Mark J.P. Hood
Hailing from the Southside of Chicago, Hood has worked tirelessly to create his own unique sound in music. With influences ranging from Usher to Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Rascal Flatts and Michael Jackson, he aims to create good, clean music that deals with love, and tackles real life situations. This is only the beginning for him, and with his drive and work ethic, he’s bound to accomplish so much more in his promising future.
UMM: You are from a musical family. Please describe your musical roots.
MARK J.P. HOOD: Well, I grew up in Chicago, in the church, my father is a pastor. Naturally, I was singing in church as a kid and my mother was the church organist, so I followed in her footsteps and started playing the piano. My older brother is a multi-instrumentalist and my sister is a vocalist. As a kid, I wasn’t really a good singer, I had what they called a “frog voice”…very raspy, which ended up becoming my sound.
UMM: Who inspires you?
MARK J.P. HOOD: Outside of my amazing family, some of my musical inspirations are Marvin Gaye, John Legend, Usher and P.J. Morton. They are my musical heroes.
UMM: How did you get involved in musical theater?
MARK J.P. HOOD: I attended a performing arts driven school (Amelia Earhart Elementary) from K-8th grade, so naturally, the arts were a HUGE part of my childhood. From choir to theater, we did it all. I was in every school play. I performed in every assembly, etc. I LOVED every minute. When I got out of high school, I got back into theater and started acting professionally in theater in 2012.
UMM: Musical theater has always been a love of yours. Please name a few of the plays that you have performed in.
MARK J.P. HOOD: I just finished doing Sister Act The Musical, which was such a fun show! A few other favorite shows that I’ve done are The Nativity Story, The Color Purple, One Hit Wonders, among many others.
UMM: You have performed with Chicago’s The Black Ensemble Theater (BE). Why did you choose to be a member of that particular theater company?
MARK J.P. HOOD: The Black Ensemble Theater gave me a chance, when it seemed like no one else would. Although, it took them a while to give me a chance. (lol) I had auditioned several times and they would never cast me, but once they did, they wouldn’t let me go! I’ve performed in several shows with the company and I’m happy to be an ensemble member of such a prestigious African American theater company. The mission of BE Theater is to eradicate racism…and they are doing that, through the arts…one show at a time!
UMM: How did you make the transition from musical theater to television acting?
MARK J.P. HOOD: I can remember being a kid dreaming big saying “I’m gonna be on TV!” So, I started as an extra, working on any show that I could get myself on. I was even an extra on Chicago Fire two years before I got a speaking role. I needed an agent though. It’s very hard to do television, real roles with lines, without an agent. I was submitting to agencies and getting turned down. It just wasn’t my time. But, I finally got an awesome agent and the rest is history. They would send me out on auditions all of the time and I almost immediately started booking.
UMM: Appearing on NBC’s Chicago Fire and USA’s Sirens must have been amazing opportunities for you, especially since they were both shot in Chicago. What were those experiences like?
MARK J.P. HOOD: Those were AMAZING experiences! I remember auditioning for Sirens like it was yesterday. I was originally going in for a different part, a guy who was a rapper. They had me rapping, which I am mad decent at, (lol) and it was a really fun audition process. Then they put me on “Check Avail” which is like ALMOST booking, but not quite. The next day they called my agent, while I was at school in acting class ironically, and said they needed me downtown in a few hours for a different role. I rushed out of class and learned the lines while driving and went in and booked the job. The cast and crew of both shows were so cool. I had a great time. Acting is such a thrill for me man, I just love doing it!
UMM: Getting back to music, recently you were a competitor on NBC’s season 9 of The Voice, where you were talented enough for all four judges to turn their chairs around. What did that remarkable moment mean to you?
MARK J.P. HOOD: I COULD NOT BELIVE IT! I was freaking out on stage. I never thought in a million years that four chairs would turn for me. I replay that moment in my head almost daily. You never forget it. I literally gave my heart and soul during that performance and they all felt it. That means so much to me. I can’t lie, I kind of get emotional every time I watch it. Don’t judge me (lol)
UMM: You progressed and joined #TeamPharrell. What was it like working with Pharrell?
MARK J.P. HOOD: Pharrell is one of the BEST people I’ve ever met in my life. He’s so humble, so cool, so encouraging. I could go on for days. He really cares about you and your journey. He brings out the best in you and things that you never thought you could do. Man, he’s my hero. He taught me so much about myself. He would often say to me after rehearsing, “It’s not supposed to be that easy man. It’s not supposed to be that easy.” He saw and respected the joy that I brought to what I do. I’m so blessed to know him. He restored my faith in being an artist. God dropped him into my life at the perfect time.
UMM: There were several memorable moments from your time on the show. Your rendition of Bill Wither’s “Use Me,” and the battle round between you and Celeste Betton performing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” was stellar. What were those moments like for you?
MARK J.P. HOOD: “Use Me” was absolutely a crazy moment, but “Aint No Mountain” took it to the next level. Maaannnnn, singing with Celeste Betton!!! She is CRAZY vocally. Singing with her was magical from the moment we started rehearsing. I knew it would be special. The coaches declared our battle, “One of the best battles The Voice has ever had” and that was unbelievable. Marvin Gaye is one of my biggest influences, and to sing his song on that stage meant a lot.
