Mark Wills is a testament that dreams come true. A mainstay at the Grand Ole Opry, after two decades of performing on the famed stage the country singer was invited to be an Opry member in December 2018. A complete shock to the singer, the evening of Dec. 21, 2018, served as celebration for longtime musician Jimmy Capps and his 60 years playing the Grand Ole Opry. Mark never thought he would be thrust into the spotlight that night.
“I had no anticipation that was coming,” Mark explains to One Country over the phone, reflecting on Vince Gill inviting him to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry. “The Opry was honoring Jimmy that night for 60 years of being on the Opry. Vince and I were both there, along with Marty Stuart, and with many other people honoring him that evening. The whole invitation coming to me was just a blindside because I had no idea that was even in the works for that evening.”
Mark played the Opry 28 times last year, the most performances of any artist in 2018. Singing on the Opry stage is something he and his band love to do and there’s a good chance when Mark is off the road you’ll find him at the Opry.
“We love to be around the other artists that are at the Opry. We love the camaraderie of the backstage area. It’s just a very unique experience so to have that opportunity to play there as much as we can, we cherish that,” he adds.
The “19 Somethin'” singer says being able to call himself a new member of the Opry is a career achievement and something he’s dreamed about since first listening to the Grand Ole Opry as a kid. He looks forward to carrying on the time honored tradition of the Opry, which he calls one of the staples of country music.
Having played the Opry nearly 30 times in 2018, when it was time for Mark to accept his trophy and make his induction speech he says he wasn’t nervous. The venue was filled with family, friends, fans, former bus drivers, musicians and tour managers, all of whom helped make him feel at home.
“It was just overwhelmed support and [an] overwhelmed feeling of love in the room. I walked out on stage for my Opry induction and I got a standing ovation before I ever even got to the microphone. That’s a great feeling. It’s a great feeling to know that people are supporting you,” he gushes. “It was an amazing outpouring of love that evening.”
One very special audience member included Mark’s junior high chorus teacher, who saw something special in him early on and urged him to join the school choir.
“From being a kid and loving to sing, to being a young adult and her instilling in me the faith and the belief that I could do this. I owe her so much because she was really the one that invested a lot of time into the development of my music career,” he reflects.
Mark was inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry on Jan. 11, 2019—nearly 22 years since he made his Opry debut on Aug. 22, 1997. He joked on stage that he’ll be sleeping with his trophy and kept his word as his wife snapped a shot of him later that night with his beloved honor laying on a pillow beside him.
Now the trophy resides on the mantle above the Wills’ family fireplace and will likely remain a focal point in Mark’s home. “I’ve got it prominently displayed for everyone who comes in the house to see,” he admits. “I’m living proof that dreams do come true.”
While 2019 kicked off with a memorable start, Mark promises the year will be a resurgence for him as he and his band are currently working on new music. While he wouldn’t give too much away, he says the songs he’s recording will be reminiscent to earlier hits like “Jacob’s Ladder, “Places I’ve Never Been” and “I Do (Cherish You).”
“If people have loved the songs that we have put out since the beginning of my career, that’s what we’re going back with. We’re not really trying to reinvent the wheel,” he says. “We’re trying to make some great country music and we’re trying to put some stuff out there that gives people the option because there’s not a lot of the type of music that we have made throughout my career out there right now.”
He continues, “What I’ve always tried to do is find great songs. That’s what makes country music great, is that we’re one of the only formats of music that has really made a true direction of music to tell stories.”