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Mark Wills coming to the Maryland Theatre

May 17, 2000

Mark Wills in concert

Date: Sunday, May 21

Times: 4 and 7 p.m.

Where: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown

Cost: $30 and $35 (plus service and mailing charges)

For tickets: Call 301-790-2000.

Wills' Web site is www.markwills.com.By KERRY LYNN FRALEY / Staff Writer

As a teenager, Mark Wills played drums for a rock 'n' roll band.

But when it came to singing, the Georgia native - whose influences included Ronnie Milsap, Conway Twitty and George Jones - said he never considered any genre but country.

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"It's real music. It's about life. That's the whole deal," Wills, 26, said last Thursday in a phone interview from a golf course in Pensacola, Fla., where he was performing that night.

Wills, named the Academy of Country Music's Top New Male Vocalist in 1999, is set to perform two shows Sunday, May 21, at The Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown.

Wills is out on the road promoting his latest release, "Permanently," an easy-to-listen-to mix of upbeat tunes and feeling-laden ballads.

One of his favorites on "Permanently," released in January, is "In My Arms," a song Wills helped write about being a father to his now 21-month-old daughter, Mally.

"It definitely changes your life," Wills said. "She is my main focus now. She is the reason I do what I do."

"She likes to see Daddy on TV," he added.

Although Wills enjoyed working on the song and said he tries to do some song writing, he isn't planning to make it a focus.

He'll leave that to his professional songwriters, who have the craft down cold, he said.

"I let them do most of the hard work for me," Wills said.

He said his focus has always been on singing, which he has been doing for as long as he can remember.

"That's just what I love to do," he said.

Wills said he takes an active roll in choosing the songs he records.

"I feel if I'm going to sing them, I want to pick them," he said.

Promoting the music entails a lot of road work, Wills said. He estimates he'll have 170 to 180 show dates this year.

"Keep in front of people, that's what we're trying to do," he said.

The hard part of touring is leaving his wife, Kelly, and Mally at home, Wills said.

"For me to be out there on the road takes a lot of sacrifice," he said.

Wills said he tries not to be away from his family for long stretches and sometimes will have them join him on tour.

They came to Florida with him this time, he said.

Wills still loves performing on stage, which he has done professionally since age 16.

But he doesn't love another necessary part of the business - shooting videos.

"It takes too long, and I hate makeup," Wills said.

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