Arts Performing Arts

Music Feature: Mark Bumgarner

Just Above the Waterline

From an early age, Mark Bumgarner was absorbing, understanding and connecting to the music all around him, including musical television shows, live string music at a little country church, local Battle of the Band competitions and a concert by Doc and Merle Watson. “I was drawn like a moth to a flame,” Bumgarner says of seeing the Watsons play. “It wasn’t until I was 14 that I actually picked up a guitar for the first time with any intent, but I know now that I was a musician long before that.”

The latest album for the Asheville musician, Just Above the Waterline, is scheduled for release on June 2. “One thing I am proud of on this record is that no two songs sound the same,” Bumgarner says. “There is a common thread that runs through them all, but I do try to change things up from song to song. I tried to maintain a balance of tones and textures between the electric and acoustic instruments without anything being too overpowering or repetitive.” Like many musicians who grow up with the rich sounds of Southern and traditional music, Bumgarner’s many influences mean that he struggles to describe his own music, a blend of country, rock, bluegrass and blues. “Southern Americana is a description that I think fits it best,” he says. “Lyrically, it’s the musings of a man who has more years behind him than in front of him.”

Bumgarner last performed live on March 15 and says he is not sure what to expect moving forward. “There’s no one that hasn’t been affected by COVID-19, some more than others,” he says. “I’m sure things will eventually come back, but who knows when?” Releasing an album during this time feels odd, he says. “But it has allowed me the time to get a lot of things done in preparation for the release and to take a step back to, hopefully, better prepare for the next phase.” He is working now on putting together an online streaming event in conjunction with the album’s release. “This pandemic has certainly sparked a lot of creative endeavors, so I’m looking forward to seeing what other interesting pivots my fellow musical colleagues come up with.”

To learn more or to purchase the album, visit or Bumgarner Music.

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