Photo credit: Kerry Zentner
“I don’t know if any of the stories are particularly interesting, or worth sharing. But maybe, some day, I’ll tell more of these stories.” -Mark Martyre
For the last couple of Fridays we have been featuring the works of Canadian poet Mark Martyre. However, today we’ll be taking a look at Martyre’s other passion and form of artistic expression: his music. Take at look at what he had to say about his musical inspirations, his musical themes, and about confronting some well-known challenges in the arts community.
How did you become involved in the type of music you play/sing now?
Mark Martyre: Well, of course most of it has been due to my own evolving tastes and interests, and where my feelings lie. It’s influenced by the music and musicians I’ve listened to, and by the heroes I’ve admired. But, at the same time, there have been circumstantial reasons that led me down this road. Putting a band together, and keeping a band together, was difficult. Touring solo made more sense, and was an easier undertaking. And for someone like me who moves around a lot, it’s always been easier to just carry an acoustic guitar around. So, there have be conditions like that that have also influenced where my music has gone over the years.
Would you rather play live performances or be in the studio?
M.M.: When a show hits all its marks there’s nothing better. But, it also has the potential to swing to the other extreme, and feel completely awful. Being in the studio, on the other hand, exists between those two ends of the spectrum. So, I’d rather have a great live performance than a great studio session. But sometimes retreating into the studio is a nice respite from the frustrating shows. It’s more even-keel.
Have you ever entered any contests to enhance your musical career?
M.M.: No, I don’t believe in contests. I think they’re a detriment, and they’re not something I’m comfortable engaging in.
What are your songs about and what general themes do they talk about?
M.M.: Most of my songs are about me in one way or another. I’m the character that lives within each one. Even if it’s a song about bigger topics – it’s still about seeing it through my lens.
Why do you choose to focus on these themes?
M.M.: It rarely feels like a choice. But writing things out has always been my method of coping with how I feel, and with what I’m thinking. Or, to put it more eloquently: “…nothing can save you except writing. It keeps the walls from falling. The hordes from closing in. It blasts the darkness. Writing is the ultimate psychiatrist, the kindliest god of all the gods. Writing stalks death. It knows no quit. And writing laughs at itself, at pain. It is the last expectation, the last explanation. That’s what it is.” (Charles Bukowski)
Are there any stories surrounding your songs that you’d care to share?
M.M.: I could look back on many the songs, and remember where I was when I wrote them. Or who I was thinking about at the time. I don’t know if any of the stories are particularly interesting, or worth sharing. But maybe, some day, I’ll tell more of these stories.
What has been your strongest influence to continue performing?
M.M.: A sickness. An addiction. Being bitten by a bug. A reckless compulsion. Not being smart enough, or not stupid enough, to say, “That’s it! Time to stop.”
But, at the same time, a love of live music. A desire to add to the line of music, and songwriting, that came before me. Inspiration from other artists. A beautiful feeling of catharsis.
Does anyone in particular influence you?
M.M.: There are many, many influences. Too many to list.
What are your immediate music career goals?
M.M.: Well, I’ve got a few more shows on this tour, until the end of May. And then over the summer I hope to record a new album.
What has been the biggest challenge for you?
M.M.: Well, many of the new challenges that musicians and artists face these days has already been written about, and articulated, with coherence and detail. So, fortunately that makes me feel less burdened to have to try and mumble my way through any sort of explanation, or examination, here. But the musical and cultural landscape, as I’m sure you’ve also noticed, has certainly changed in recent years, along with the ways of consuming, engaging with, and appreciating music. So, I’m certainly not immune to these challenges, questions, and issues that many of us in music have had to confront.
What type of fan base do you have?
M.M.: Well, since you’ve set me up this like, let me use it as an opportunity to flatter. I’d say I have the best fan base. The smartest, the kindest, the best-looking, most conscientious, altruistic, funniest, healthiest, most athletic fans in the world. The type of fan base that must have a great taste in music.
Or maybe it’s just ones that simply can appreciate a sad song.
Do you have any advice for the youth of today?
M.M.: That’s the first time I’ve ever been asked that. I suppose it speaks to my fading youth? Have I started to become an elder in the music scene? Well, I don’t feel qualified, yet, to give advice. Ask me again, some other time.
What do you do with your time away from music?
M.M.: I don’t know what that is yet. Maybe one day I’ll have a better answer to that question. Though, chances are I’ll still be writing or doing something else in the arts. Or, maybe I’ll just retreat into the hills, and stare out into the open fields from my porch. But, all the while, still listening to music I’m sure.
As an artist, is there anything special you hope to be able to accomplish?
M.M.: There are accomplishments that would definitely be special to me. Though, I don’t know if there’s an objective specialness to them. I don’t think the accomplishments would matter to anyone else. So, I’ll just keep those thoughts tucked under my pillow.