Mark Foster (singer)
Foster performing in 2012
|Born||February 29, 1984|
San Jose, California, U.S.
|Origin||Macedonia, Ohio, U.S.|
Mark Foster (born February 29, 1984) is an American singer, songwriter, and musician, best known as the lead singer of the band Foster the People. After struggling to create a successful band in his early 20s, Foster finally had his big break as one of the co-founders of Foster the People in 2009, along with his two friends, Mark Pontius and Cubbie Fink. The band has since released three studio albums: Torches in 2011, Supermodel in 2014, and Sacred Hearts Club in 2017.
As a boy, Foster participated in the Cleveland Orchestra Children’s Chorus and played the drums, guitar, and piano. When he was a teen, he played in garage bands. In 2002, he graduated from Nordonia High School in Macedonia, Ohio.
Early career (2002–2010)
After graduating high school in 2002, Foster decided on his father's advice to move out and live with an uncle in Sylmar, California, so that he could be closer to pursuing his musical dreams in Los Angeles. In an interview with NPR's David Greene, Foster detailed his reaction to the intimidating city into which he had thrown himself, reflecting: "You really got to have a strong sixth sense to be able to kind of navigate the waters because the weird thing about LA is just - especially in Hollywood - is just like, the entertainment industry is kind of bizarre. It was the first time that I realized that people that were mentally ill also happened to be in like, powerful positions."
Foster's early years in Los Angeles were very difficult for him; of that time, he said "For eight years, I just scraped by as a starving artist delivering pizzas, sleeping on couches, sleeping in my car and all of those things." Foster worked various odd jobs during his first several years on his own while trying to grow his own social network. These included waiting tables, painting houses, telemarketing, and bar-tending. In a 2012 interview with The Baltimore Sun, he talked about how he particularly valued bartending and encouraged aspiring musicians to follow in his footsteps: "Kids hit me up on Twitter and I tell them to learn how to bar-tend. There are career waiters in Los Angeles and they're making over $100,000 a year."
In his first six years in Los Angeles, Foster did not have much success with breaking into the music business as a solo artist. When he was 22, he was given the opportunity to work with Dr. Dre's record label, Aftermath Entertainment. However, the deal fell through and he was left without solid footing for a solo musical career. He found early work as a musician working for comedian Andy Dick, for whom he wrote songs and scores for film, television, and short film projects, as well as toured with, over a period of around seven years . As a solo artist, Foster wrote the song "The Ballad of Andy," detailing the life and tribulations of Dick. Foster also worked as a music producer, producing songs for bands like Frodad and The Rondo Brothers, among others.
At the same time, Foster struggled with drug addiction, but after seeing its impact on his health and his friends, he decided that he would rehabilitate himself. He talked about his previous struggle with addiction in 2014, saying, "I work really hard to stay grounded and not let any of that stuff influence how I live my life. A lot of it is a mirage, and an unhealthy one to buy into." His roommate, actor and singer Brad Renfro, also struggled with drug addiction, dying from a heroin overdose on January 15, 2008. Foster was the producer of the last song that Renfro ever recorded. Fifteen months after his former roommate's death, Foster released a song called "Downtown", on which he reflects on the life and death of Renfro.
Foster the People (2008–present)
Foster finally landed a job as a commercial jingle writer for the record label Mophonics in 2008. In this position, he was able to write jingles for companies such as Honey Bunches of Oats and Verizon. However, he was still struggling with finding the right tunes to further break into the music industry. Due to issues of writer's block and being unable to focus various elements of his music together, he came to the realization that he needed help in the form of members of a band.
The following year, Foster recorded and released his first and so far, only solo album, Solo Songs. The nine-track album included demo versions of two songs from the Torches album, "Don't Stop (Color on the Walls)" and "I Would Do Anything for You." Another song called "Polartropic (You Don't Understand Me)" was featured in the soundtrack of the 2012 animated film Frankenweenie. He played solo shows around Los Angeles to support his record.
In October 2009, Foster organized a three-person band made up of himself, colleague Mark Pontius, and longtime friend Jacob "Cubbie" Fink. Pontius was so appreciative of Foster's musical style that he left his band Malbec to join him as the drummer of the new band. Fink had recently lost his position at a television production company as a result of the recession, so he joined as the bassist. The band was initially going to be called "Foster and the People," but after the majority of his friends mistook the name as "Foster the People," Foster decided to name it the latter instead. He preferred the title "Foster the People" as it conjured an image of care and development.
