“I’ve been playing guitar every day since I was nine years old,” says Mark Ballas, an entertainment veteran who’s spent the past six years making a name for himself on ABC’s competition series “Dancing With the Stars.”
He describes his sound as “something you can move to.” During a recent live performance at the Sayers Club in Los Angeles, where he currently holds a bi-weekly residency, that compulsion to move to his songs becomes all too apparent.
In front of a nine-piece band, complete with a full horns section, he belts out tracks that are built for a club setting, and dances right along with everyone around him.
When offered the word “intense” as a descriptor of his live act, Ballas agrees. “Intense is a good word,” he says, laughing.
“DWTS” proved to be the reason Ballas relocated to Los Angeles, but it wasn’t always in the cards. Before picking up the regular network TV gig, he was making a living on the musical theater circuit, playing shows like Copacabana and The Buddy Holly Story.
Music is in Mark's blood. Ballas grew up in a family of performers. His father was a Flamenco guitarist and his grandmother was a famous Flamenco dancer.
As a teenager, he developed a taste for jazz, rock and funk, and soon began incorporating those genres into his sound. Fast forward to today: Ballas, 27, not only touts an impressive fanbase, but he’s also shared the stage with the likes of Robin Thicke, will.i.am and Prince. It’s a sturdy jumping off point for his next project—a debut album he expects to release in early 2014.
In the studio, Ballas is working on recording what he hopes will introduce people to a new sound and a hearty body of work.
“It’s a pop record, but it’s definitely got essences of funk and Flamenco. … It’s very soulful in the lyrics and the melody, but it’s still a pop album,” he says of his debut release. “It sounds like my personality.”