Interview: Mark Martyre

With his eyes set on a busy 2017, Mark Martyre spoke to Legendary Kids Press about new music and his beginnings.

Mark Martyre is a singer-songwriter based out of Toronto, Ontario. Having released his fourth studio album last year, and with a fifth one on the way, he’s hoping to make the most out of 2017 – and by the looks of it, he’s well on the way to doing so.

How would you describe your sound to those who have never heard your music before?

Mark Martyre: That’s always a difficult question to answer – or, I suppose, it might be easy if I try to box it in, if I try to give the music a clear label, which I’m not sure if I can – or want to – do. It’s always better when someone else describes it. It just feels, and sounds, so disagreeable when I hear myself trying to encase it and I think I end up confusing things more.

Although, I suppose, my songs are typically performed with an acoustic guitar or piano, and then I just try to tell a story at the same time.

How did you get your start in music?

MM: Well, I started playing guitar when I was 13 or 14, I think. But pursuing it full-time came later on and that’s probably been a 10-year or so endeavour at this point. There’s been an evolution from first finding that dusty, old guitar to calling myself a “musician” when people ask, “What do you do?”

But as far as how it all started… Well, I went down to the crossroads…

Did you have any prominent musical influences growing up and if so, how would you say they’ve affected the music you’re making now?

MM: Oh, of course. I grew up in the 90s and I could list dozens of bands that I obsessed over, and some are still in heavy rotation. But I don’t think those songs and sounds have a clear place in the music I’m making now. I don’t think anyone would hear those early influences in the songs I’m writing. [However], at the same time, I think every experience you have gets filtered trough you and comes out in some way.

So, although I don’t think anyone would hear my music and draw a comparison to a band like Pearl Jam, they’re there somewhere in the foundation of what I’m doing.

You’re based out of Toronto. How would you say the music scene in the city is? Is it supportive of up-and-coming artists?

MM: Canada is a huge country, geographically, but population-wise, it’s fairly small. Especially when you compare it to the United States or Europe. So when it comes to major cities and major musical hubs, there are very few across the country. In Canada, there seems to be only a handful of places where you find musicians congregating: Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal [and] Halifax (maybe one or two more), and that’s not saying that the other cities don’t have vibrant music scenes – they absolutely do. But a city like Toronto is where the “industry” is and where many musicians  from around the country come to make a go of it.

As a result, Toronto is home to an innumerable amount of talented musicians. However, the balance to that is that it’s also home to a lot of bad music. It’s home to veteran musicians and also those just starting out. In Toronto, you’ll come across musicians who are pursuing their art as a career, but also those who consider it a hobby and simply a creative outlet from their other jobs. With such a high concentration of musicians in one place, it can [be] difficult to carve out room for yourself. Sure, there are opportunities for artists at all levels, but the supply and demand of it all can get a bit crazy.

I often hear discussions about Toronto as a “music city” or about making it a music city, and while I do believe there are many individuals, organizations, venues and communities of music supporters that are doing their part (and more) to put Toronto on the map in terms of its music scene (and I’m grateful for the roles they play and the work they do), I don’t believe the city itself is supportive of music. I think many of us try to find ways to navigate through it and then, eventually, we leave it. We leave it to go on tour or we leave it to pursue something else, somewhere else. Many artists and musicians also try to balance the need to be close to a musical hub like Toronto with also finding a place that they can afford to live in, so many branch out to nearby cities likes Hamilton or Kitchener, or east toward Cobourg and Kingston.

You released your last album Bluebird early last year. What were the influences behind its tracks?

MM: Well, Bluebird was my fourth album and a marker for that point in my life, so I guess some songs attempt to look back on the road behind me, as well as the road ahead – like, ‘Where I’m Bound’ or ‘Long Goodbye’, for example. But there are also songs about the roads that separate people from one another, whether it be about hoping that a road leads back to someone, like in ‘Too’, or about a road that has definitely taken you away from someone and you wonder if they’ll remember you, like with ‘Maria, I Still Believe’.

So when I think about it, I guess all my songs are influenced by moving and travelling, in one form or another.

How has fan reaction been?

MM: I think it’s been positive. It’s hard to tell sometimes.

What is the writing process typically like for you?

MM: I don’t have much of a process. I often wish I did. Whenever the signal comes in, I just hope that I’ve got a pen and paper nearby and can transcribe it before the signal fades.

Do you have any plans for 2017, possibly a tour or even new music?

MM: Both. I’ve got a new batch of songs I’d like to record this spring and then I’ll head back on the road before that.

Any last words?

MM: “Any last words?” Sounds like you’re about to kill me. Well, there’s something my Uncle Shelby once said to me. He said, “Never explain what you do. It speaks for itself. You only muddle it by talking about it.” So I should apologize to him, but I also hope that I haven’t muddled things too badly.

He also said to me, a long time ago, “A spider lives inside my head / Who weaves a strange and wondrous web / Of silken threads and silver strings / To catch all sorts of flying things / Like crumbs of thoughts and bits of similes  And specks of dried-up tears / And dust of dreams that catch and cling / For years and years and years…”

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