Mark Tremonti Wows With New Frank Sinatra Covers Album for Down Syndrome Charity
Mark Tremonti recording a Frank Sinatra covers album may not be what you expected from the Alter Bridge and Tremonti musician, but that's sort of the point as the musician is also launching his "Take a Chance on Charity" initiative, using this new album as a way to raise money for National Down Syndrome Society.
The musician is "stepping out" of his comfort zone with this project, and the primary goal of this new initiative is to encourage other musicians, sports figures and celebrities with a platform to venture outside what they're known for as a way to raise funds for a charity of their choosing.
In this case, Tremonti kicks things off with his Tremonti Sings Sinatra album, featuring selections from the legendary vocalist's catalog that he's done with the surviving members of Sinatra's band as led by Sinatra's musical director Mike Smith, then gifting the proceeds from sales to the National Down Syndrome Society, a charity that is close to his heart as Tremonti's daughter Stella was born with Down Syndrome.
To kick off the promotion of the new Tremonti Sings Sinatra album, due May 27, you can catch the video for Tremonti's cover of "I've Got You Under My Skin" below. Pre-orders for the album are available here.
Also, in advance of the album announcement, we had a chance to speak with Tremonti about this special project. The singer shares how Sinatra's music became his obsession, what he learned about the iconic musician through his research and he shares some stories from working with Sinatra's bandmates in the studio.
Tremonti also discusses his new "Take a Chance for Charity" initiative, what his experiences have bene like since getting involved with the National Down Syndrome Society organization and more. Check out the chat just below the "I've Got You Under My Skin" video and the Tremonti Sings Sinatra artwork and track listing.
Mark Tremonti Sings Frank Sinatra, "I've Got You Under My Skin"
Mark Tremonti, Tremonti Sings Sinatra Album Artwork + Track Listing
1. I’ve Got You Under My Skin
2. I’ve Got the World on a String
3. I Fall In Love Too Easily
5. Fly Me to the Moon
6. Nancy (With the Laughing Face)
7. My Way
8. You Make Me Feel So Young
9. Luck Be a Lady
10. That’s Life
11. Come Fly With Me
12. In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning
13. The Song Is You
14. All or Nothing at All
Mark, I am absolutely wowed by this project. It just sounds amazing.
Well, thank you very much. It’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever done and I can’t wait to get it out there.
Frank Sinatra, he’s not only got a distinctive voice but it’s a very distinctive delivery as well. We’ve all sung along to songs we like, but at what point did you figure out that not only can you sing Frank’s songs, but your voice is also fairly close to what he sounded like as well?
I think it all really started around Christmas time when I would sing along to Frank Sinatra songs. It just felt like home to me. His vocal range is my vocal range. I don’t really have to push anything or dip too low. His vocal range is very comfortable for me. And I’ve absolutely always loved his vocal approach.
I think this project all kind of started when I did a deep dive further into Frank Sinatra when I saw some early videos from his career. There’s some video for “The Song Is You” that he did in 1944 and you see this young, almost shy Frank Sinatra get up there and speak and then when he opens his mouth to sing, you see why he was such a massive star. It just gave me the chills. I was like, “I wanna sing just like that, maybe not for my rock thing, but I wanna just for fun dive deeper into what he does and try to get that thing going.” I just went deeper and deeper and deeper, and I was obsessed with it. I read every book I could, I watched every movie he was in, I bought the book that he wrote about singing. I googled and googled and googled trying to see if anyone would teach lessons on how to sing Frank Sinatra, but I didn’t really find anything as far as that went.
I think the best thing was just to listen to it, analyze it, listen to where he takes a breath, listen to enunciates, listen to how he phrases things and messes with the time. I just memorized it and I was obsessed about it until I got it.
“Mark did a fantastic job on this record, His voice and take on the tunes are amazing!” - Hank Cattaneo (Frank Sinatra - Duets Producer)
You mentioned going deep. This record is not just the big hits. There are some lesser known Sinatra songs on here. As you were going through the catalog and picking what you wanted to do, which song or songs provided the biggest challenge for you vocally to pull off?
