Saturday, December 11, 2010

John mark works on Saturday

Working on a Saturday while Sarah does a little Christmas shopping. Trying to kill as much of this as possible before we break for Christmas.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Jon Duke plays Bass guitar all day. We might call this song "Who Is This". This has been one of our live standards for a couple years.

Day 3 of Tracking

Trophies Trains and Drums

James and Guitars

My Sweet Bari

Lee and Drums

Me... Hi





Colt and Stands

Jon, Bass, Amps, and Rack Gear

Tape Machine

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

they don't make'm like this any more

The ability to genuinely connect with a person's heart and draw them into a real-time conversation with God seems to have become a dying art form. It's just not something you can learn at a conference or program into your set. It comes from a deep well and is cultivated over years. That means it's time consuming and expensive. Maybe that's why it's become so rare. Our cheap and easy "just add water" worship programs probably serve a purpose, but I can't help but wish there were more people like this guy on the planet.

Something about this video takes me back to a time when I was less cynical. I hope one day I can make music that does the same thing for people.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Any Thoughts?

"They would have to sing better songs for me to learn to have faith in their Redeemer"— Friedrich Nietzsche

Monday, July 12, 2010

Lyric Of The Week

The lyric of this week is a whole song by one of my favorite writers. It's called "Tumbling Ground" by Kevin Prosch as recorded by Kevin and the Black Peppercorns for the album also titled "Tumbling Ground". I recently re-purchased this album when I played at Keven's Music Coope Festival this summer (the CD had been stolen from my car some years ago). I've been listening to it again and its even better than I remembered it to be.

I couldn't pick just one line so I had to go with the whole song.

Tumbling ground

Trying to find a place where I can hide away
In the fountain of youth inside my mind
Where old age can never find me
Please excuse me, I'm not doing well today
Trying to hide so desperately the darkness of my soul
I'm an outworn heart in a time worn out
I feel like I'm failing
I'm being tossed about
There's a hole in my trampoline
I'm falling down

And friendless near a thousand friends I stand
Who didn't have a crumb of comfort
Not even a grain
You were all too busy with my praise
The distances of loneliness how long they seem to be
Almost perfect nearly true we want to keep
I can hardly ever say my prayers
Nor can I count a Bead,
Does that mean that I am failing
They say that I am weak
And the soil of my sufferings sucked my childhood dry
Never grew the leaves of healing
Will I be left to die?

On God's rough, tumbling ground, falling down
On God's rough, tumbling ground, falling down
Falling down

Am I a prophet or a vagabond?
I am a father, not a commandant
And I grieve for the loss of all the prodicals
And fatherless near ten thousand fathers I stand
A broken little boy with a promise in his hand
Did you see the crown my momma crowned me with?
For he that made me bitter, he also made me wise
though I wrestled for the blessing
there was no love for me to find
and the world's more full of weeping
and I can never understand
I'm in the place again
where the heart gives up its dead

There is a place where tears fall but they make no sound
On God's rough, tumbling ground, falling down
there is a place where tears fall but make no sound
On God's rough, tumbling ground, falling down

The only way to get this album is here as a physical disc.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lyric Of The Week

These lines are form The Killers song "A Dustland Fairy Tale". I've had this song in my head for a year. This particular portion always gets to me:

"Change came in disguise of revelation, set his soul on fire.
She said she always knew he'd come around.
And the decades disappear
Like sinking ships but we persevere.
God gives us hope but we still fear what we don't know."

Once again, if you don't think it's awesome, listen to it in context.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lyric Of The Week

"She Loves You", From the Gaslight Anthem

And If all was well
And your heart could find the words
Would we be for better baby
Would we be for worse
And if there was a way
To navigate your seas
If tonight my true love
Did belong to me

If you don't think its awesome, go hear it in context.

Monday, June 28, 2010

"I think it all started for me that year I couldn’t sleep and almost lost my mind."

In the Fall of 2001 I must have sat out on the porch for hours a night, sometimes with a buddy, sometimes with a few, but mostly with God, and the precarious rhythms of late night traffic.

I had nowhere to go. I’d weathered a break up that left me questioning my sanity and I’d quit my job at the Olive Garden after a woman cussed me out over the price of cranberry juice. With no work, no relationship, and my ‘89 Ford Tempo on its last legs, I found myself emotionally and, otherwise, shipwrecked. My whole world was a guitar and everything I wished I’d said.

