Mark D. Conklin on Making the "Gospel of Mark" Come Alive Through Songs and Spoken Words

Mark D. Conklin

Uniting a veritable who's who of Gospel, soul and country music luminaries for a uniquely inspired collection of song and spoken word, The Gospel According to Mark has been released from StowTown Records. Created by and featuring acclaimed singer/songwriter Mark D. Conklin, the project's 12 standout musical collaborations are interwoven with 12 Scripture vignettes voiced by iconic songstress Gloria Gaynor.  
Produced by Conklin-who also wrote or co-penned each musical selection-and GRAMMY winner Mark Prentice, the project offers fresh perspective on the New Testament book of Mark, chronologically conveying the account of Jesus' life, death and resurrection. With Gaynor's narrations anchoring every song, The Gospel According to Mark showcases musical contributions from renowned actress and singer Rita Wilson; internationally revered collegiate ensemble The Fisk Jubilee Singers; Gospel trailblazers The Fairfield Four; the "Queen of Bluegrass" Rhonda Vincent; Southern Gospel leaders Ernie Haase & Signature Sound; GRAMMY-winning recording artist John Berry; and '80s country hitmaker T. Graham Brown, among many others.   

Q: Mark, thank you for doing this interview with us. Tell us a little about yourself and your current ministry.

Thank you for the opportunity! I've been in and around the music business for many years as an artist, songwriter, producer, and music executive. More recently, I've worked as a host and interviewer for the East Coast GRAMMY Museum at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. But after being away from the faith most of my adult life and returning about 13 years ago, I knew I wanted to use my musical talent to help build the Kingdom in some small way, I just wasn't sure of the direction I should take. It wasn't until the inspiration for this album was given to me that I finally found "my lane." So, I'm hopeful this project will help properly launch my music ministry, and with God's help, I'll be able to grow it in the years to come.

Q:  Why did you create an album around the Gospel of Mark? 

I knew what I wanted to do musically with the project. I wanted to go back to the rock 'n soul/gospel roots I cut my teeth on as a young musician. But I wasn't sure what I would write about from a lyrical perspective. So, one day I asked God, "What do you want me to write about?" And I heard a voice within say, "The Gospel According to Mark." At first, I laughed out loud because I thought it was a funny title, pun intended. But after thinking about it a bit more, I realized we could literally tell the Gospel of Mark but do it in a fresh way with Scripture narration and accompanying songs. I was named after the writer of the Gospel, so it was perfect on many different levels.

Q: You have Gloria Gaynor reading 12 vignettes of Scripture. How did you get to work with Gloria? What was it like to work with her?

A lot of the inspiration to do this project came from Gloria Gaynor. I met her when I was hosting the "An Evening With..." series at the GRAMMY Museum at Prudential Center. While I was preparing for the interview, I listened to her album "Testimony" a number of times and really loved the "old school" R&B/soul vibe of the record. That's what gave me the idea to put my own spin on something like that. Once I decided I needed a narrator, I thought it might be nice to have a female voice reading the Scripture. One day, while I was editing the interview I did with Gloria at the museum for a podcast, I realized her voice was exactly what I was looking for! I reached out, and much to my everlasting surprise, she agreed to do it. We spent a day together in a studio in Long Island, and she was a consummate pro. She was very much invested in making sure we got everything right. It was a joy!

Q: On this new record, you have special guests from country, bluegrass, and Christian music. Was it your vision to include such a wide range of artists?

I started working on this project during the "lockdown" phase of the pandemic. During that time, like a lot of people, I was discovering and watching the TV series "The Chosen." I loved the idea of seeing the Gospel through the eyes of the people who experienced it with Jesus. So, that was sort of the inspiration to have a lot of singers on the project and to give it more of a diverse "cast" feeling.

Plus, I thought twelve songs would be more interesting with a variety of voices and not just my own. Musically, I'm a big fan of American roots music from the 1950s-1970s. I love the places where the genres of country, rock, soul, blues, and gospel intersect. That's the kind of album I wanted to make, and the various voices of the featured artists seemed to blend and work perfectly to achieve it.

Q: With artists like Fisk Jubilee Singers, Wendy Moten, John Berry, Rhonda Vincent, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, and Rita Wilson on the record, do you have any interesting stories to share in terms of working with these giants in the music industry?

Probably my favorite memories of working with everyone are before we started most of the sessions, we would pray together. Often, it was the featured guest who would lead the prayer. Those moments really set the tone for the recording sessions, and they stand out in my memory. Also, I've been able to interview many of them afterward and talk about our song, our shared faith, and their faith journey. I'm posting those on my webpage at for folks to watch. Getting to know these artists through those interviews has been really enlightening and rewarding too.

Q:  Tell us more about the album's single "The Greatest is Love." Why are you excited about this song?

Wendy Moten is the featured artist on this song, and she's just a soulful powerhouse. Her performance really stands out on the track, but the overall energy and vibe from the band are really outstanding too. The feedback I've received on the song and the track has been tremendous. People tell me it's not only uplifting and inspiring, but it gets them moving too. That's a win for any single, I think!

Q: How do you wish these songs would impact your listeners and their faith journey?

My hope is that the songs will reach people who've heard these stories dozens or hundreds of times and that it will give them a fresh perspective on the meaning behind them and how it impacts their lives today. And God willing, for those that have never heard these stories, it will help bring them closer to the word of God. If the album does nothing else besides those two things, I think it will be a great success.




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