An Interview With Edward Sylvan

…Lift people up. The common sense of understanding that we are all together on this planet. It doesn’t matter where you came from or go to, we have a limited time here, and have to make the best out of it. We’re going to meet many different people. I wish everyone would extend their hands to help another person to stand up, if they are down. Every human being needs support sooner or later in life, regardless of the purpose. It may be mental, physical, financial or spiritual. It could just be positive support. Let people live their life to the fullest, the way they want to.

Asa part of our series about Nashville’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Mario Barth.

Mario Barth is a true artist. He is not just a rockstar, he is also a legendary celebrity tattoo artist, entrepreneur, inventor, advocate and global force. With over 2 billion media impressions worldwide, Mario Barth has done more for the tattooing industry and culture than any other person in history.

Mario grew up in the Austrian underground during the late 1970’s when tattooing was illegal. He perfected his craft and quickly rose to prominence. Immigrating to America in 1997, he helped lead the explosion of tattoo popularity from subculture into mainstream culture while working in New Jersey, Miami, Nebraska, Detroit, California, Las Vegas and internationally. Mario has won over 200 international awards and set multiple Guinness World Records — one for insanely tattooing 679 tattoos on an entire Austrian pro soccer fan team, SK Sturm Graz, in a single day! Never losing site of his calling as an artist, Mario became the leading tattoo artist choice of celebrities including Sylvester Stallone, Tommy Lee, Chriss Angel, Steven Tyler, Lenny Kravitz, Usher, Wendy Williams, Nikki Sixx, NFL NY Giants’ David Diehl, Rapper Jim Jones, Avril Levine, Brody Jenner, Dead Mouse, Korn’s Fieldy, NBA’s Jason Kidd, and many more. Mario is recognized as the world’s greatest tattoo artist, being voted by the Tattoo Society “Artist of the Year” for 2021.

Mario wields the largest portfolio of tattooing interests in the world. He owns and operates studios in Europe and in the United States, holding the honor of being the first tattoo shop in a Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. He is Owner/Founder of INTENZE Products, manufacturer of the revolutionary safest and best quality tattoo ink on the market. Mario is also the head of the Coalition for Tattoo Safety, a non-profit global organization that leads the tattoo industry, and produces the hugely popular “World Tattoo & Piercing Trade Conference” in Las Vegas in May 2022, featuring the greatest tattoo and piercing artists in the world.

Mario splits his time between New Jersey and Las Vegas, where his corporate headquarters are located along with his signature studio Starlight Tattoo — Las Vegas (Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino), and his hometown of Graz, Austria, where his famed studio Mario Barth Tattoo is located and he is a Euro Country Rock superstar, performing with his band “About Kings” to sold out stadiums in Europe. With a newly formed partnership, Mario has just opened “Drink’d,” a Tattoo-Music-Cocktails themed bar at Planet Hollywood Las Vegas. He has been featured on the covers of INC Magazine, Forbes, Bloomberg, Yahoo Finance, The New York Times, “Keeping up with the Kardashians” and more.

“About Kings” just recorded its first all-English US album in Nashville, “Go Big or Go Home.” The new 14-song album was produced by Grammy and Oscar nominated music producer and songwriter/musician Kent Wells (Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Travis Tritt, The Whites). It was recorded at Nashville’s Sound Stage Studios and Dark Horse Recording. “About Kings” is fronted by Mario’s powerful lead vocals, with fellow famed tattoo artist Bob Tyrrell on rhythm guitar, Alen Brentini on lead guitar/vocals, top Nashville musicians Kevin Ogburn on bass and Shane Hoskins on drums. They just premiered their new album in a Las Vegas concert, performing with country music stars Lonestar and Tyler Rich.

Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

Igrew up in the town of Graz, Austria. A fairly big town with over 200,000 people. Both my parents were self-employed and creative. So, the entrepreneur and artist blood has been with me since birth. My father was a screen printer and singer, and my mother was a hairdresser. My mom saw my Dad singing with his band at a concert in Austria in 1960’s, and that was it. They’re still together today. They have always encouraged me creatively. I did my first tattoo on a friend at age 12. Tattooing was illegal in Austria. So, the rebellious streak in me, was pretty early on. I served in the Austrian military at 18. One year of service is required to all males at that time. I learned discipline, focus and organization in the Army. When I finished my service, I decided to become a professional tattoo artist at 19. Not an easy path, as I mentioned, tattooing was illegal and looked at as a back-alley subculture.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