I think it was during those months that I learned how to write a song, because that was the year I learned to be honest with God.

As a teenager, I played my first guitar chords on the loading docks behind my father’s storefront church in Pineville, NC. I guess I began playing for the same reason everyone does, to impress girls at school. Unfortunately, it was a little late in the game for an instrument to become much of a savior, but it became a friend, an outlet, a way of sorting things out.

Looking back, it made sense that I would go back to that place when I was against the ropes, and why I would end up out on that same porch almost a year later, with another set of issues and another batch of songs.

In November of 2002, I’d flown down to Jacksonville, to do some recording. While in the studio, we received a call about some friends who’d been in a car accident that left 2 of them in critical condition. Late that evening I got another call from my dad. One of my closest childhood friends was gone.

I had pages of dialog with God in the days that followed, some angry, mostly confused, but also I wrote a lot of songs. It was this time period that shaped verses like “Kiss Your Feet”, a modern vision of Mary Magdalene, and an emotional climactic folk tune called “Ashes and Flames”. The first song of that generation, much of it written the day after the accident, was the song “How He Loves”. “How He Loves” was every bit of a tribute to a friend, a cry for understanding, and the worship that resulted from it all.

The following years were characterized by an almost confusing contrast. While I lived with an ever-present stinging sensation from the loss, I was enamored with the immense joy of my engagement to a brilliant, angelic girl named Sarah Williams. We we’re married in 2004 and have been confidants, band mates, and business partners for over 6 years. In 2008 our son Jude was born to the growling vocals of Kevin Prosch singing, “Praise the Lord, Oh my soul” over a hospital radio. More than anything, it was this contrast that shaped the ideas that would eventually become “The Medicine”.

Up to that point, much of my music, though rarely void of hope, was still born out of loss. However, “The Medicine”, presents portraits of resurrection. From “Death In His Grave”, a southern, hymn-like narrative depicting the classic resurrection of Jesus, to “Skeleton Bones,” a worship song celebrating the power of resurrection life, a story of resurrection is present throughout the whole record. Songs like “Ten Thousand” illustrate the ultimate victory of life over the grave as do “Out of the Ground” and “Carbon Ribs” in more abstract ways.

More than anything, I think “The Medicine” explores the implications of resurrection in our every day lives even the dead places of our lives that need resurrecting. To his own hurt, Jesus, chose to be a part of our world. Why would we pretend that we don’t bring all our love, loss, and insecurity with us into the conversations we call “worship”? After all, we don’t serve a God who is unacquainted with grief. He is not surprised by or even unfamiliar with the darkness that can plague a human heart. In fact, he specializes at dealing with that sort of thing. That is what “The Medicine” is about and those are some of the conversations I want to help people have in worship. I want to write songs that give your heart language in the porch lights of your own reckoning; dangerous songs that give you permission to wear your heart on your sleeve before Jesus, unencumbered by the grave cloths of mindless tradition.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Live Webcast June 29 and July 6

I'll talk about my major label debut "The Medicine" due out on July 6. Join me and guests for "who knows what" live on livestream June 29 and July 6 at 9PM EST.

watch right here or at

Watch live streaming video from johnmarkmcmillan at

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Medicine Album Releases on July 6? An Explanation

The Medicine Album drops on July 6, 2010! (If you come hear me at Creation East, you can get it a couple days earlier.)

The reason I decided to re-release this album on a record label, is because I thought The Medicine deserved a shot at a national audience. I'm proud of the work we did, and the songs I wrote. It took me 3 years to write it and I hated the idea of the world not getting a proper chance to hear these songs before I moved on with the label. Besides, I was a long way from having a new album's worth of material ready. It would have been summer of 2011 before i had a new one. I'm a slow writer.

I realize this is a little confusing for many of you who don't understand (or care) about how music business works, but the truth is, most people have never even heard these songs.

Aside from one minor tweak on one song, the album has not been remixed or remastered. The only real difference is that this new version has 4 more tracks than the original plus video. I have included these new recordings to give people who already have the medicine album something new.

The Medicine (2010 Deluxe Edition) :

Reckoning Day
The Medicine
Skeleton Bones
Carbon Ribs
Dress Us Up
Death In His Grave
Belly of the Lion
Out of the Ground
Ten Thousand
Carolina Tide
My Only
Between The Cracks
How He Loves (Single Version)

For those of you who can't wait, you can pre-order the album (and vinyl records) here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Death In His Grave"

Death In His Grave (Performance Video) from john mark mcmillan on Vimeo.