I think the toughest would have to be probably “Wave.” I think “Wave” is one of the coolest songs on the record. And I didn’t want to just do all the hits, I wanted to do some songs that people weren’t familiar with that would get people looking back and digging deeper into his catalog because he’s got so many great songs that he sang that …. Well, I could do 10 volumes of this Tremonti Sings Sinatra project cause there’s just so many great songs. There’s so many that I had to leave off the table that I wanted to do.
But “Wave” was challenging because the low note to get that sound, at certain times of the day it’ll come out as a whisper and not a big heavy note. So I just got lucky enough to pull it off. That’s the only song on the record that if I was to go out and do it live, I’d be a little anxious about. Everything else just feels right at home for me.
“Holy Shit, I knew Mark was a ripping guitar player, but no way did I ever have a notion that he had golden pipes as well!!! Totally blown away, totally into it, let's hear more Mark!!!” - Metallica's Kirk Hammett
You mentioned not only studying his singing but his acting and his books. Of all your research that you did, what was the biggest surprise to you that you didn’t know about Sinatra and wished everyone knew?
You set me up for the perfect answer and one of the reasons why I did this project in his name. Frank Sinatra was one of the most charitable people that ever walked the earth when it comes to being an entertainer. He raised over a billion dollars for charity. He would do great things that he never wanted any attention for. The only reason I know about it is because other people would talk about it after he had said not to tell other people about it.
For instance, he’s go get Dean Martin and go get Sammy [Davis Jr.] and all his other buddies and say, “Come to my jet. We’ve got to go to Oklahoma or Kansas,” and they’d be like, “Why?” And he’d say, “Don’t ask me why. Just get on the jet.” They’d get on the jet and fly and they’d end up landing in this hangar where they have thousands of people waiting and Frank and all his friends did this show for a fireman who had gotten injured and they raised money for him and his family. And they’d be like, “Let’s get the press in here to talk about it,” and he’d be like, “Absolutely not. This is not for me. This is for him and him alone.” As tough a guy as he was on the outside, as much of a dramatic life as he lived, he just had a huge, huge heart on the inside when it came to helping out others.
There’s great pictures of him and I almost wanted to put it on the record and we’ll probably put it on something in the future, but there’s a picture of him kneeling down. He went to this children’s school for the blind and there’s this little girl staring him in the eyes and you can just see the emotion on his face. She had asked him, “What is the color of music?” or some great quote like that. But you can just see that he’s not just doing it for a press look. He’s there because he cared and he was a very charitable guy.
Looking at Sinatra’s efforts and how he approached his charitable actions, how has this impacted you on what you want to do charity-wise moving forward?
Up until this point, I always relied on friends and my wife has all kinds of friends that have filled her in on charity events that we’ve been to at convention centers. There’s tons of them that come through Florida. We’ll go to the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the Bridges of Light and everything that we can to do our part.
But it’s so great now to have your own thing. It’s one thing to write a check for an organization and not really know what it’s going to, but it’s another thing to see this Down Syndrome community and how supportive they are and see how much you want to help them to make a difference.
There’s not a cure for Down Syndrome and that’s not what people are trying to raise money for. But there are a lot of things that come along with Down Syndrome like physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy. My daughter just had open heart surgery. Just imagine if you didn’t have proper insurance for that and you couldn’t have your daughter have open heart surgery. Twenty years ago, I don’t think they would’ve even allowed you, the insurance wouldn’t cover a child with down syndrome to get open heart surgery. The child would just have to die early because they wouldn’t have that privilege. And it’s not a privilege, it’s a human right. There’s just so many things and so many organizations that can help out with Down Syndrome. So it just feels great to have any kind of support that we can for this project.
