Canadian singer-songwriter Christina Martin has come a long way since her first release back in 2002. Her creative journey over the past thirteen years has taken her across the globe – from Texas to Germany – giving her the opportunity to grow as an artist and hone her individual sound. As we discovered though, Christina doesn’t like to be placed in a genre box, choosing instead to ignore what’s expected of her in favour of creating music that forms a connection with her listeners.
Christina’s latest offering, It’ll Be Alright, is her most impressive release to date and we caught up with her to discuss the album, the themes she explores in her lyrics and how the music she listened to growing up influenced her as an artist.
Your fifth album, It’ll Be Alright, was released in April earlier this year, how would you say this album differs from the last four?
It’ll Be Alright is my strongest work with Dale Murray. We really took our time with everything, and developed the songs with my band before committing to tracks in the studio. Although I have many influences from Townes Van Zandt and Paul Westerberg, to Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison, I would say that sonically my rock and pop influences shine through on this album. The songs have a steady rhythm throughout. Creating memorable guitar licks and strong, simple messages lyrically was important. I wanted the album to have a bigger sound that would sound similar to what we do with the full-band. I also wanted the songs lyrically and emotionally to resonate with people.
How did you come up with the concept for your Take Me Back In A Dream video? Tell us a bit about the process of working with Corey Bowles.
The director Jason Levangie and choreographer Corey Bowles really came up with the concept for this video. I was able to show up and follow their direction. It was a pleasure working with this team. I had never worked with a choreographer or dancers before. This was a treat for me, because I felt it allowed me to express the song in new ways. Their work really brought out the best in the song. That’s what a great music video should do!
What do you want to say with your music? Are there messages in your songs or do you explore particular themes with your lyrics?
Songs are where shit gets sorted; opinions form, new perspective can happen, pain and loss are put on display. I want to say whatever wants to come out at the time. I have some running themes, about family and love and loss, mostly I’m writing about how I feel, searching for answers, words and melodies flow through without knowing where they come from. Songs are a safe place to sort through the shit you can’t quite figure out, and then are a great starting point for making connections with other people who may have similar experiences.
Is there one genre of music that you identify with?
No, I mean certain albums I’ve done have a particular ‘sound’ perhaps, but stepping back and looking in, my influences are all over the map. I don’t really FIT in one particular genre or place. I don’t know how comfortable I would be being stuck in one genre. Even as a kid I wanted to be friends with everyone and refrained from staying in one place for too long.
You’ve mentioned MTV as something that opened your eyes to the different types of music as a youngster, what sort of music did you grow up listening to?
I didn’t really categorize it, I just watched music on TV or heard it and either liked it or didn’t. I still don’t like categorizing music. It either resonates with you or it doesn’t, but makes no difference to me what ‘genre’. It’s funny how we really love to put things into categories. Why do we do that? I loved Madonna, and I also loved the Sex Pistols. I loved Tina Turner, Metallica and Weird Al. I grew up listening to whatever was playing on the radio, and I did love watching Much Music on TV growing up in Canada. I remember being a tad obsessed with Michael and Janet Jackson, and groups like Eurythmics, Tears For Fears and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
I didn’t watch much TV or listen to new music past the 90’s. My father was a big influence musically when I was younger, he took me to my first concert (Tina Turner), and my parents made sure I took music lessons at a young age. Moving to Austin was influential when I was 19, because I was surrounded by talented musicians, and I was discovering new places and experiences.
Do you remember what the first record you bought was?
The Very Best of Don McLean – because it had this song, Vincent, on it. I was 5 or 6 when I taped the song off the radio on a cassette tape, and I memorized the lyrics. When I was 11 or 12 I joined Columbia House CD buying club, and that was the first CD I bought with my own pennies.
You were born in Florida, raised in Canada, and have spent time in Texas and Germany, how would you describe the attitude to music in these different locations?
I’ve been lucky to live in places where music is a big part of the culture. It’s no secret that Austin has a thriving live music scene, and I remember it being quite supportive community. Living in Nova Scotia, we have great musical talent, as well as business-minded artists and industry that is striving to export it’s talent all over the world. I’ve found incredible support, as an international artist, living in Germany. The city of Dachau invited us to live and work as Artists in Residents, which tells me that there are communities abroad that place a high value on arts and culture.
I don’t believe people prefer music any more or less in any of the places I’ve travelled, but I do believe that values change based on the state of the economy, and what people believe they can afford to spend their money on entertainment, food, basic needs. So you see a livelier scene perhaps in places where the economy is strong and/or there is an investment from the government supporting arts and culture development. Places where you see cuts from federal or provincial funding may not be able to host live entertainment, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t needed or wanted. Oftentimes communities suffer when music and arts programs have been cut.
When performing live, what do you hope fans will take away from your gigs?
I hope they hear or feel something that resonates with their own life. IF that happens then there’s a connection, a relationship being made within that space. I think when you can make that connection, this makes my own expression through music and on stage worthwhile.
You’ll be touring the UK and Europe next year – where are you most looking forward to performing?
I love touring in UK and Europe, no preference, I just want to see as many people out and continue building my team and my audience and have fun while I’m at it. I do love revisiting venues every year, as it feels like visiting old friends and a bit of a homecoming in places like Dachau, The Black Forest, and Lowdham, UK. But it’s great discovering new places and experiences. I’m excited to play in Scotland for the first time in 2016.
Finally, what artists/albums are you listening to at the moment?
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
David Bowie – The Next Day