From our founder Mack Bailey:
There are people that come into our lives, and you just feel that they are invincible. Mark Elliott was that type of person for me. He had the unique ability to connect with every person he encountered and develop an authentic relationship.
Mark was a gifted writer and storyteller. His book, Sons of Starmount is a wonderful read and reflects a Garrison Keillor flavor. As I read the book I could hear Mark reading with overtones of Mark Twain. His essays provide the same experience.
His songs have hit the Billboard Top 40 charts highlighted by Neal McCoy’s version of “Every Man for Himself.” As a Nashville songwriter, he cowrote with everyone that he could. As a performer, he was a force! His powerful voice and guitar skills made you an instant fan. His partnership with Gary Culley in the band Runaway Home spanned over 30 years.
I originally met Mark back in the Washington DC folk scene in the 80’s. We loosely stayed in touch through the years. He would periodically send me a new song to listen to.
When the first music therapy retreat in 2016 was becoming a reality, I needed songwriters, and the
retreat was in Nashville, so he was one of the first people I called. He quickly agreed. Being a nurse and mental health health professional allowed him to explore the veterans’ stories that created instant trust with whoever he was paired with. It truly was special watching him work. He would have great questions to start the conversation and then listen to every word his co-writer would say. You would watch him play with his beard a little and then stand up and start pacing while holding his guitar. You could see the wheels turning. He was so cognizant of the fact that veterans have so many stories and worked hard to identify which story needed to be told in this particular song.
I am so grateful to have witnessed him writing and observe his process. As I called each of the veterans he worked with to let them know that Mark Elliott had died, each one offered immense gratitude for having met him and worked with him. As a songwriter, Mark embodied our program at every single retreat. I always enjoyed our talks and whiskey and I wish I could have one more conversation with him.