Though the Earth cried out for blood
Satisfied her hunger was

Billows calmed on raging seas
for the souls of men she craved

Sun and moon from balcony
Turned their head in disbelief
Their precious Love would taste the sting
disfigured and disdained

On Friday a thief

On Sunday a King

Laid down in grief

But woke with the keys

Of Hell on that day

The first born of the slain

The Man Jesus Christ laid
Death in his grave

So 3 days in darkness slept
The Morning Sun of righteousness
But rose to shame the throws of death
And overturn his rule

Now daughters and the sons of men
Would pay not their dues again
The debt of blood they owed was rent

When the day rolled a new

On Friday a thief

On Sunday a King

Laid down in grief

But awoke holding keys

To Hell on that day

The first born of the slain

The Man Jesus Christ

Laid death in his grave

He has cheated Hell and seated us above the fall

In desperate places he paid our wages one time once and for all

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The World Doesn't Need Any More Songs

I read an interview with Bob Dylan a while back where he was asked about songwriting. Dylan's immediate response was "the world has enough songs". He said the world doesn't need any more songs "but a person who has something to say, that's a different story".

People often ask me how I write songs, but the question I would like to ask you first is: What do you really have to say?

Ultimately, I really don't care about your technique or your usage of metaphor. I don't care about your ability to communicate emotion with a melody. I, and the world, don't really care about your songs unless we, at least, feel like you have something to say.

So, do you?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Show of Hands : Should I Let My Beard Get Huge?

We'll be touring out west for almost a month and I was thinking about not trimming my beard at all. Infact I was thinking about establishing a no shaving policy for the whole band while we're on the road. But I leave it up to you. You vote. Should we grow them huge this tour? Yay or Nay?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

One of the most interesting bands in worhship music

I really enjoy Gungor. I think these guys are one of the most interesting bands in worship music right now, and they're making some super legit music. We're touring with them this spring and it might be epic.... I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How He Loves Video

We used to play the song for hours at a time and each time we would see how much louder we could play the chorus. We broke a lot of strings and drum heads. We were a mess but it was a beautiful one.

I love this version of the song because it makes me feel the way I did when I first wrote it seven years ago.

You get the entire video for free when you buy "Skeleton Bones" on iTunes for $1.29.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Check these guys out: Songs Of Water

Band press kitsQuantcast

If you're looking for something that is truley unique, moving, and all together worshipful, this is it. Songs of Water is one of my favorite bands in the world, and they're releasing a new album on March 26. I honestly couldn't be more excited.

Please check them out and if your in the Charlotte area on March 26, go t0 their CD release show and pick up the new album.

Here's what By Beth Yeckley at the Blue Indian had to say about them :

I think sometimes, when we judge music, it becomes easy to weigh the value of an album based on its lyrical content. I would go as far to say that often times, the integrity of the instrumentation is overshadowed by the emotions laced within the lyrics. That being said, Songs Of Water’s forthcoming sophomore album, The Sea Has Spoken, is one of the most vibrant musical works I have heard in the last three years. Mostly without lyrics, the music produces a unique language, allowing the violin to tell a story or the mandolin to share a dance; the fiddle to take you on a journey or the percussion to beat beneath your skin.
At first glance, Songs Of Water, which is an eight-member band ranging in talent from the hacky sack to the shruti box, is akin to bands like Old School Freight Train, Nickel Creek, and Punch Brothers. It’s that easily recognizable folk experience, deeply rooted in the belly of a banjo and refined by the elegance of a violin. But the breadth and ability of this band is so much more than that.

The Sea Has Spoken begins with “Everything That Rises,” which starts off with the hammered dulcimer, then layers a foundation for the violin to become the focal point of the song. Played by both Marta Richardson and Luke Skaggs, the violin also becomes the cynosure in songs like “Bread and Circus” and “Sycamore.” But let’s talk more about the hammered dulcimer. It’s described as an “Appalachian folk instrument,” but I don’t think that quite gives it justice. In the right hands, which happen to be Steven Roach’s, the instrument can produce sounds that mimic the robustness of bagpipes, the fluidity of the piano, the dropping of rain on a tin roof, and still be crisp enough to remind you that it’s made of strings.