And even bigger than that, I’ve got this "Take a Chance for Charity" initiative. Down Syndrome is my thing. It’s my new life’s purpose do as much as I can to raise money for Down Syndrome, but outside of that my biggest thing is to get "Take a Chance for Charity" happening. And this project was all done under the "Take a Chance for Charity" umbrella, which is an organization that I want to start that gets other musicians or athletes or actors or whoever has a fan base or platform to do something strange or outside of their comfort zone. It’s something their fan base would not know about. Maybe it’s some hidden passion that maybe people have always been nervous to put out there because it’s something different.
To do any kind of project - it could be one song or to paint a painting or do a Dancing With the Stars - but whatever it is, do it in the name of charity and do it under "Take a Chance for Charity" and my goal is as I say, I want to be a little old man who raised a billion dollars for charity through this organization. If this Sinatra record raises a good amount of money, great! But I want it to be something where other artists come in and raise money for their charities as well. It doesn’t have to be all Down Syndrome. I want to have these people interviewed and get emotional and be passionate about what they’re raising money for. It’s almost like when you watch The Voice or American Idol or these shows where they show the history of these people about to perform and you’re rooting for them because they tell their story. I want this to be an organization where people are passionate about why they’re raising money and just have it keep on keeping on as far as it can go.
“Once again Mark Tremonti never ceases to amaze me. These renditions of some of the most beloved Sinatra tunes, are so eloquently done that it is remarkable. And what a beautiful gift to the NDSS. Much love, respect, and success to this incredible project”. – Shinedown's Brent Smith
Since you’ve gotten involved with the National Down Syndrome Society, can you talk about the sense of community that you’ve seen? You have a daughter that has Down Syndrome, but what has it been like for you to connect with other families and see what they go through as well?
We’ve been trying as much as we can to get involved with the Orlando group. There’s the Down Syndrome Foundation and the Down Syndrome Association and we go to all the events that either one of them have. The very first one that we participated in, I was on tour and it was a shame but there was a walk and the kids and the family do a mile-long walk and the kids raise money for charity. But my group of friends, my daughter is the only baby in our group of friends, so they went absolutely crazy and I think they raised $15,000 that day and they built this tent and they really made a splash for her, so she really was a hit that day.
After that, there was a few galas and some great events where they get families together where they have children under two years of age to get together and know one another cause it’s great to have friends within your age group so these children will have friends growing up and you’ll have these families to lean on. It’s just great resources for these folks and you meet all kinds of people along the way.
The absolutely most toughest thing I’ve ever dealt with in my life times 10 without exaggeration was handing my daughter over to have open heart surgery. It was devastating. But we got through it and she got through it like a champ. Three days later she had a smile on her face. So I went from one of the worst times in my life to one of the best times in my life. So when I went to one of these events, there was this pregnant mother. They hadn’t had their child yet but they knew it had Down Syndrome and she was terrified. I could see on her face that she was in shock. So I went over and talked to her and said, “This is not something you need to be afraid of. Look at my little girl over there. She just had open heart surgery three weeks ago. She’s sitting up and smiling. You’re going to have some hurdles, but it’s all doable. It’s not something that you should be afraid of and this is a blessing. You should welcome it with open arms. My daughter, I wouldn’t change a thing.” So it’s good to meet people going through the same things and help them.
I’m still new at this. It’s only been a year, but it’s good to meet people who are about to go through it and let them know that I felt the same way you felt. I was terrified myself. But I went from being terrified to I can’t get enough of my daughter. She’s the most irresistible thing in the world. So it’s good to spread that kind of positivity.
“Mark's take on Sinatra is nothing short of uncanny. I could never have expected one of my fav metal guitarists to do such faithful renditions of Sinatra classics. Not only instrumentally, but vocally! & these recordings are for a cause near & dear to my heart; I was very close to an uncle who had Down Syndrome when I was growing up. I fully appreciate & support Mark's commitment to NDSS.” – Slash
I love the idea of your "Take a Chance for Charity" initiative and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. I know you’re starting with this Frank Sinatra album, but have you gotten others involved or is there anyone you’d like to challenge?
