Mark Wills was born Daryl Mark Williams on August 8, 1973 to in Cleveland, Tennessee. His family later moved to Blue Ridge, Georgia. In his teenage years, Wills played in garage bands, taking inspiration from rock groups such as Bon Jovi. During his young adulthood, however, he began to take an interest in country music. He entered a local talent contest in Marietta, Georgia, at age 17, and after winning the contest, he began to perform locally. From there, he went to work as a demo singer in Atlanta, Georgia, before doing the same in Nashville, Tennessee. While in Nashville, he was discovered by record producers Carson Chamberlain and Keith Stegall, who helped him sign to a recording contract with Mercury Records Nashville.
Clint Black signed him to his Equity Music Group label in 2006. Wills's first release for the label was "Hank", which peaked at #49 and was never included on an album. His first album for the label, titled Familiar Stranger, was originally slated for release in September 2007, and was repeatedly pushed back due to the poor chart performance of "Take It All Out on Me" and "Days of Thunder." Tenacity Records then acquired the album and released it in 2008, issuing "The Things We Forget" as its third single. After this song came "Entertaining Angels", co-written by Willie Mack. In late 2009, he released then a fifth single, "Crazy White Boy," written by Brett James and Blair Daly. Wills released the compilation album 2nd Time Around in July 2009, which comprises re-recordings of several Mercury singles.