Broken Arrow, OK is home for Mark and Shelly, a.k.a., The Dusty Pearls. Their debut, self titled, full-length album, is out and the critics are pleased. Michael D. Smith of Wordkrapht.com says, “Doubtless they will be compared to The Civil Wars if their following continues to grow but unlike other male-female duos The Dusty Pearls deserve that compliment,” Happenings at the Hollow remarked, “Their exciting mixture of country/pop/classic rock will leave you with a cheery spirit and a little spring in your step!”
“Best Song” winner in the Folk Genre for the 2014 Alchemy Songwriting Competition, and grand prize runner-up, overall, this duo’s music will get you tapping your toes and singing right along. These two story tellers at heart, Tulsa natives, met in church, and “haven’t been back since,” Mark quipped.
The Extraordinary Life
The married couple is, “living an extraordinary life,” Shelly said. “We are raising seven children between us. Music is everything. We make music to celebrate, to escape, to cope, to laugh, to cry, to dance … music is life. It’s also date night,” she exclaimed.
When it comes to making music live, “we are the core,” Mark said, “the duo, the songwriting team, the yin and the yang, sugar and spice.” While they include some wonderful musicians as part of their musical team, 50% or more of their 2016 schedule is just the two of them.
Mark and Shelly feel like they fit more in the Americana/folk rock genre’ if anything. “We aren’t pop but we aren’t country either,” Mark said. “We are classic rock junkies who love a good Led Zeppelin or Fleetwood Mac cover. We have great respect and fascination for great, but also we bring a wide variety of influences and loves that include everything from John Mayer, to jazz, to Alice in Chains and Peter Gabriel.”
Songwriting is the heart of The Dusty Pearls, and it too is a joint effort. “I give Mark tons of lyrical material,” Shelly said. “He adds a melody and then we come together to work out all the nuances and harmonies and the song is born. But some songs sit around gestating forever. It is like when you sit down to write and it effortlessly flows out of you. Then the next time you just get one sentence. It is a great sentence but that is all you get. Nothing else, so you put the pen down grab some inspiration (red wine) and nothing. Then other times it feels like this: Imagine yourself in New York City, inside a grandiose empty two story loft. The industrial piped ceilings and hardwood floors set the stage for a hair raising, goose bump inviting, acoustic experience. You and the person you love most in the world take your place on your backs, lying in the middle of the floor. You close your eyes and the music washes over you. That is what making music and writing songs together is like.”
Mark said one of the most favorite gigs in their history is in Eureka Springs, AR. This place is one of the country’s best little hidden gem artsy Ozarks mountain towns. Rowdy biker bars, eclectic cafes, and a heavy bluegrass / mountain music influence make it a wonderful venue. “We started playing there right when we first started. Three or four years ago, by chance, we scored a cafe gig. Now we are practically regulars. It’s home away from home. It was in Eureka that we cut our teeth, shed the pop country chains, embraced our comedy side and found ourselves. I’m serious – if we had never left Tulsa, we would be on a totally different path. Thank God for Eureka Springs, AR and the freedom to discover ourselves.”
Mark and Shelly both agree that music is their passion and, and as Mark puts it, “a steady hard-working part-time endeavor.” Shelly is a licensed massage therapist / naturopath / budding herbalist with a private studio, and Mark is a commercial audio / visual technology expert working in education. “In another world, another life, music would be it for us,” Mark quipped. “But since we met later in life, we make the most out of what we have.” On weekends when each of their kids are with Ex’s, they create mini-tours and getaways. “We play shows intentionally that are family friendly so the kids can come,” he said. “And then we play shows that are intentionally not kid friendly, so we can have a night off.”
“We are so humbled, privileged and thankful that people have responded positively to our music,” Mark concluded. “It’s a treat – we enjoy it so much, that we would continue to do it, even if no one listened. So it’s that much more remarkable and humbling, such a treat, that people connect with what we do. We are so, so grateful!”