I actually want to keep it out of the rock world. I want to show that it’s a versatile thing because if I just go and get all my close rock friends to do it immediately, it might just get pigeonholed into just being that. And there are some of the people that I work with that have relationships with people outside of our genre. We’ve already gotten great endorsements from Slash and Kirk Hammett and Chris Daughtry who we’re on tour with right now, but I would like to branch out a little bit outside the rock world before we get back into more familiar territory. It’d be great to get an athlete or a comedian. But my friends also know other people and I just kind of want it to domino effect. You just got to break the ice with each thing, whether it be sports or music, but I just don’t want it to get stuck in the rock world.
“When Mark first played me a track from this project my jaw dropped. Gave me chills! This is a side of Mark's voice that people need to hear and I’m certain they will be just as blown away as I was.“ - Chris Daughtry
Getting back into this Sinatra album, as big a fan as you are, it has to be amazing to work with Sinatra’s band leader Mike Smith as well as some of the players from Sinatra’s band. What was that experience like to be in that room with these guys who all have connections to Frank?
It’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever done musically. Before I got into this project, I started looking locally to see if I could find some trumpet players, trombone players, saxophone players, just to put a band together locally so I could start playing. My plan was to go to these live music restaurants and whatnot totally unannounced, not say my name, and just say it was a Frank Sinatra cover band kind of a thing. But when I got into the project and started talking to my manager about it, he was like, “My teacher was Dan McIntyre. He toured with Frank Sinatra.” It was one of those stars aligning moments where what are the odds that my manager was getting guitar lessons from Frank Sinatra’s player and then he knows Frank Sinatra’s band leader Mike Smith?
So he set up a lunch meeting with the two of them and then they went out and hunted down all the other guys. Some of these guys hadn’t seen each other in a decade or so and they were all happy to be back together. You could tell that those guys were having a great time being back together and playing.
On top of that, me being as excited as I’ve ever been…. When you get into a room with 15 to 17 guys and you hear “Fly Me to the Moon” start with the guys who played it on tour with Sinatra, if you don’t get the chills you’re not alive. It … was … incredible.
“Okay this is so frickin’ good! I had a smile on my face when I heard marks voice come in on ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin.’ The production is fantastic, and I love that he has gifted the album to the NDSS (National Down Syndrome Society) Not surprised that he’s killed it on this one, congrats Mark this is amazing!.”- Theory's Tyler Connolly.
During those sessions, I’m sure there were stories shared. Is there a story you picked up on of any of the guys playing with Sinatra and what that experience was like for them?
Yeah, one of the coolest stories I heard was from Roger Ingram. Roger is just one of the best trumpet players on earth. He’s an incredibly trumpet player and he said, “The very first time I played with Frank, the curtains were drawn. We’re sitting there at our stands and I hadn’t even met Frank Sinatra. It was my first time playing with him. So then Frank comes out onto the stage and the curtains are still closed and he turns to the band and says, ‘Anybody got a smoke?’ and they all kind of laughed at him. And then cool as ever, Frank turns around, signals the stage production manager to open up the curtains. The curtains open up and there was 10 minutes straight of standing ovation as loud as you could hear. People throwing flowers and just going nuts.” And Roger says, “Just imagine me. I’m sitting there as a kid and I’m staring there at the crowd for a 10 minute ovation before I even play my very first note and I’m one of the guys who has to start the very first song.”
He said its was one of the most exciting moments he could ever imagine as a musician. I can only just imagine being in that seat.
“Wow! I am absolutely blown away by Mark’s performance on this album!! He delivers the songs authentically, embodying all that is Frank but giving us a glimpse of his own personality as well. I love the arrangements and the fact that some of Frank’s original band members contributed to these tracks. Honestly, I’ve known Mark for a long time and know he is super talented but had no idea he was capable of channeling Old' Blue Eyes like that! Just absolutely beautifully done and what makes everything even that much more touching is the cause. I bet Mark’s daughter Stella was in his heart during every step of the recording processes. Incredible!” - Dream Theater's John Petrucci
Speaking of being in a certain seat, I’m looking at the press release and there’s this wonderful photo of you sitting at Frank’s dressing room table (seen at the top of this post). How surreal a moment was that?