The first song Foster released with the band was "Pumped Up Kicks", a song about gun violence recorded at Mophonics in 2009. He wrote and recorded the song in five hours using Logic Pro software, originally intending the first version to be only the demo. The demo ended up becoming the full version of the song and "Pumped Up Kicks" was released by Foster online in early-2010. Through internet outlets, the song gradually gained traction with the public, eventually making its way to television shows like Entourage and advertising campaigns for companies like Nylon. In May 2010, the band was signed to Columbia Records imprint Startime International for a multi-album deal due to the song's increasing success. It was officially released as the band's first single on September 14, 2010, and would go on to produce an immense popular following for the band.
In January 2011, "Pumped Up Kicks" was released on the band's first non-commercial single release, Foster the People, and started to climb the American charts a few months later. It was labeled as a "sleeper hit" due to its slow rise in popularity. It eventually peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 starting with the week of September 10, 2011, and ending on the week of October 29, 2011. It was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance in February 2012.
On May 23, 2011, the band's first studio album, Torches, was released and earned Foster his second Grammy Award nomination, one for Best Alternative Music Album. He has stated that the album was one produced from "perspiration over inspiration." It also peaked at number 8 on the Billboard 200.
Three years later, the band released their second album, Supermodel on March 14, 2014. It is currently their highest peaking studio album on the Billboard 200 at number 3. Foster has said that the theme of the album was influenced by his fascination with the "ugly side" of capitalism as well as the popularity of social media and the social pressures humans feel. In response, he has marked it as a piece which reminds him of the fortune of having a supportive community to maintain an optimistic attitude. He discussed with the Los Angeles Times the revelations he had while touring for the previous album that helped him formulate the theme behind Supermodel: "I went to India, I spent some time in the Middle East and I went to Northern Africa — places where the priorities are completely different. Those cultures aren't focused on individuals. They're focused on communities. That changed how I will look at life. I saw people who had joy and human connections and they don't have one one-thousandth of the things we have here. But they have something we don't have, 'a sense of community.'"
In 2015, Foster was a producer of the soundtrack for the World War II drama, Little Boy. It was his first experience scoring a film, and was especially exciting to him due to the "guitar-driven" soundtrack he created.
On July 21, 2017, Foster the People released its third album, Sacred Hearts Club, an album influenced by the global issues of the current times and the sentiment that Foster felt for those affected by events associated with terrorism, racism, homophobia, and elections. Foster said upon the album's release: "I wanted to slap people a little bit, throw some cold water on them. This record, it would have felt wrong to do that. I felt like people needed a hug."
Foster has said that he likes travelling frequently because of the break from the special treatment in America he receives for being famous. In one interview, he elaborated on where he believed the sensation stemmed: “Our society worships the entertainment industry more than at any other time in the history of the planet. People worship anyone in the entertainment industry. You can be a used-car salesman and have a television commercial on the local station and that makes you a celebrity."
In an interview with CNN, Foster stated his thoughts on the relationship between popularity and craft: "I think that there's a difference between being an entertainer and being an artist. I think artists throughout the history of time have always been controversial and have been a voice to speak to public culture in a way a politician can't because they'll lose their constituency. But artists, I think historically, have shined a magnifying glass on culture and have talked to it ... I don't consider myself an entertainer. I consider myself an artist, and I think with that comes responsibility."
One of Foster's major musical influences has been The Beach Boys. He and his band performed with them at the 2012 Grammy Awards and the two bands were able to become well-acquainted in the week of practices leading up to the performance.
- As a solo artist
- Solo Songs (2009)
- With Foster the People
- With Kimbra
- "Warrior" (2012) Vocals and other instruments on the track
- With K'Naan
- "On the Other Side" (2012) Vocals and other instruments on the track
- With Rae & Christian
- "Happy" (2012) Vocals and other instruments on the track
- With Madeon
- "Nonsense" (2015) Vocals and other instruments on the track
- With The Knocks
- "Ride Or Die" (2018) Vocals and other instruments on the track
- With Mø
- "Blur" (2018) Vocals on the track
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