It was during 2006–07, when I started building my first tattoo shop at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. It was before Tattooing exploded with popularity with the general public. So, as an artist who was not only trying to build a career, but build an industry, it was very deflating… crushing at times. The status quo is trying to minimize you and make you go away. Plus, there is stress as a tattoo artist that no other artist has… you are permanently creating your art on a person’s body. That is a huge burden and honor at the same time. It’s not just about a client paying you for your art, your art is literally becoming part of them. That’s when I started picking up the guitar just to balance out life, and distract myself from reality. It became a part of my daily routine, and by 2011, writing songs was my therapy.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I had just formed About Kings with my friend Gernot Pachernigg. A crazy idea of a US Southern Country Rock Band with two Austrian born guys who have Nashville music in their genes and sing in German! We started playing clubs in Austria and Germany, and recording songs. Within a short period of time, I received a call from Klaus Bartelmus, the manager of Austrian superstar singer Andreas Gabalier. He wanted About Kings to join his tour. Suddenly, we were playing to crowds of over 80,000 in Europe. Our bass player Kevin Ogburn and drummer Shane Hoskins are from Nashville and talk about what it was like for them, joining a country rock band that was singing in German to full stadiums, and they had no idea what I was singing! Then our first album was in German and was a hit in Europe, with “Guardian Angel” exceeding 1 million Plays on Spotify and the music video for “Easy Rider” with over 2 million Views on YouTube. The band is thrilled our new Nashville recorded album “Go Big or Go Home” in all English and all Nashville!

Can you share with us an interesting story about living in Nashville?

Because of my tattoo business, I live between Las Vegas and New Jersey mostly. My fiancé Katie was a pro rodeo barrel racer, and her family has a farm in California that we spend time at and ride, and I write music. Our bass player Kevin Ogburn and drummer Shane Hoskins both live in Nashville, as well as my producer, Kent Wells. I stayed in Nashville during the entire process of recording our new album “Go Big or Go Home.” Of course, Nashville is loaded with Southern accents. Kent has produced and played guitar with huge country artists from Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire and Travis Tritt. Suddenly, he is hearing my Austrian accent peeking through kick-ass country rock music and lyrics in the recording sessions. I am sure that was something he had never experienced living in Nashville. There’s always a first for everything!

Can you share with us a few of the best parts of living in Nashville? We’d love to hear some specific examples or stories about that.

Staying and recording in Nashville is a dream come true for me. I am a product of the American dream. Someone who worked hard and was able to create the opportunities that America uniquely has to offer, especially to artists. Wherever someone grows up, they often take it for granted. I didn’t grow up in Nashville, I grew up in another country. Yet, Nashville and Country Music was in my veins. Just hanging out with our Nashville crew, and the people in the town, made me feel like family. And I am all about family. Inspirationally, it’s incredible being surrounded by Music Row, The Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium, the Country Music Hall of Fame…it’s the heart of Country Music, for sure. The food is warm and comforting like the food I grew up with in Austria, but of course completely different. Nashville Hot Chicken, Catfish and Grits, Biscuits and Gravy, and everything barbeque, it’s a food paradise. Even Wiener Schnitzel would be great with country gravy! The Parthenon in Centennial Park was a fun surprise. Growing up in Europe, I always thought there was only one Parthenon… in Greece!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

About Kings first big stadium concert, we were really not prepared for. I thought a gig is a gig. We knew our songs, we rehearsed, so no big deal, right? Then I get on stage and look out at tens of thousands of people screaming. I think, “oh my god, what is this? This is a huge mistake! Why did I say “yes”? We’re not ready! We need to get out of here!”… I mean, we were just playing clubs weeks before. Then I just thought, my whole career has been a risk. It’s always been about passion and never letting anyone tell me “you can’t”. We walked on stage and performed and killed. It was amazing. At that moment I knew I belonged in Country Music. I learned, sometimes a mistake is your opportunity. Don’t pretend a mistake didn’t happen, lean into it, and use it to be better.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m grateful to many people. I remember everyone who has helped and believed in me and my music. My friend and former bandmate, Gernot Pachernigg, whom I started my musical journey with. Andreas Gabalier, who invited me to tour with him and changed my musical world and confidence from small to big. And my producer, Kent Wells, who gave me a chance and the confidence to fully immerse myself into my own written music and lyrics. He never doubted me as an artist or as the frontman for a rockin country band. One more special person is William “Viggy” Vignola, who has spent months with me and the band in my rehearsal studio, served as my vocal coach, creating custom lessons for techniques to sing using English phrasing. It’s hard to just name a few, because I have so many incredible friends and supporters.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I just opened the first of several unique exciting partnership concepts with Inked Magazine and Club Tattoo. “Drink’d,” is our new tattoo-music themed bar, in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas. I am producing “The World Tattoo & Piercing Trade Conference” in Las Vegas. It is an annual convention, this year in May 2022, and will have hundreds of the greatest artists in the world, the top vendors and, of course, a ton of fans. I am also looking to open first tattoo studio in Beverly Hills. Musically, About Kings just performed an awesome concert with Lonestar and Tyler Rich in Las Vegas. I am working on music videos for “Heaven on Down the Highway” and “3 Chords and the Truth,” the first songs being released off my new album, “Go Big or Go Home.” We are putting together concert dates for 2022 to support the album.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Observe, evaluate and adjust to your market / audience. When you are in a moment of creating any form of art, you always believe that the creation is perfect. I try to reevaluate whatever I have created a couple days later to give it a more honest evaluation, as your brain, eyes and ears reset to zero after a little time away from the creative work. At that time, after I reevaluate, I make my revisions, improvement and adjustments to take it to the next level. I use this approach on almost everything in my life. In music, you need to be true to yourself, but also observe and adjust to the world.

