Friday, 26 October 2012

Time to face the music

You may remember Mark Stevens as Nick Page in Neighbours… if you’re old enough to have been watching the show during the late ’80s, that is. These days, Mark is a worship leader at Abundant Life Church in Bradford and has just released his own album. I met up with him to find out about his journey to fame and, more importantly, his journey to faith.

Mark was born in Tasmania and developed a love for music at a very young age. When he turned 13 he applied to appear on Young Talent Time (YTT), an Australian variety show similar to America’s Mickey Mouse Club.

By the age of 14, Mark had started dabbling in drugs and alcohol, and getting into the party scene. By the time he turned 16, he was starting to experience the ill-effects of this lifestyle. He started to get restless at YTT and wanted a new challenge. Fortunately, his agent pulled some strings and he was offered the role of Nick Page on iconic show Neighbours.

His success on Neighbours opened doors for Mark in the UK and he came to England aged 19 to appear on the stage. Meanwhile, his life outside the show was starting to get a little wilder. He got heavily involved in the club scene and taking recreational drugs.

Shirking work
He also got a record deal with BMG and found himself touring the UK with big names such as (the one and only) Chesney Hawkes, Sonia and Take That.

By this point, Mark was heavily involved in the drug scene and several dealers were ‘looking after him’; plying him with coke, LSD and other narcotics. He was missing work appointments because he was living in a constant, drug-induced hangover, and his PA was constantly having to cover for him.

The young actor and musician decided to head back to Australia to promote the single he had just released and ended up with a warrant out for his arrest for an incident involving a policeman he nearly ran over at a crossing. He ended up back in Tasmania, living with his family and spending most of his time drunk, stoned and sleeping around.

Having sunk to new lows, Mark returned to the UK. He was taking heroin and even drinking cough medicine in a desperate bid to get high. “In my head I felt like Jim Morrison reincarnated,” says Mark. “I couldn’t work because I kept blowing it by not turning up to recording sessions, so doors just closed.”

Turning it around
Around this time, he bumped into a girl he had previously dated. She was a Christian but had been backsliding when he had first met her. After they broke up, she went back to church and got her life right with God.

He went to church and experienced a real peace that he hadn’t felt before. When he left the service he went right back to his normal lifestyle, but he started to see things in a different way.

Mark’s ex confronted him after he made a scene at a party and he suddenly became aware that he needed God in his life. The next morning he remembers the presence of God filling the room. He broke down into tears and started crying out to God.

“I don’t think I stopped crying for about three days,” Mark says. I had no money, no friends, nothing.”

One of the pastors at Hillsong London prayed for him and He was completely bowled over by the presence of God. He started going to the church regularly and got a job as a waiter in Covent Garden. He joined the worship team at church and moved in with a group of Christian guys and enjoyed just doing normal things with them, hanging out.

A brand new life
Mark later moved to Sydney to make a new start and for the next four years he attended Hillsong Sydney. As he was back on home soil, he decided to get the outstanding police warrant sorted. He went to jail for a day and had a huge fine slapped on him, but he was finally able to settle his debts and start afresh.

Before long he fell in love with a beautiful woman named Bethan Scanlon and they decided to get married. Since moving back to the UK, the couple have really got stuck into church life and the music scene at Abundant Life. They have been blessed with a gorgeous son and daughter, and fatherhood suits Mark down to the ground.

Having previously recorded music with the likes of Nik Kershaw, Nikki Graham and John Farnham, Mark has finally achieved his dreaming of releasing his own album. The album is called To Be With You and features ten fantastic tracks. Out now, it will make a great Christmas present for family and friends, or even a pre-festive-season gift to yourself! 

Read the full story in Sorted magazine - out now!

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