Martin Sexton, New-York-raised singer-songwriter, got his start busking on the streets of Harvard Square over twenty years ago and has come to be revered for his unique blend of rock, country, and soul. With a shockingly wide vocal range, a guitar sound that fills a room, and the ability to tell a heck of a story through song, Sexton has built an immense fandom. In the midst of his current US tour, he gave Easy Reader a few minutes of his time to talk about his new EP and about how technology and live streaming are changing music.
Your newest release, Fall Like Rain, is a 5-song EP-what made you decide to release a smaller album right now?
Well, a couple of reasons. I had three tunes in the can at the time and a couple of them were really relevant to what’s going on in the world. I didn’t want to wait to have enough songs for an album to release them. So I thought, hey, I’ve never put out an EP, and getting music for five bucks in this economy is a pretty good deal.
On your last album, Sugarcoating, you sang about the political climate surrounding 9/11, and on Fall Like Rain you included a cover of Buffalo Springfield’s political anthem “For What It’s Worth” and your own call to action “One Voice Together.” You’ve typically avoided politics in your music…why the change?
You could say that my music has gotten more political…or you could say that it’s anti-political. I’ve always sung about freedom, love, peace, and all that stuff but my music has gotten more specific in its message of unity. I had a big waking up a few years ago and the more awake I am, the more awake I want to be. We need to lose that sense of left and right. It’s about seeing the likeness in folks. We wouldn’t have the wars or even the stupid spats between neighbors if we recognize that we’re cut from the same cloth.
You’ve seen a lot of changes in the music industry since you got your start busking in Harvard Square. How has the internet and now live streaming affected your fan base?
The internet is a wonderful vehicle for transmitting music all over the world. I toured in Europe for the first time last year and discovered that I had fans all over the place. The internet has proven to be the great equalizer-as an artist, you can still get your music out there without big money. Napster was great for my career. Pandora has been great. Now live streaming lets people experience a show at home. If it gets the music out there then it’s a good thing for the artists. It’s blessed me with a fanbase that keeps coming to see me and one that keeps growing.
You are extremely engaging and even interactive with your audience during shows. How do you think this translates when the show is being live streamed?
I was the tenth of twelve kids growing up so from an early age I craved attention. That served me well in Catholic school where I’d sing Stevie Wonder and do Cheech and Chong impressions until the sisters came out with their yardsticks. I parlayed this into a successful performance method. It’s the ability to get an audience’s attention and keep it. And that works the same when you’re on a street corner, on a stage, or on a screen. Music is such a magical force to move people and unify them. You don’t mess with people with music running through them.
Martin Sexton performs Nov. 13 at Saint Rocke, 142 Pacific Coast Highway, Hermosa Beach. $25. See saintrocke.com or call 310-372-0035 for tickets. The performance will also be live streamed at IROCKE.com.