Growing up in Dallas, Texas, Mark Salling spent much of his youth playing guitar in local bands and honing his songwriting skills. After writing songs for musicians such as Josh Green and Danielle McKee, this talented singer/songwriter branched out to the acting world, landing a gig on Fox's Glee.
I had the opportunity to chat with this rising star about playing mean-spirited Puck on the hit series, what he thinks about American Idol and where he sees himself in the next 5 years....
Q: Acting, singing, songwriting... you're a multi-talented guy, when did you first recognize your abilities?
Mark: "I've been playing piano since I was 5, and started writing when I was 6 or 7. It was never a revelation I had, it was just what I did. Playing music was always a part of my life, I don't know anything else."
Q: Who were your biggest musical influences?
Mark: "Growing up, I was into that '90s grunge movement like Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Nirvana. I've gone through every phase -- I'll be into country music for a while, or rap music. Now I'm just a snob, I only listen to smooth jazz and that's about it."
Q: Which artists have you written music for?
Mark: "I've written for Josh Green and Danielle McKee. I've done a lot of guitar session work and teaching guitar lessons before I got this gig."
Q: What do you think about talent competitions such as American Idol?
Mark: "I think it's a great venue for singers. I think it's great because it gives people an outlet to try and go for their dreams. I think it needs to moderated to some degree because they have so much control over their artists that I think sometimes the artists are left with nothing and can't even pursue other things because they're under contract."
Q: How did the role of Puck on Glee come to you?
Mark: "I was playing music and struggling from paycheck to paycheck and not really seeing my music take off the way I wanted. A couple of my students kept telling me that I needed to get on L.A. Casting because they're always looking for people who can play instruments or sing. I did a little research and sent out 100 packets to about 50 managers and agents. Out of all those people, one called me and submitted me for Glee that day in her office. I was pretty lucky."
Q: Tell us about Puck....
Mark: "We only got to see a one-dimensional side of him in the pilot, so hopefully his likability factor will increase as the season goes on. He's got stars in his eyes, he's hoping to get out of this small town."
Q: How would you describe the premise of Glee?
Mark: "It's about a high school Spanish teacher who used to be in his high school glee club in his heyday. He's decided now that the glee club [at McKinley High] has fallen from grace due to lackluster leadership, he's going to take it over and restore it to its former glory."
Q: Do you plan to watch any of the new fall shows?
Mark: "I think I'll probably watch The Cleveland Show."
Q: Are there any shows you watch on a regular basis?
Mark: "This is a boring answer, but not really. I watch Family Guy and The Simpsons. We haven't had time in the last 8 months; we've been working our butts off with the show. You don't really have time to watch TV if you work on TV."
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Mark: "Hopefully I'll still be writing and recording music and I'll be on the show for as long as they'll have me -- if I'm 35 and still in high school, so be it. I just want to keep growing as an artist."
Q: Anything to say to the fans?
Mark: "Thank you for being patient, waiting for the first episode. The show only gets better."