is also a teacher at HCHS.
“It’ll be cool to talk to the kids that are in the program right now and say this is a great program and this is what I’m doing with it. This is what I did with the experience I got,” said Shepard before his performance.
“There’s a lot of really talented young kids in high school, it’s really cool to see.”
When asked where the stage name Shepard came from, he explained that it was actually given to him by his older brother. Before he was born, his parents asked his brothers what middle name their new brother should have, and they liked Shepard. Despite his parents choosing another name, Shepard is now a big part of his identity and eventually became his band name.
He even re-released his 2015 EP under the stage name, including new artwork featuring the name. Mark Shepard sounded too much like a solo musician, which is why they shortened it for the band.
“We didn’t want to be labelled as a solo artist. We talked about Shepard Collective or Shepard and the blank… We knew Shepard was going to be a part of it, and we ended up just settling for Shepard as it is, it’s simple and to the point and it works nicely on a poster,” he said.
Mark Shepard performs at the Old Grind on Dec. 27, following special guest and fellow local musician Sydney Waddell.
Doors open at 7 pm, and tickets are available at the door or a link through their Facebook page, Shepard Music.