2. Common sense is a vital attribute to have today. We are surrounded by media that is charged with opinion and loose on the facts. It is essential that you try to fully understand the truth in issues before you push your viewpoint. Song lyrics are the ultimate truth. Whether they are autobiographical, or just everyone’s truth in life. They are for me when I write them. Don’t listen to just people or media that say what you think. Listen to everything. All views. Then, come to your own conclusion. How can 50% of the people be wrong 100% of the time? There’s wisdom in common sense. Like, don’t call something a “problem,” call it a “challenge.” Nobody wants to deal with a problem, but lots of people love a challenge.

3. Stay true to your dreams. Don’t let anyone tell you “you can’t.” You can. The more people who tell you something will not work; the less people will be your competition when you get there. I’ve always thought that way. It is essential to your own inner peace to take every chance to fulfill your dreams in your own hands. Dreams only become reality when you put them down on paper. Make a list or write your plan. Put one element in motion every day to get to your end goal. I was told I was crazy to go into the music business and form a country rock band — and then I played for 80,000 people. Dreams happen!

4. Stick to your guns. If you’ve made your mind up, don’t fold. I had to give a presentation to the President of Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino for my concept to put the first tattoo studio on their property. After a two-hour presentation, even though he liked it, he said unfortunately that he could not approve it at the location we had selected, which was crushing for me. I had already been working with him for a year and a half to make my studio happen. I flew home to New Jersey, and the next morning I sent him a gift basket thanking him for his honest opinion. I said I hoped one day we could make it happen. Two days later, I received a phone call from him that he found a new location. I had made my mind up that I wanted to have my studio at Mandalay Bay, even though no one had ever put a tattoo studio in a casino in Las Vegas, and I did not sway from it. It happened. The same passion and focus drives About Kings’ music. We stick to our guns.

5. Know your field and become a master at it. Listen, and get as much information as possible. You’re your own research. Learn from the best, and get educated in your field. Otto von Bismarck said: “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” Now, of course you learn from your own mistakes. Everyone does. The point is, if you seek out the best to learn from, and absorb their knowledge and skills based on what THEY learned and their mistakes, you will succeed much faster. Be very sensitive and objective to your own and other people’s mistakes, because they are the perfect outline of what to do and what not to do. When I look at a tattoo which has been produced by somebody else, I learn more about what not to do, then what to do. Every musician listens to not only current music, but music across genres through the decades, and is inspired by what others have done.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Forget what you’ve been through during the pandemic shutdown, but remember and respect what everyone else has been through. It’s a mistake to think that everyone has had the same experience the past 20 months. Now is the time to be in touch with your inside, your religion, your spirituality and your soul. The devastation hit people and businesses differently. Learn from it all… but you need to get back in gear and stay full throttle forward. After over a year in a deep freeze, I hope no musicians and artists will be burning out for the foreseeable future!

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Lift people up. The common sense of understanding that we are all together on this planet. It doesn’t matter where you came from or go to, we have a limited time here, and have to make the best out of it. We’re going to meet many different people. I wish everyone would extend their hands to help another person to stand up, if they are down. Every human being needs support sooner or later in life, regardless of the purpose. It may be mental, physical, financial or spiritual. It could just be positive support. Let people live their life to the fullest, the way they want to.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Who says I can’t?” is a quote I live by. It’s also the name of the book on High School Football Coach Rob Mendez, who was born without arms or legs. He is an inspiration to everyone. That guy never took “no” for an answer, and neither have I. Don’t let anyone tell you can’t be great, or that you can’t achieve your goals or dreams. Use it as motivation. Just put in the work and passion.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

I have to name two people… Garth Brooks and Dolly Parton. I remember growing up in Austria and they truthfully were the first country music artists that broke the wall down in Europe, bringing the incredible country music genre across the Atlantic. Both of Garth and Dolly show their emotions in every interview and performance. Their songs bring joy to millions of people by tapping into the very mind and soul of listeners. They are true poets and musicians. Music is an emotional communicator, and they do it as great as anyone ever has. About Kings’ Producer, Kent Wells, has played guitar and produced records with Dolly, and he confirms her genius and kindness.

How can our readers follow you online?

Listen to “About Kings” on SPOTIFY, and their new single “Heaven on Down the Highway.”

For more info & to follow Mario go to:

Instagram / TikTok: mariobarthtattoo

Facebook: @mariobarthtattoo

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!