Mark Andrew Pudas is a familiar face in the Twin Cities scene, having spent some time performing with his brother, Matt, in the White Iron Band and gigging around as a solo artist. This spring, he got the opportunity to play for an much larger audience when he competed as a contestant on NBC’s The Voice, the same show that propelled Nicholas David to stardom last year.
Pudas didn’t fare quite as well as David (who, coincidentally, was also once a part-time member of White Iron Band), but he says the short time he spent in Los Angeles working on the show has already given him a noticeable boost in exposure. During his blind audition, both Adam Levine of Maroon 5 and Shakira were singing his praises, and Shakira eventually chose him to compete on her team and gave him some one-on-one coaching.
I invited Pudas—who competed on the show under the shortened moniker Mark Andrew—into the studio for an interview leading up to his gig at the Fine Line this Saturday night. It will be his first show in town since appearing on The Voice.
Local Current: How did you first get involved with the show and decide to audition?
Mark Andrew: Actually a guy Tony that I used to be playing with doing acoustic gigs had kind of brought it up to me, he auditioned. Unfortunately he didn’t make it, but he told me to still give it a shot. So I went down to Xcel, did the big cattle call, waited in line for five hours to be able to sing my verse and chorus, and did that and passed through that. It’s not a short process, you kind of have to go through the preliminary stuff, which takes a couple months, and then you actually go out to California and you have to do more auditions out there before you make it to get onto the show. So I was out there for a few months before I actually got to do the blind audition.
That’s quite the time commitment for something that you’re not sure will pan out.
Yeah, luckily it turned out in my favor.
Did you have to make sacrifices or rearrange any jobs to go out to California?
Definitely. I had to miss out on the tail end of the construction season, so it hurt the pocketbook a little bit, but it was definitely an opportunity that I had to take.
You work in construction?
Yeah, my family has a company called Pudas Landscaping and Construction, and my brother runs a roofing company aspect, and my dad runs a landscaping aspect.
Speaking of your brother—is this the same brother who is in White Iron Band?
Indeed. Matt Pudas.
And you have some history with that band as well. Are you an official member?
I was a member for a period of time. That was kind of a crazy ordeal. My brother had actually blown up both of his hands trying to fill up a wheelbarrow tire, so I joined the band playing guitar for them, and then I just stuck around for two years. So I was on one album with those guys called the Devil’s Sweet Revenge, and then after a while I think we kind of wanted to go our separate ways.
So for those who didn’t get to see you audition, you covered a Bob Dylan song, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” Was that a way to pay homage to where you’re from, or are you a lifelong Dylan fan?
Kind of a combination of both. I kind of wanted to stay true to the Minnesota thing, and it’s also one of the first songs I learned to play on the guitar. Four cowboy chords. It kind of just felt right.
What was it like to audition and only sing, rather than to sing and play your guitar?
It was awkward. I didn’t know what to do with my left hand most of the time I was on stage. I actually commented on that when I was up there—you don’t actually get to see a lot of what they actually say to you, they edit it into such a short period of time, but I was up there for like 20 minutes when they were talking to me—and that was one of the things. They were like, man, you were comfortable up there. I was like, ‘You have no clue. What do I do with this hand?’ But yeah, it’s different. I mean, I always play with a guitar. That’s kind of one of my things.
What was going through your head when those chairs started spinning around? It’s so intense — well, at least when you’re watching at home, it looks very dramatic.
The blind audition, I can’t remember most of. [laughs] It all went black as soon as I walked out there. I remember just sitting in the backstage and the guy who is the executive producer of the show came out and he’s like, ‘You know, fear and excitement are the exact same emotion. It’s all in your perception of how it will be.’ And so I had a little Zen moment, and then walked out on stage and everything went black. I remember seeing Adam turn around, and not even remembering anything. And then looking back over and seeing that she’d already turned — I didn’t actually see Shakira’s chair turn. It was pretty surreal.
What is that experience like? I mean, Shakira is sitting in front of you telling you she likes your voice. Did you ever think you’d be in a situation like that?
No. It’s extraordinary. She’s an international superstar, and she’s had the opportunity to work with some phenomenal, phenomenal people. So for her to take an interest was definitely something that caught my attention.
Was there any advice that she gave you that stuck with you?
Yeah, she told me to not worry. I think a lot of artists, the biggest thing is critiquing themselves. And there was one note in the song that I had to go up to that was pretty much out of my range. And Joel Madden and Shakira were both like, just go for it. If you crack, you crack, but you’ve gotta go for it 100 percent, otherwise people won’t believe you up there, they won’t think you’re being genuine. That was pretty influential.
What’s next for you, now that you have this experience under your belt?
Well right now I’m actually trying to get into the studio and release a single here. The plan is to try to keep releasing singles until I can bring up a full album, and then I’ll have a big release party. But I want to still, while I’m still relevant, be letting people know what I’m doing, so I’m going to try to have stuff out every couple of months.
Any shows coming up?
I play May 11 at the Fine Line, it’s a Saturday night. It’s going to be a fun show. Dustin Hatzenbuhler—he also auditioned, he did the Buble song—he’ll be playing that show too, so it’ll be fun. A little Voice experience.
Mark Andrew plays the Fine Line Music Cafe on Saturday, May 11 with Dustin Hatzenbuhler and American Scarecrows. 8 p.m. $7. 18+.