Mark Martyre is on a high. Between wildly successful studio and live records, and a global tour on the horizon, the Toronto-based singer-songwriter bursting with positivity.
We spoke with Mark about his latest studio record, poetic writing, and some of his more interesting projects.
Raz Mataz Magazine (RMM): Rivers is your most polished album yet; How was the writing process different for this album from Bluebird or even London?
Mark Martyre (MM): Thanks. Though, the process wasn’t that different. But, once the songs were written, I called some friends, and great musicians, to play on the album. Darrin Baldwin (piano), Graydon James (drums), and Jason Lapidus (bass), were back. I had worked with them on Bluebird. But I also worked a lot of people for the first time. Matt Antaya played some great guitar parts, Ed Michael Roth’s accordion, and Raha Javanfar’s violin, added to the sound of the record. I recorded it at Lincoln County Social Club, with John Dinsmore, who I hadn’t worked with before. And it was the first album of mine that was mastered by Philip Shaw Bova. So, maybe that polished quality comes from the great personnel involved in it’s creation.
RMM: The album could almost be described as a series of duets. Why did you want to feature others so heavily?
MM: At some point, before we began recording, I had a clear idea about presenting the songs a little differently this time around. So, having Stacey Dowswell sing on many of the songs was a dynamic I wanted to explore, as well as turning some songs into conversations between two people. And, I guess it worked out. Many of the songs were inspired by the relationships between two people, so the lyrical content lent itself to this kind of presentation. But, more than anything, I love the way Stacey sings my songs. I’m always happy to hear other people singing my words instead of me. They do a much better job of it.
RMM: Your lyrics are like poetry. Why are lyrics so important to your music? Do you consider them more important than music?
MM: No, I don’t think they’re more important than music. I think telling a story is just as important as compelling someone to dance. There are a lot of ways to move people, and they’re all valid and important. Maybe one day I’ll do a better job of creating a dance-able melody. In the meantime, it’s nice to know the lyrics are moving you.
RMM: You’re about to embark on a huge cross-country and European tour. Do you prefer touring to recording?
MM: Touring, at it’s best, is hard to beat. But, at the same time, touring can also take you to extreme lows. It’s a roller-coaster. And the ups have often been worth the downs. Though, lately the highs are becoming less frequent, and the lows are getting lower. So, taking time off the road might be a serious consideration soon. Recording, for me, is more even-keel. When I’m touring, I look forward to getting off the ride, and appreciating the stability of staying home, rehearsing, and working at the studio. But, I eventually get that itch again, buy the ticket, and am back on the tracks.
RMM: You’re also working on a poetry manuscript. What can you tell us about that?
MM: I’ve been writing poems for many years and a few have made their way into some poetry journals, and online publications. So, I’ve begun to compile a small collection of them that I think would work well together, and I’m slowly trying to convince myself to release them in a book.
RMM: You recently partnered with a playwright. What was that experience like? How did you get involved in that?
MM: It all started last Spring when I was asked to perform a few songs during a Toronto Cold Reads event. The organizers of that group wanted to incorporate musicians into their program, which consisted of actors, and playwrights, and directors reading and work-shopping scripts. So, then fast-forward to this past December when a few people involved in the Cold Reads had the idea of exploring the possibility of combining the storytelling styles of playwrights and singer-songwriters. So, this was they’re inaugural project—called Inkubation—where they put a bunch of us in a room together (musicians, playwrights, actors, etc.) to see what would happen, and how the collaborating process would unfold. Immediately I gravitated towards a story idea that Jamie Johnson had, and his approach to the project and the art of what he wanted to present. And I guess he gravitated towards my kind of music, and approach to songwriting. The time-frame was very tight, and within about 3 weeks Jamie had written the beautiful prose of the play, and I wrote 10 songs, that when combined became “That Moment When.” It was different kind of experience. I never wrote with any kind of deadline, or with any sort of plot structure in mind. So, it was great to be able to approach writing in that kind of way. The play was presented in February, and I’m happy with how it turned out. Maybe it’ll find it’s way to a stage again.
RMM: What’s next?
MM: Well, surviving this tour is what I’m right up against. After that, we’ll see. I’ve got another album’s worth of music ready to record. As you mentioned earlier, there’s that book of poems rapping on the door. There’s the possibility of collaborating with Jamie again. But, there’s also the beautiful idea of disappearing for a while too. So, ask me again in August.
Get more from Mark online at markmartyre.com. And be sure to catch him on tour this summer!