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If you go

› What: Mark Kelly Hall

› Where: Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant, 2 W. Aquarium Way

› When: 6 p.m. Sunday, May 28

› Admission: Free,

› For more information: 423-708-8505

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Mark Kelly Hall

Mark Kelly Hall was born in Chattanooga, grew up in Cleveland, Tenn., has lived in Hawaii, Oregon and finally Nashville for the last 15 years. On Sunday night, May 28, Hall will return home to play a family-friendly acoustic show at Puckett's Grocery & Restaurant.

Hall taught himself to play guitar at age 14, learning what he could from a Mel Bay instruction book and playing along to songs on the radio.

After graduating from Bradley Central High School in 1982, he majored in broadcasting at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He started playing in public by leading worship songs at a college Bible study. The first song he wrote was a "good-bye song" for the leaders of that Bible study, he says.

"It went on for too many verses, but it made the female leader cry, so I figured it was a hit," he recalls.

While he knows music is his calling, it's not a full-time gig yet, so he works for a law firm in Nashville's AT&T building. His show Sunday night will reflect his fascination with pop culture along with his experiences in locations away from his home state. He'll be joined onstage by guitar player Dana Harding.

Q Who encouraged your interest in music?

A: Everyone in my family loves music, but my mother was the original musician in the family. She always sang, played piano and accordion and tried a few other instruments. She was voted Most Talented of the class of 1957 at Tyner; she was Elizabeth Vaught then.

Q Who were your musical influences?

A: James Taylor, Jim Croce, Jackson Browne, maybe B.J. Thomas vocally and Christian artists like Bob Bennett and Randy Stonehill. I like prog rock (Kansas, our own Glass Hammer), R.E.M. and U2 as well, but I don't know how much of that shows in my own stuff. Barry Manilow and the Carpenters and I'm not ashamed to admit it!

Q What are some of the songs you'll play at Puckett's?

A: I do originals and throw in some familiar songs like "King of the Road" and "Tennessee Waltz." I also do a medley of bubble-gum pop songs. That's a fun one.

I have one that is about an ancestor, Alexander Kelly, who fought in the American Revolution and was on the original Tennessee legislature. He was involved in picking out the site of what became the University of Tennessee. His family settled in Marion County; one of his descendants started Kelly's Ferry.

The DAR dedicated a large grave marker to him last year, and I was privileged to do the song as part of the ceremony. Best graveyard gig ever.

Q When you say you perform "songs that reflect the spiritual heritage of the Bible-belt South, combined with a lifelong fascination with American pop culture," can you give an example?

A: I just mean they include my take on the Christian faith, or faith in general, and also observations about what I see on TV, online, etc.

I have one called "Children of the '70s" that I've been doing quite a while. It mentions Gilligan, the Jeffersons, stuff like that.

I don't do overtly religious songs, but my faith is at the foundation of my worldview, so I'm sure it comes out. The important thing is to say what's true.

Contact Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.

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