“Window Seat” is one the songs I was most intrigued by because of the shift in focus towards the guitar and the creation of a flair found in more Spanish-influenced music, like that of Rodrigo y Gabriela. This sound is even more prominent on the song “Luminitsa,” and is due in large part to the influence of Jason Windsor, whose range of play on the strings is remarkable. Also of note, “The Great Russian Catastrophe” is just one of the songs that drifts away from folk and instead carries a more Eastern melody involving the domra (think Russian mandolin). The sound of the strings is so distinct and rich, it leaves the taste of metal on your tongue.

*Editor’s Note: The author would like to clarify that the Spanish-influenced music addressed in songs like “Window Seat” and “Luminitsa.” was due to guitar play by both Jason Windsor and Greg Willette, respectively.

The band is experimental, too, showing signs of curiosity and texture building in songs like, “Beneath The Sleeping City” and “Belly Of The Whale,” which use sounds of shoes striking sidewalks and heavy percussion fused with chime-like noises.

“Sycamore” is the first time we hear lyrics, and it happens again on the final song, “Willow.” Roach’s singing is soft and muffled in static, but becomes clear and high as the song goes on. I love the harmonizing of Sarah Stephens, and was pleasantly surprised to hear the vocals drape over the instrumentation without tainting the music.

As you listen to The Sea Has Spoken, you’ll find that the depth of each song creates a kaleidoscope effect. Wherein, at one moment you feel that you are walking on a cliff against the sea, and the next you find yourself meandering through a circus tent. I love lyrics as much as the next person, but find myself incredibly moved and enraptured by the work of Songs Of Water.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"I've got my finger on the trigger, but I don't know who to trust"

Now that's how to write a song.

Springsteen isn't trying to impress you with his writing. Rather he's attempting to draw you into a conversation. That's why I think the song "Devils and Dust" is one of the greatest anti-war songs ever written. It's so good, you may not even realize it's an anti-war song, and that is exactly what makes it so effective.

By assuming the point of view of a soldier, Bruce creates a statement without marginalizing anyone in the process. Instead of nailing people in the face with an opinion, he paints pictures that require the listener to ask questions. I'm sure Bruce hopes these questions will lead you to his same conclusions, but he leaves it up to you.

Springsteen certainly isn't the originator of this approach. Neither is Dylan or even Shakespeare. King David uses it in his most famous Psalm "23", where he assumes the role of a sheep. And as a communicator, Jesus applied it almost exclusively (Mathew 13:34).

So take a tip from Jesus, and Springsteen: Tell a story. If people are smart, they'll get it, and I think people are smarter than we give them credit for. Don't you?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Meet Ana Lucia

She is my brand new custom Elliott, Peter Stroud Signature, Tone Master guitar.

There's something about hearing a new tone, and feeling new vibration in your arms that cause the creative juices to move. This morning when I picked her up for a few minutes I swear I could hear a hundred songs in her. Ideas wouldn't leave me alone. With me, it's "feast or famine" when it comes to writing. I'm either working on 10 ideas or I've got nothing at all. This morning the 10 ideas showed up. Hopefully, I'll have time to sit down and catch one.

I can't help thinking, did the songs existed in her when she looked like this, just six weeks ago?

BTW, I did, in fact, name her after the chick from lost.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

wear your heart on your sleeve

Folks, it's time to write dangerous music. It's time to take risks. It's time to wear your heart on your sleeve, and sing about the things that actually matter to you. It's time to bury the shackles of religious expectation and stop trying to put new cloths on the dead.

Forget about the correct usage of wording for one dang second and sing your heart. How can you "correct" the course of a boat that isn't willing to acknowledge the waters it sails in?

Give me honesty before correctness. People can argue with me all day long about this and I won't care, because honesty attracts God and it attracts people. And my two jobs are to love God and love people. Besides, you can never be "right" enough for God. "All our righteousness are like filthy rags" (Isa 64:6). If you want to know what God thinks of your ability to be correct then go ahead and look up the original Hebrew translation for "filthy rags".

God wants your heart, the whole nasty thing.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

I've been a terrible blogger this month

So, I've been a terrible blogger this month. I don't think I've blogged a single post. Actually, I've written quite a few, but I didn't post them because they were all kind of negative.

It's just too easy to be jaded and cynical. I think artists and writers who rely on cynicism are lazy. I mean, am I the only one who ever thought "if I hear one more anti-war song I'm going to blow my own head off". Negativity isn't depth. It takes almost no creativity or effort to be jaded. In fact, it's where you end up when you've stopped trying all together.

