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President Bush was standing at a White House podium. He'd invited Mark Wills, his wife Kelly and 3-year-old daughter Mally - plus some other folks - to an Easter breakfast. Mally would make it a memorable morning for George W.
"Mally was wide-eyed," recalls Mark. "She's really into Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and anything with a princess. The White House - with its huge doors, towering columns, marble floors - seemed regal to her. The military guards wore gleaming swords. Mally was sure they were princes.
"I'd told her if she talked to the president to say, 'Hello, Mr. President.' And I explained the White House is where he lives."
The president - a big country music fan - spotted Mark holding Mally. He walked over and said good morning.
"I said, 'Good morning, sir. How are you doing?' He answered he was doing well," continues Mark. "Mally stuck her little hand out, saying, 'Good morning, Mr. President.' He shook her hand. And as she looked up at him, she added, 'I lo-o-o-ve your castle.' The president cracked up! It was a great moment."
Mark says that Mally gives him many great moments. He even relates his current hit single, "Loving Every Minute," to her.
"It was, of course, written as a love song, but it took on a different meaning for me," he reveals. "It describes my feelings when Mally was born. The first verse starts with I was never really breathing/My heart was never really beating and the chorus begins And with that first kiss/I felt my life beginning. Those are things I felt when I first saw Mally."
Mark admits that he sees a lot of his own good-natured disposition in Mally. But his easygoing personality didn't emerge until his Attention Deficit Disorder, a neurological dysfunction in the brain, was diagnosed and treated.
"In kindergarten my problems became apparent," remembers Mark. "I loved school, but I couldn't concentrate. And I was real hyperactive. So I was in school, but I wasn't getting anything out of it.
"Then my mom and dad took me to the doctor, and, after testing, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. Taking Ritalin allowed me to focus, so school and the rest of my life improved tremendously.
"I took Ritalin from kindergarten until about a year ago, when I switched to Adderal. In adults, ADD often causes major mood swings. And anyone who knows me knows I'm naturally an upbeat person, but Adderal is designed to smooth out mood swings."
Mark's new CD, Loving Every Minute, is obviously designed with its own mood swings - from heart-tugging ballads to smile-on-your-face up-tempos. He fell in love with one song that gave him some concern.
"'The Balloon Song' captures something most of us deal with in our lives - missing someone who's died," notes Mark. "When I recorded it I was scared to death, because I've got a lot of grief from people about singing sad songs like 'Don't Laugh At Me' and 'Wish You Were Here.' But I like to sing about real life, not always happy 'Mary Poppins' songs, because that's not how life is. 'The Balloon Song' is sad, but hopeful."
And so is Mark. "Even though the Sept. 11 attacks on America have shaken our nation, we will pull together," he assures. "We will focus on the strengths we have as Americans - and we'll emerge even better than before.
"This is a great country with a great future."
- Larry Holden