PHOTO CREDIT: Scott Munn (photomunn.com)
CANADIAN singer-songwriter Christina Martin returns with the…
new single, Lungs Are Burning. She is about to embark on a ten-date U.K. tour – taking in the likes of Brighton, London and Manchester. Her latest single is the first track from her upcoming album and is an anthem for those who are lost and longing. It was compelled by the rising Fentanyl drug crisis in Canada. Martin explains how drug addiction has impacted on her family and what it is like living in rural Nova Scotia with her guitarist/producer husband, Dale Murray. Martin brings gravitas and emotion to her work so I ask who has inspired her and how her songs come together. Lungs Are Burning brings a heavy subject to the listeners but it is never delivered with anything other than compassion and dignity.
Starting out slogging in the Texas bar scene (in the early-’00s); Martin has been recording and touring relentlessly and dedicated herself to music. A celebrated artist on the festival scene – her music has been played on T.V. – I ask about the upcoming tour and which dates she is looking forward to; the artists that have inspired her and what the scene is like in Canada right now.
Hi, Christina. How are you? How has your week been?
I seem to have recovered from a very long bout of the flu – and I’m busy touring and working on my new record.
This week, we were in Toronto rehearsing for band shows and I’ve had the chance to see many friends and family along the way.
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m a Canadian Roots/Rock singer and songwriter.
I play electric and acoustic rhythm guitar and I’m based in rural Nova Scotia.
Lungs Are Burning is the new single. What can you tell us about it and the origins?
Lungs Are Burning was written with Dale Murray.
I had been reading about the Fentanyl overdose crisis in Canada and it really hit home – since I lost my brother to an opioid overdose in 2013. The song itself isn’t ‘about’ the crisis: the lyrics are a personal expression of reaching, of loss and longing for something to fill a big hole.
I didn’t expect a song to come out of it but I remember waking early one morning singing the melody and the words “Hearts are burning, hearts are yearning”. Then, later that morning, Dale suggested we change the first ‘hearts’ to ‘lungs’.
It has quite a direct and emotional sound. Was it hard writing and recording the song or did you manage to remain detached (to an extent) from the subject matter?
I’ve never detached from the subject matter.
I’m telling stories and sharing bits of myself so if I would detach from that – you’d have a soulless performance. When it comes to recording; you are working with people and asking them to give their best performance and they may be a bit more detached to the subject matter – but then, it’s my job to steer them to a more emotional performance.
So, it’s a combination of bringing skill, emotion and energy to a performance. It wasn’t hard writing the song: it came with ease, so you can create something emotional without being a basket-case in the process.
Does the song have any personal relevance? Have you experienced addiction or anyone you know been affected by it?
My brother overdosed on opioids in 2013. He was an addict at a young age and diagnosed bipolar in his thirties – and I believe early intervention and had we had the ‘tools’ to help – it would have changed the course of his life.
I know a lot of family and friends who need help for addiction or mental illness but can’t get the help when they need it – and end up suffering.
I have experienced bouts of depression and anxiety but not wanting to use medication for fear that I would become addicted. It was extremely difficult to get to see a mental health professional who I could talk to during crisis times – when I had the strength and could afford to go and see someone privately. I work daily to stay healthy but many people can’t access care when they need it and end up in crisis-mode (or worse).
Are there any more songs appearing in the future? An E.P. or album, perhaps?
I’m working on a new full-length album now – and it should be ready late-2017.
PHOTO CREDIT: Orest Dorosh
On 24th June, you will start a mini-tour of the U.K. Is this your first time here or are you quite familiar with the British crowds?
I’ve been touring the U.K. since 2014, every year, and it’s been a bit of a learning-curve. We’ve had great shows in places like John Peel Centre in Stowmarket, The Met in Bury; Little Rabbit Barn in Ardleigh and many other great spots – and a lot of support from BBC radio. We’ve also had shows where it was difficult to get people out because my name isn’t widely known and I’m not considered trendy or hip.
It’s that way starting out in most new markets but, over time, you develop really appreciative music fans; some that come out to multiple shows on the same tour. I want to continue making connections with my new music in U.K.
I believe you just have to keep making music, be yourself, and over time your audience will develop (or it won’t). It’s nothing to worry about, though.
A friend told me once “There are no musical emergencies”.
Which dates are you most looking forward to during the tour?
I’m mostly looking forward to playing the band shows in London @ The Sound Lounge (special guests Gabrielle Papillon & Jules Talbot); Brighton @ the Latest Music Bar (special guest Dandelion Charm) and Little Rabbit Barn in Ardleigh (with Annie Keating Trio).