Still, it's always a temptation because you'll always have an audience when you want to say something controversial. People love angry posts. They love it when you give them permission to sulk. They love it when you justify their own offenses.

Let me see if I can think of more cynical things to say about being cynical...

Friday, January 29, 2010


I’ve been wanting to blog about my time in Uganda but it's been difficult. Mostly because the feelings and thoughts I have for the people there seem so big and the words I have are so small. But here's me giving it a shot:

Uganda is beautiful. Kampala is a city born from a lush jungle, full of high rolling hills green as the thousands of banana trees that dominate the landscape. The people of Uganda are happy and hopeful, even in the most desperate situations. They carry about them a glowing joy that fills their singing and shines through brilliant toothy smiles. They're a people who have learned to adapt, and they live and laugh in the moment. Ugandans love to dress up and can be very dignified in the least dignified of circumstances. It isn't unusual to see a suit clad gentleman trucking through the trenches of Kampala's dusty red clay on a motorbike, with his woman, dressed to the nines, always riding side saddle.

I met hundreds of children who love to sing, dance, and drum. Children who love to play soccer and dream of growing up to be doctors and lawyers. But children in Uganda regularly die from diarrhea and other conditions that wouldn't even get an American kid excused from class. Most of the kids I met didn't know their fathers. Many of the mothers we met were living with HIV and worried about what would happen to their children after they were gone. More than once we ask a child what he/she wanted to be when they grew up and they told us that they'd never thought about it because they had HIV.

My first reaction to Africa was one of awe at the beauty of the people and the land. But following close behind was an underlying feeling of anger and frustration. How can such a dignified people, so rich in grace and culture also be so completely marginalized?

I wish I had a great way to "wrap this one up", but the truth is that it's almost impossible to bring any resolve to this blog when I'm totally unresolved in my heart. Meaning that it's difficult to think about how my Starbucks budget alone can feed a kid for a year, and my car payment can send a young Ugandan man or woman to law or medical school. I guess what I would have to say is that it isn't the level of poverty that blows me away it's our level of ignorance.

Don't feel guilty. Feel informed. Feel empowered. And for God's sake do something about it.

You can help: Compassion International

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tour Dates: Feb, March, April

New Tour dates!

Texas, South East, and Midwest Dates. More to be added shortly.

We will be selling different sets of collectors edition vinyl each leg of this tour while supplies last!

Digital Press Kits

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I'm honestly not quite sure what to say about my trip so far. Not because I don't have anything to say but actually because I have too much to say. Look at these photos and you'll know what I mean.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I want to be famous...

... to this guy:

I've seen a sliver of success in my short 30 years. says I'm the 5,172nd most popular band on the internet. That's not famous at all. But I do occasionally get recognized, and sometimes it feels good.

Do I want to be respected for my work? Absolutely. Anyone who says otherwise is either a liar, a moron, or has achieved the state of the ultimate fullness of Christ. Still, more than anything, I want to be famous at home.

There are few things in life that are as good as being a legendary dad.

Monday, January 11, 2010

All The Bright Lights

"AllTheBrightLights' self-titled debut-10-track record uniquely combines this sort of moody vibe with a celestial sound that sonically spells out an underlying theme of redemption... It's creative. It tells a story-- a story of redemption. It's addictive, but only because of the powerful divine edge that's unashamedly holds down its foundation musically, spiritually, and creatively. AllTheBrightLights' record will impact you, move you, and awaken your soul."
- Luke Goddard at The Blue Indian

James Duke (my guitar player /the guy who makes my music good), his brother Jon Duke, and their good friend Jacob Arnold just put out this album called "All The Bright Lights". If you like moody vibey stuff like Sigur Ros and Explosions In the Sky, you'll love it.

Go buy it. You'll thank me.

ALL THE BRIGHT LIGHTS - All the Bright Lights


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Most Important Music...

What 5 albums, would you say, have been the most important to you personally and why? What has been your [cheese alert] soundtrack?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What was your favorite music of 2009?

What was the best music of 2009?
Here's some of my favorites. What did you guys shake your booty to all year?

Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz! (Deluxe Edition)

Sunbears! - Dream Happy Dreams

Bruce Springsteen - Working On a Dream

The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You

Neko Case - Middle Cyclone (Bonus Track Version)

Bon Iver - Blood Bank - EP

David Vallier - Crash This Place

Bob Dylan - Together Through Life