Mark Bryan doesn't miss Columbia. As any good South Carolinian knows, Bryan's band, Hootie and Blowfish, met on the campus on the University of South Carolina. From there, they became for a brief time one of the biggest bands in America — if not the world — thanks to their 1994 release Cracked Rear View, an album which has sold over 26 million copies to date. The Blowfish are Capital City hometown heroes, right up there with Steve Spurrier and George Rogers. But 13 years ago, Bryan said goodbye to that famously hot city to the north, and to this day, he still gushes about his new home
"When you see this city from the water, you get a whole different perspective, and there's just something about being near the beach and being able to hop on a boat and go anywhere in the world," Bryan says. "And then, over time, it's become the people."
Since moving here, Bryan has wasted no time getting involved in his favorite city. Back in 1999, he flipped on the radio and realized, to his astonishment, that the College of Charleston did not have its own student-run radio station. In Columbia, the college station WUSC had long served as a nexus for the local music scene, and Bryan had worked as a disc jockey there in the late '80s. He paid his dues in a 3 a.m. time slot until eventually, in his senior year, he landed a primo Friday 3-6 p.m. variety show he dubbed the Three Happy Hours. Working under the DJ handle Styles Bitchley, Bryan says he learned about more new music in those years than at any other point in his career. "Every day you walk in there and you get turned on to 20 new artists," he recalls.
So once he was settled in Charleston, he got in touch with some faculty at CofC, posted a notice, and saw 50 students turn out to the first interest meeting. The station was unable to get a spot on the radio dial, but today, CisternYard Radio streams online 24 hours a day and features more than 40 shows. In recent years, Bryan has kept busy teaching classes at the college on music management and recording.
Bryan is also the founder of the Chucktown Music Group, offering recording services at his studio in Awendaw and promoting artists through a regular online installation he calls Song of the Fortnight. At Chucktown, he has worked with artists including Danielle Howle, John Wesley Satterfield, and former Cravin' Melon frontman Doug Jones. He has also made appearances at the Wednesday night Barn Jams at Awendaw Green.
For the last five years, Bryan has served as chairman of Carolina Studios, an after-school program that teaches kids to use music recording equipment including the audio software ProLogic. "Some of the kids are the type of kids who go to school and they just don't relate to anything that's going on in class," Bryan says. "It's not that they're dumb. They either don't learn that way or their teacher isn't able to make it interesting for them ... They just thrive in this program because it somehow fits more to what they're capable of."
He's still writing his own music, too. Bryan's latest single is a love song called "If You Saw Her," an acoustic ditty with bouncily plucked chords and a feel-good chorus. The accompanying video, shot on Sullivan's Island, is a visual love letter to the Lowcountry, featuring sweetgrass weavers, pelicans, and some cute little girls on a dock.
"It's this guy who used to not care about having a girlfriend and was just out with his buddies having a good time all the time, and then all of a sudden, he's not around anymore because he finds a girl," Bryan explains. "And he says, 'If you saw her, you'd understand.' He falls in love, basically. It's definitely happened to me over the last couple of years."