We have two Liverpool-based musicians: Justin Johnson on Drums and Callum Williams playing Bass at those tour dates.
Based in rural Nova Scotia; is it quite an inspiring place to create music or can it be quite distant at times?
Where we live in Nova Scotia is very peaceful and rural.
I can create music almost anywhere; as long as I have time alone and some writing tools. We also have our studio in our home which allows us more freedom to record at leisure and minimal distractions.
I’m so busy that I never really feel uninspired, however, I do struggle, like many full-time artists, with making time to create – instead of dealing with the ‘business’ side of music. That can be a drag.
PHOTO CREDIT: Orest Dorosh
You live with your husband and musical partner Dale Murray. How influential is he to your music?
Dale Murray has been an integral force in shaping my studio and live sound and he’s been making records with me since 2007.
We have some similar tastes in music but we both bring different opinions to the rehearsal or studio. Musically and personally, our lives are very intertwined.
Sometimes we co-write – mostly music and not lyrics. I have strong ideas and I don’t think my records sound like other Canadian artists but, certainly, Dale brings equally strong ideas to the table – and those ideas can shape the direction of the song and influence how I end up singing my lyrics.
I would say his guitar-playing and tones are world-class and that really jives with my vision for the live performances and my records.
What is the scene like in Canada right now? Do you think many overlook Canadian music and assume it is not as strong as American and British sounds?
I’m not really familiar with the ‘scene’ here as we chose to move away from the city years ago to work and live in rural Nova Scotia. I don’t keep up with what other musicians are doing as I just don’t have the time trying to keep focused on my own work.
PHOTO CREDIT: Scott Munn (photomunn.com)
But, we have found there are great listening room venues and small theatres in many small towns and villages around Nova Scotia – like the Marigold Theatre in Truro; the Evergreen Theatre in Margaretsville. There is a plethora of great singer-songwriters from this part of the world and, although the music scene faces challenges with live music sales, people still appreciate going out to hear live music.
There’s great music everywhere and the Internet has made it possible for musicians around the world to make their music heard. I actually believe that Canadians are making their presence known outside of Canada – more so now than ever. I get the sense, when we are on the road touring in Europe, that music-lovers are really excited about the music coming from Canada.
Who were the artists that inspired you to take up music? Did you have quite a musical childhood?
When I was a kid, my father played all kinds of music and had a large vinyl collection.
I did study music and piano when I was very young but mostly focused on sports as a teenager. Growing up, I listened mostly to Rock and Pop.
As a teenager, I listened to what was popular on the radio but found artists like Annie Lennox, David Bowie; Tina Turner and Michael Jackson to be captivating.
I love Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen; Fleetwood Mac, Cyndi Lauper; Madonna and Roxette. So, mostly American and British Pop and Rock music. If the song and (usually) the singer caught my attention, I was hooked.
In my early-20s living in Austin, TX, I was introduced to Americana music and singer-songwriters like Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffi; Townes Van Zandt – but also admired stellar bands like Wilco and The Jayhawks – and that’s when I started writing my own music.
I think I always dreamed of being a Rock singer who could tell a good story with heart, and over the years, I’ve tried to write more with my electric guitar.
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
I can’t think of any, to be honest.
I haven’t had time to listen to any new music. I mostly put on old records by Tom Petty and David Bowie when I have time to listen to music.
If you had to select the three albums that have meant the most to you; which would they be and why?
The Jayhawks – Rainy Day Music
I can remember driving around Austin, TX – in my Volvo station wagon – when I was in my early-20s and really lovin’ this record.
It inspired me to make records.
Michael Jackson – Off the Wall
This record made me want to dance and sing and become a Pop star.
When you really listen to the production, there are many magical musical arrangements going on but, still, an openness to the songs – and the funk just gets right to you.
What musician today has not been inspired by Michael at some point in their lives?!
David Bowie – The Next Day
This album has gorgeous Rock ballads and wonderful vocal delivery by David – and late in his career.
It was the first album in many years I listened to in its entirety over and over again. My brother had passed away around the same time and I was on a six-month, eighty-show tour in Europe – and listened to this production during my daily jogs.
The production and vocal delivery really influenced my 2015 album, It’ll Be Alright.
What advice would you give to any new artists starting out right now?
Put your blinders on; focus on making great art and stick to your path with heart.
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Get on the Floor – Michael Jackson
Follow Christina Martin
PHOTO CREDIT: Scott Munn (photomunn.com)