Oh, that was so awesome. So the Golden Nugget has a Frank Sinatra dressing room. When he was touring back then, the promoter promised him or he had asked the promoter to build him his own dressing room. So it is totally made to his liking and his specs. I think a funny little side note is he liked carpeted bathrooms around the toilets. That’d be a little weird nowadays. But the bathroom is all carpeted, and it’s just a really cool area. I must’ve taken a thousand pictures of that room. I took a picture in front of the door with his name on it. I think there’s footage in this video that we put together where I walking out onto the stage and raising my arms and I remember my manager Tim saying, “Well the one part looks a little cheesy I think we should cut that out cause it looks like some outside footage,” and I’m like, “No, that’s actually me walking out onto the stage,” and he’s like, “Oh, if that’s you, then let’s keep it.” So it’s actually me walking out onto the Golden Nugget stage while I was visiting his dressing room.
We also went out to the Neon Museum in Las Vegas where they put all the old neon signs and we got our “Luck Be a Lady” shot out there in Vegas.
And another cool thing was Frank liked to paint and it was suggest that I try to paint the artwork for the record. So I painted all the art on the record for this. Cause I know Frank was a little more abstract and artsy with his stuff, so I did some abstract stuff and painted it up there and that was fun to do.
Sinatra was obviously known for having his crew, The Rat Pack. Given the whole entertainment industry and everyone’s available to you, who’s in Mark Tremonti’s Rat Pack for a night on the town?
Oh man, anyone in the world ever, huh?! Jeez, that’s tough. I’d say Robert DeNiro would be one of my boys for sure. Man, I have to think about this. James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett from Metallica, my Metallica friends for sure. Yeah, I don’t know, my list would be too long. I’d have a massive Rat Pack.
Yeah, and Frank had Don Rickles that would always keep things fun. Who’s the comedian, actual or just a jokester friend, that you’d run with in your crew?
Well Larry the Cable Guy is my friend and he’s a great comedian and I actually did a record with him back in the day that actually went gold. It’s called “Lord I Apologize.”
This is first and foremost at the moment, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about Tremonti, Alter Bridge and Creed and where things stand for you there for the rest of the year.
I’m on tour with Tremonti now until the 26th and two days later I get home and I go into pre-production and hit the studio for all of April and May with Alter Bridge. Then May 27, it’s back over to Europe with Tremonti until July, and then after July we’ve got a couple of months to fill dates in but I don’t quite know what those will be yet. And then in the winter time, like November and December, we head back to Europe with Alter Bridge. So hopefully this fall we’ll put together another Tremonti tour before we start up with Alter Bridge.
“I met Mark around 10 years ago. First thing that struck me was his easy going, down to earth, respectful nature. That to me is a priority, and a true measure of one's make up. Mark’s talent precedes him, I’ve listened to him since the 90’s ‘til present day. It wasn’t until I listened to Mark’s solo albums that I was able to fully realize his vocal abilities. What a great voice!!! A beautiful and unique sound, alongside perfect delivery, dynamics and feel. When asked for my take on Mark’s Sinatra Project, I really didn’t know what to expect. I went into this from the perspective of what I’ve heard. I was asked to listen to two tracks. I listened to the whole damn thing!!! I was completely blown away. He sounds just like Frank, with just enough of his own vocal characteristics to infuse just the right amount of himself while honoring Frank’s musicality. Mark did absolute justice to the number 1 iconic, legendary crooner of all time. A stellar job, nailing the inflections, nuances and all the subtleties in Frank’s delivery that made him unparalleled. Bravo Mark. An admirable endeavor and cause for NDSS. All the best Mark, Vicky and lovely Stella." - Dream Theater's James LaBrie.
Mark Tremonti Shares the Story of "Take a Chance for Charity"
Our thanks to Mark Tremonti for the interview. 'Tremonti Sings Sinatra' will be available May 27 and it's currently available to pre-order here. Learn more about the National Down Syndrome Society and how you can donate here.