The Twin Cities music scene nurtures an abundance of notable talent. In the mix, some local performers, like Eden Prairie’s own Mark Andrew Pudas, break through with a rare opportunity to sing in front of a huge television audience on a popular singing competition show. Pudas displayed his talent to music lovers nationwide as a contestant on the fourth season of NBC’s hit show The Voice which concluded in June. Now back home in Minnesota after losing in a battle round performance on April 16, Pudas continues his musical journey with studio recording and performing near his hometown stomping grounds.
The singer grew up in Eden Prairie and attended Eden Prairie High School, where his mother worked for 37 years as a physical education teacher. He jokes about always getting A’s in gym class and says his musical genes come from his father’s side of the family. His grandfather sang in church choirs. His father performed in military bands, and his brother Matt is also a musician. “Matt is six years older, and I’ve always looked up to him,” Pudas says. “I even played with his group, the White Iron Band, for a while.”
As a teenager, Pudas practiced his guitar five hours a day. He performed with high school bands and, unlike many teens unsure which career track to choose, Pudas knew music would be his path. “I didn’t want to do anything else,” he says. Well, except maybe work for the family business, Pudas Landscaping and Construction. “Working as a landscaper gives me the flexibility to leave early for a gig,” he admits. “It’s also another creative outlet I enjoy.”
Pudas’s creativity is apparent in his singing, guitar playing and song writing. His musical style is grounded in rootsy Americana, evident in the 10 tracks he wrote for his self-titled album, Mark Andrew. “I like to explore all musical styles,” he says. “I’ve been influenced by bands like Pink Floyd and Fitz and The Tantrums, and solo artists like Ryan Adams. Music with a bluesy feel is where I’m most comfortable.”
His poetic songs tell stories of people he’s known or of shared human experiences like romance or working through awkward phases of life. The track “Sunshine” on his self-titled album is about a homeless friend who hitchhiked across the country, eschewing handouts or any desire to be rich. “Not Cold But Broken” is a self-portrait of traversing through what Pudas called a “weird spot” in his own life.
Pudas describes his songwriting process as loose, sitting down in his living room and writing with the TV on to distract him if he gets stuck. He tries to record songs on videotape right away, because it’s too easy to lose a great idea. Some songs are written in 15 minutes; others take up to six months to perfect the lyrics or get a bridge just right.
The bluesy sound of Bob Dylan’s classic “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” was Pudas’s choice for his blind audition on The Voice. His performance convinced both Adam Levine and Shakira to turn their chairs, indicating their interest in coaching him in the competition. Pudas chose Shakira, because of her experience with a broad international audience. “I was intrigued by the opportunity to touch people outside the United States,” he says. “Plus, my wife loves Shakira.”
For Pudas, the experience of being a contestant on The Voice was like living—and singing—in a fantasyland. Performers were sequestered together and given amazing opportunities, like recording vocal tracks in the same studio where “We Are the World” was recorded in 1985. “It was crazy,” Pudas says. “Getting to work with The Voice band was out of this world. Working with that level of professionalism helped me grow as an artist.”
As for memorable feedback from The Voice coaches, Pudas says both Shakira and Joel Madden from Good Charlotte encouraged him to be more confident. “It’s easy to be self-conscious on stage,” Pudas says. “But Shakira and Madden stressed the importance of selling a performance to the crowd. I’m better able after my experience with The Voice to walk out there and be present in the moment.”
Pudas uses that bolstered confidence playing shows with Absolute Gruv in the Twin Cities. He is also preparing to release his new solo single, “Ooh eeh” and a few other songs performed with brother Matt, to be released as Pudas Brothers sometime in the near future.
For more information about concerts and the release of Mark Andrew Pudas’s new single, visit his website. He plays November 21 at Famous Dave's in Calhoun Square; 8 p.m., all ages.