UMM: There was a moment on the show where you had the opportunity to interact with celebrity coach Missy Elliot, which brought her to tears. Please describe how that made you feel.
MARK J.P. HOOD: That moment still feels unreal! Who makes Missy Elliott cry? That was such a humbling moment because the love for what I do runs so deep. So, to know that my gift moved her to tears was just unbelievable. Moments like that I can only thank God that he placed this gift inside of me.
UMM: What did you learn from your experience on The Voice, and working with entertainment superstars?
MARK J.P. HOOD: The Voice was one of the best experiences of my entire life. I met so many amazing people and made life-long friendships. I got to work with some of the greatest people in the industry that I look up to, and above all, I got to share my gift with the world and do what I love. I get so much joy from performing. I love to entertain. I love to make people happy and to be able to do that for millions. It was the best time of my life. Pharrell taught me so much about myself and reaffirmed that I was doing EXACTLY what I was supposed to be doing. His last words to me, when my time was up on the show was, “Remember your first name bro. You are MARKED for this.”
UMM: As a background vocalist, you have shared the stage with many stars. Please name the ones that stand out the most in your memory, and why.
MARK J.P. HOOD: Singing background for Kelly Rowland was a really fun time! She is so nice and humble and I got to sing with my good friend and brother Kenyon Dixon on that gig! We had a great time!
UMM: As a vocalist, you’ve had the great opportunity to perform before legends like Doug E. Fresh and Gladys Knight, while competing on Apollo Live. What did you like most about that performance?
MARK J.P. HOOD: That was an incredible moment. Performing on the historic Apollo Theater stage was a bucket list goal, and I checked it off at 21 years old. Moreover, to be getting advice and knowledge from legends like Gladys Knight and Doug E. Fresh was such a pivotal moment for me. Apollo Live was a phenomenal experience.
UMM: What is it about each genre of entertainment that you are involved in: theater, television, and singing that attracts you?
MARK J.P. HOOD: I LOVE TO ENTERTAIN! I truly believe God put me on this earth to entertain and make people happy. That is my purpose! So being able to do so via theater, tv and singing just gives me joy man. When I’m performing, that is when I am most happy. I’m grateful.
UMM: How would you rank the three, in order of your love of each?
MARK J.P. HOOD: There is no ranking. They are all on the same level. I honestly would NOT be happy if I was doing one without the other. If I was JUST a singer, or JUST an actor, I wouldn’t be happy. I love them both so much. They are both at the top of the shelf. I am absolutely a Singer-Actor.
UMM: Being an entertainer that gives back, you also have been involved with theater productions which advocate violence prevention. Why did you want to be involved in that?
MARK J.P. HOOD: At The Black Ensemble Theater, when I was asked to be apart of PWAP (Plays With A Purpose), I was thrilled to join. Growing up in Chicago, I didn’t always have the opportunity to see “ME” on stage. African American kids go through so many things and our stories are not on stage. Jackie Taylor put our stories on stage and is showing kids from all over Chicago that they are valued and that there is a better way.
UMM: What is your opinion on how the ever increasing violence in Chicago can be eliminated?
MARK J.P. HOOD: We can’t change the world at one time, but we can change ONE! Each one has to reach one. We have so many lost people in Chicago, and we can reach some of them, we just have to try. I do my part and try to encourage, uplift and show kids a better way. Jesus is the way. We need him bad. I continuously pray for my city.
UMM: What’s next on the horizon for Mark J.P. Hood?
MARK J.P. HOOD: I’m working on my album right now! I am so excited to finish it and release it this summer. That is completely my top priority right now. I have some other theater/tv opportunities on the horizon right now as well. I’m excited about those too!
UMM: How would you describe yourself as a person, not as an entertainer, to someone that doesn’t know you?
MARK J.P. HOOD: I’m just a crazy, silly person who loves to laugh and loves to help people. Helping others makes me so happy! I also love to make people laugh. That’s my thing. (lol)
UMM: Many entertainers are not well-versed with the business-side of the industry. Are you very hands-on with your career? Why or why not?
MARK J.P. HOOD: I am absolutely hands on with my career. I like to know EVERYTHING that is happening on every end. I don’t micro-manage because that is annoying, but I am always “in the know” and drumming up ideas and pitching them to my team.
UMM: Please name three dream performances that you’d love to have on stage, television and singing. What would each be, where, who would be involved, and why is it a dream of yours?
MARK J.P. HOOD: Theater wise, right now my dream is to be in The Broadway Musical Hamilton. It’s SO good. It’s literally the best thing since sliced bread. Also, playing Simba in The Lion King and Jimmy Early in Dreamgirls are dream performances. On TV, I plan to have my own show one day, working with Angela Bassett and Tom Hanks at the same time. A stretch, I know (lol)….but Pharrell taught me to dream big and that ANY thing that I wanted is possible. That’s my DREAM TEAM man! My two favorite actors. Jennifer Lewis would play my mother.
UMM: In conclusion, what does the J.P. in Mark J.P Hood stand for?
MARK J.P. HOOD: It stands for Justin-Paul. My mom just had to give me a million names. I guess she couldn’t decide. (lol)