Mark D. Sanders

Mark D. Sanders
Mark Daniel Sanders
Background information
Born September 7, 1950 (1950-09-07) (age 61)
in Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Genres Country, Country Pop
Occupations Songwriter
Years active 1980 – present

Mark Daniel Sanders is an American Country Music songwriter. He has written 14 No. 1 hits, 50 singles, and over 200 cuts, including the famous Lee Ann Womack single “I Hope You Dance,” co-written with Tia Sillers.


Early life

Mark Daniel Sanders was born in Los Angeles, Calif. on September 7, 1950. While majoring in literature, Sanders also enjoyed playing basketball and surfing at Fullerton College and the University of California-San Diego. Sanders first wrote songs as a hobby, until March 5, 1980, when he went to Nashville, Tenn. to give his first few songs a shot.[1] Sanders worked jobs such as tour bus driving and substitute teaching until he was able to develop his songwriting into a full-fledged career about a decade later.

In an interview with American Songwriter, Sanders said, “I was 29 and wanted to do something of significance in my life. I couldn’t do anything else. I didn’t want to turn 30 and be aimless. I think some people grow up needing to be creative, it just took me awhile to give myself permission to do it.”

In June 1986, Sanders married Cindy Sasser who he met while they were both working at Hillsboro High School in Nashville, TN. In addition to a successful songwriting career, Sanders has two daughters Kate & Sophie Sanders, a son Dylan Sanders, a stepdaughter Jill Goodwin, and stepson Ethan Goodwin.


After spending a successful decade writing in Nashville, Tenn., Sanders’ career began to skyrocket in the early 1990s. Songs by artists Diamond Rio, Tracy Lawrence, and John Anderson brought Sanders 14 No. 1 singles.[2]

“My experience tells me that one out of five songs I demo will get cut, and I’d be really lucky if two of them were recorded,” said Sanders. “It took me 10 years to make enough money to where I didn’t have to worry about next year’s house payment.” [1]

Sanders was nominated for NSAI Songwriter of the Year in 1995, a year that brought him five No. 1 hits. He was nominated a second time in 1996. Also in 1996, Sanders won an award for Country Song of the Year for the song “No News” by Lonestar. Sanders was also awarded Country Songwriter of the Year in 1997.[3] He also won songwriter of the year in 1995 and 1997 from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).

Sanders has held a previous staff position is at Starstruck Publishing, Reba McEntire’s company located on Nashville’s Music Row, working with many famous artists side by side.

On November 7, 2011, Mark D Sanders released "History & Hope", an album that features him singing 10 of his songs spanning his career.


Sanders’ major career achievement, however, would be his collaboration with Tia Sillers on the Lee Ann Womack song “I Hope You Dance.” The duo had previously written the Martina McBride song “I Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” in 1999, but it was their collaboration on the Womack song that gained them recognition. The song became a No. 1 country hit and Top 20 pop hit for Lee Ann Womack, and received the Grammy Award for "Best Country Song," as well as a Grammy nomination for “Song of the Year.” The song also received CMA & ACM Awards for "Song Of The Year" in 2000. The song stayed atop the Billboard Country chart for five consecutive weeks.[4]

Sillers remembers the ease that came with working with Sanders. “Mark made everything better. He was always great to work with. We wrote the song very quickly finishing the song in just a day or two.” [5]

The song’s popularity led to the release of a book entitled “I Hope You Dance,” another collaboration of Sillers and Sanders. The book contains poems and writings inspired by the song. There is also an “I Hope You Dance” children’s book and journal. Sanders and Sillers later collaborated again on an inspirational book entitled “Climb.”

Other hits by Sanders include “Blue Clear Sky” (with Bob DiPiero) for George Strait, “Heads Carolina, Tails California,” Jo Dee Messina’s first hit single; and “My Heart Has A History” for Paul Brandt.[1]

Sanders was recently inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. According to American Songwriter, “The Hall welcomed talented writers Kye Fleming and Mark D. Sanders, and from the Songwriter/Artist category, late Country music icon Tammy Wynette.” [6] The induction ceremony took place at the 39th Anniversary Songwriters Hall of Fame Dinner and Induction Ceremony in Nashville on Oct. 19, 2009.[7]

"Kye, Mark and Tammy have made many poignant and enduring contributions to the music world and certainly deserve to take their places among their gifted peers," said Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Foundation Chairman Roger Murrah, whose own songwriting credits include hits by Alan Jackson, Alabama and Blake Shelton. "It's an honor for us to recognize them for their outstanding accomplishments." [8]

According to Great American Country, “Mark D. Sanders’ name was frequently in the parentheses beneath hit song titles during the 1990s.”[8]

Inspiration and technique

Sanders attributes his writing abilities to self-editing and having faith in his writing.

“If you looked at my songs 15–16 years ago, you would know what I mean. Learning to finish a song is a process. I’ve written so many just learn things you don’t want to say, things you’ve said before. I try to think of interesting or quirky things that no one else has said,” Sanders told American Songwriter.[1]

“You have to also get out of thinking that your life is the most interesting thing you have to write about. I had to write about myself when I started out, it was therapy. But the older I got the more I realized that my life isn’t that interesting, so I started to write about other stuff.”

Sanders receives inspiration from life all around him. He often gets ideas from book titles and was once inspired by the name of an author herself.[1]

“I like to find a book where the author writes like country music writers,” Sanders has said. “And sometimes I’ll just walk through a bookstore and look at titles.[1]

No. 1 Hits

  • “(This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing” – Trace Adkins
  • “Blue Clear Sky” – George Strait
  • “Come Cryin’ to Me”, “No News” – Lonestar
  • “Daddy’s Money” – Ricochet
  • “Don’t Get Me Started” – Rhett Akins
  • “Heads Carolina, Tails California” – Jo Dee Messina
  • “I Hope You Dance” – Lee Ann Womack
  • “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” – Reba McEntire
  • “If You’ve Got Love” – John Michael Montgomery
  • “It Matters to Me” – Faith Hill
  • “Money in the Bank” – John Anderson
  • “Runnin’ Behind” – Tracy Lawrence
  • “They’re Playin’ Our Song” – Neal McCoy
  • “Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy” – Chris LeDoux & Garth Brooks


  1. ^ a b c d e f MARK SANDERS: Turning His Hobby Into A Career. American Songwriter (1997-01-01). Retrieved on 2011-11-16.
  2. ^ Mark D. Sanders :: Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Foundation. Nashville Songwriters Foundation (1950-07-09). Retrieved on 2011-11-16.
  3. ^ Mark D. Sanders :: Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Foundation. Nashville Songwriters Foundation (1950-07-09). Retrieved on 2011-11-16.
  4. ^ Tia Sillers I Hope You Dance. SongwriterUniverse Article. Retrieved on 2011-11-16.
  5. ^ Tia Sillers I Hope You Dance. SongwriterUniverse Article. Retrieved on 2011-11-16.
  6. ^ Tammy Wynette, Kye Fleming, and Mark Sanders Inducted Into Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame. American Songwriter (2009-10-19). Retrieved on 2011-11-16.
  7. ^ Photos : 2009 Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame : Mark D. Sanders and Kye Fleming Inducted to Songwriters Hall of Fame. CMT (2009-10-19). Retrieved on 2011-11-16.
  8. ^ a b News : Headlines : Songwriters Hall Makes "Stand" for Tammy Wynette : Great American Country. (2009-09-01). Retrieved on 2011-11-16.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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