Lance Corporal Mark Blacknell was not unlike other infantry Marines that put their lives on the line for their country.
“I was on a helicopter op with the Seals back in 1992 when my harness broke causing my backup rope to pull tight around my chest. There I was hanging from two thousand feet, in excruciating pain, struggling for air and thinking that my life was over. Then I passed out.”
Not long after surviving the accident, Blacknell’s enlistment was up and he found himself struggling to transition back to civilian life.
“One day I’m hanging from a chopper nearly dead and the next I’m in college hanging out with all the other freshman at the student union. Like so many other vets, I turned to alcohol to cope with not fitting in but thank goodness, I also turned to nature and music.”
After earning a master’s degree from Widener University, Blacknell went into the nature conservation profession, serving as a Pennsylvania state park ranger, environmental policymaker for former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Producer/Director of the award winning documentary movie “Woke Up Alive” that explores how nature and music bring people together in Israel. He also worked at Haleakala National Park on the Island of Maui, Hawaii for five years and currently serves as an administrator with the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Vero Beach.
Inspired by his remarkable journey, Blacknell continues to write and perform his own original material.
“Over the last twenty years, I have personally experienced the awesome power of music and nature. I no longer view music as entertainment or nature as a resource to be exploited. Music and nature are universal and they inspire and even empower people all over the world. This is why I will never give up on either my music or my planet.”
Blacknell’s commitment to songwriting has finally paid off, recently signing a new deal with Sugo Music Group of San Francisco, a trusted name in the industry for over thirty years.
“In many ways the music business is as tough as the military. You have to be courageous and confident but then again, you can’t get cocky because your ego is often your worst enemy. I am by no means a rock star but you know that you’ve survived in this industry, when you have a team of professionals focused on making you money, instead of taking your money.”
A bevy of life experiences best define the bold story-telling in Blacknell’s new, thirteen song album “When Rain Was Fun” available November 25th through Itunes and other internet outlets.
“The title of this second album represents how I think today. One day during a sun shower, I took my four year old daughter out to play in the rain. While wearing one of those cute, plastic rain outfits with matching boots and umbrella she looked at me and said, Isn’t rain fun daddy? Almost on cue, a magnificent rainbow filled the sky. Typically as we grow older, rain becomes an afterthought (even a nuisance) but really my daughter has it right, rain is not only fun and critical to life but beautiful if you really pay attention to it. The same can be said for music.”
Blacknell is in the process of recording his third album at the world-class studios of Full Sail University in Winter Park. His band is made up of talented, industry pros including former “Firefall” member and Florida rock legend Bob Gaffney on guitar; Bass player Steve Saunders, former member of Cleveland’s iconic band “Fayrewether,” as well as “Smoking Man” one of Florida’s most popular cover-bands; On drums is Steven Kleisath, best known for his work with national acts like “Further Seems Forever”; and keyboardist Matt Roberts who is a successful Treasure Coast area solo performer in his own right. Blacknell and band will be performing live at select venues across the region starting in early 2015.