About Damon Marks
While it appears as though an increasing amount of rock guitarists had become “one dimensional” circa the early 21st century, there were exceptions to the rule, such as Damon Marks. To prove this claim, all you have to do is inspect the varied artists he has played with over the years, including R&B/gospel singer Jermaine Paul and rocker Bret Michaels, among others.
Born on October 6, 1971 and raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Marks’ roots lay in hard rock and heavy metal shred guitar - Ozzy Osbourne’s Randy Rhoads and Dokken’s George Lynch being two early influences. “I was at the prime age for the ‘80s infusion of heavy metal, hard rock and hair metal,” recalls the guitarist. “I started playing the guitar at age eleven and never put it down since. I was so addicted to the guitar that I took a job at the Cranford Guitar Center at 16, where I practiced for endless hours every day and took guitar lessons.”
During the early 21st century, Marks worked alongside the band Lipstick Magazine (fronted by singer Toni Loyas) - not only supplying guitar on the group’s self-titled debut from 2008, but also, co-producing the recording alongside Grammy Award-winning engineer and multi-platinum producer Mike Plotnikoff. The group was subsequently introduced to a whole new audience when they shared bills with such renowned rockers as Yes, Extreme, Sebastian Bach, Ratt, and Winger, among others, and have also issued a concert recording, Live in NYC.
As a result, Marks’ talents attracted the attention of others, including Poison singer Bret Michaels inviting the guitarist to join him for a solo performance of Poison’s pop metal classic, “Talk Dirty To Me,” at a show in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 2009. But in 2010, Marks’ big career break occurred, when he hooked up with R&B recording artist (and winner of “season 2” of The Voice), Jermaine Paul, which led to backing Paul as an opening act for Alicia Keys tour in support of The Element of Freedom, which included a performance at Madison Square Garden in New York City. “Getting to play at Madison Square Garden was definitely my big break, an accomplishment I'll remember forever,” says Marks.
Additionally, Marks has supplied guitar for the pop-punk act Back to Good (who issued a self-titled six-track EP in 2013), as well as the R&B/gospel act, Livrè (appearing on 2016’s Jericho: Tribe of Joshua). In 2016, Marks founded a Journey tribute band, Frontiers (titled after the group’s hit 1983 album), performing consistently at theaters and outdoor festival/summer concerts. Damon is also endorsed by Schecter Guitar Research, and primarily uses the Schecter Banshee Elite-6 FR S with a Sustainiac supercharger pickup system and a Hellraiser Hybrid C-1 FR, with EMG pickups 57/66.
Marks has also made it a point to give back to others - beginning in 2009, he founded the Traveling Guitar Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works to ensure that school children have access to high-quality musical instruments and instruction during a time when school systems across the country are facing budgetary restraints. Such artists as Alicia Keys, Swizz Beatz, Daryl “DMC” McDaniel, Heart, Melanie Fiona, Leon Thomas III, Ariana Grande, Mike Reid, Victoria Justice, Mariah Carey, Michael Bolton, and Rick Springfield have donated their time to the organization.
“It started around 2009, with all the bullying and gun violence in schools, I felt that kids needed a positive outlet. With music always being the first thing cut, I felt compelled to do something about it. Music was a huge outlet for me in school and growing up. My initial plan was to get into some schools in the local area, help kids out, and try to make a difference in their lives because of the opportunities I was given with my musical career. It just evolved and worked into this huge thing I didn't expect. The whole concept of the way we donate and the performances in schools, the interactions one-on-one with kids, and clinical guitar courses.”
Concerning the future, Marks already has his goals in sight. “In 2016, after speaking with Neal Schon and Marco Mendoza about how huge tribute bands have become, and now that so many of the artists that were huge icons have either passed or retired, I wanted to start a tribute band. I always loved Journey and Neal’s playing, I wanted something that would be excited and also challenging on the guitar, that’s when I decided on the Journey tribute, “Frontiers”. The band has grown into an elite tribute act with world class musicians. We perform about 30 shows a year in amazing theaters and outdoor festival/summer concerts. My goal is for Frontiers to continue to grow, continue with my session work for other artists and any big opportunities that are offered, and continue to give back to the schools and kids through the Traveling Guitar Foundation.”
AWARDS & RECOGNITIONS
October 2014 - Damon Marks street sign presentation from Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage
January 2015 – Letter of recognition from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
TOURS & RECORDING
2013 | CELEBRITY USO TOUR - Ramstein Airbase, Germany
Visiting several military installation sites and military schools with live performances and guitar donations to the troops and military schools
2010 | Alicia Keys Freedom World tour with Jermaine Paul winner of NBC’s “The Voice”
2009 | Lipstick Magazine Skin Deep World tour
2009 | Lipstick Magazine Skin Deep single recorded with drummer Tommy Aldridge and bassist Marco Mendoza
2008 | Lipstick Magazine Rocklahoma Festival, Prior, OK
PERFORMANCES & INTERVIEWS
2015 | Interview on Clear Channel Radio Station 103.5 KTU NYC
2013 | Power 105.1 NY Clear Channel Radio
2013 | Q104.3 NY Clear Channel Radio
2013 | 103.5 KTU NY Clear Channel Radio
2012 | Bronx Net TV NY
2012 | NJ12 TV
2012 | Z100 NY Clear Channel Radio
2011 | Sony recording artist Elle Varner on several MBK showcases
2011 | Bret Michaels Allentown, PA “Talk Dirty to Me”
2011 | ABC NY “View Point”
2011 | WPIX 11 NY morning show
2011 | FOX News NY
PHILANTROPY WORK – THE TRAVELING GUITAR FOUNDATION
• 2013 | Awarded with a letter from the Mayor and President Superintendent's office from the Elizabeth New Jersey School system for the support and guitar donations to the music education program.
• 2011-2013 | Donated 20 new guitars to the music education program to Bronx Charter School for The Arts and Fundraising events with Swizz Beatz
• 2012 | Donated 10 new guitars to Daryl “DMC” McDaniel’s at his summer camp for adopted children for the Music Education program
APPEARANCES | 2013
• Michael Bolton at a performance in NJ supporting music education
• Rick Springfield at a performance in NJ supporting music education
• Melanie Fiona at a Swizz Beatz fundraising event including performance
APPEARANCES | 2012
• Leon Thomas “Nickelodeon” on NBC TV San Francisco supporting music education
• Ariana Grande at a Traveling Guitar Foundation event supporting music education
• Mariah Carey at a VIP event in NYC supporting music education
• Nick Cannon at a VIP event in NYC supporting music education
• Miranda Cosgrove (ICarly) backstage and signed a guitar for TGF
• Katherine Jackson, mother of Michael Jackson at her home in Calabasas, CA event supporting music education
• David Tyree (NY Giant, Winner Superbowl) at a Traveling Guitar Foundation event supporting music education
• Fundraising event at the home of Allen Houston (NY Knicks) in Connecticut
APPEARANCES | 2011
• Danny Glover (actor) at a Broadway awards event in NYC
• Fundraising event in Atlanta, GA with Dikembe Mutombo - (NBA), donated new guitars to his foundation in the Congo.
• NYC Broadway event with/supporting Alicia Keys - joined Alicia and her mother for dinner and awards ceremony.
• Miranda Cosgrove (ICarly) at a performance in NJ supporting music education.