There’s something happening here with Martin Sexton bringing all sides together
Martin Sexton’s career ascended from a Boston sidewalk, where he sold 20,000 copies of a CD from his guitar case.
He has been a prolific songwriter, releasing an average of a record every other year since 1992. His latest is an EP, and#8220;One Voice Together,and#8221; a title track which observes and#8220;In a world of warfare, peace is bad for business.and#8221;
Sexton’s music fits in myriad bonhomies, from Carnegie Hall to the Newport Folk Fest, Bonnaroo and the New Orleans Jazz Fest. He has collaborated with John Mayer and one of his greatest musical influences, Peter Frampton.
Martin Sexton is not to be confused with Reno’s Mark Sexton Band.
Prior to his show Tuesday, Jan. 31, Sexton spoke with Lake Tahoe Action:
Action: How did you get started?
Sexton: Singing on the streets of Harvard Square on hot summer nights. I learned a way to attain an audience and how to keep an audience interested. How to write songs. I wanted them to throw a buck in my case.
Action: You’ve certainly come a long way.
Sexton: It’s just a beautiful thing to show up anywhere in the world and play my songs, and people know the songs; it’s like a dream come true.
Action: You have opinionated lyrics. Are your audiences like-minded?
Sexton: One thing I have observed most every night in the past 20 years is that they’re not all like-minded, and that’s the beautiful thing about my audiences: I am not preaching to the choir. I am not showing up to play for my regular demographic every night. I don’t really have one. It’s every age, race, color, religion, sexual orientation, and it’s great because people disagree with me, people agree with me, but we’re all singing in three-part harmony by the end of the night. That’s what I see as my job, is to bring people together who wouldn’t be together otherwise.
Action: And the infrastructure now is set up to divide people.
Sexton: It is. With all this baloney about left and right and red and blue. I always came from a real liberal, lefty background and I’ve tried to shed that. I’ve purposely lost my sense of left and right. I think it’s false. If we all push away those divisive issues we would tend to agree on the major things. Things like, do I want my army to have the right to come arrest me and not let me have a lawyer or charge me or have a day in court? I think we all agree that’s wrong and it’s un-American.
Action: These are interesting times.
Sexton: We’re in the new ’60s. That’s why I put that Buffalo Springfield cover on the new record, because it’s time that we all started singing songs like that again. And with these movements like the Occupy Movement, I think it’s a breath of fresh air that people are out in the street. I want to see the Tea Party folks aligning up with the Occupy folks. I want to see guys like Ron Paul inspiring guys like Barack Obama. I want to see Jesus and Buddha hanging out at the Muslim bar down the street. I think whether it’s religion or politics or what football team you like, I think if we can put some things aside and let the real core things that we agree on and#8212; we love our family, our kids, we all bleed red, we all need clean air and water.
Action: David Crosby sang that song and#8220;For What It’s Worthand#8221; here in 2006 on Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s Freedom of Speech tour. But I wonder how many really did have a look at what was going down. Have we gotten so comfortable we don’t pay attention?
Sexton: Back in the ’60s, there were three networks and there weren’t video games and there wasn’t mainstream pornography and there wasn’t everything to keeps us docile and sitting on our couches. It is comfortable to sit around and do nothing. You’ve got so many options. It’s mindboggling. I felt I was set free when I unplugged my television. In the summertime I am blessed to have a place in the woods and I don’t have a TV, and I will keep it that way.
Action: Do you have cellphone reception there?
Sexton: I don’t get service there. (Laughing.) I’ve written some there and recorded some there. It’s a great place in the Adirondacks of Northern New York. I’m a pretty happy person. I have the three main ingredients of happiness: I have someone to love, I have something to do and I have something to look forward to. That keeps me grounded. I have material things. I have money in my pocket but my kids have taught me that’s not what keeps me happy.
Action: How many children do you have?
Sexton: I have four.
Action: You have created a nice lifestyle and career.
Sexton: It’s a great place as an independent artist to say what I want to say and do what I want to do. I don’t have to worry about some A and R guy up in New York saying and#8220;Where’s the hit?and#8221; or and#8220;You can’t say that in interviews; it’s too political.and#8221;
Action: Tell me about this tour, which includes a show in Tahoe.
Sexton: This is a solo run. I am looking forward to it. The last few times I have been with a band, which is wonderful as well. But a solo show just lends itself to much more participation by the audience to do more. Because there’s no drummer, they’ll clap their hands. There’s no backup singer, so they’ll play the backup singing part. It just takes on a sum greater than its parts. And, like I said before, the crowd is so diverse. … They vary from a Patchouli-wearing, twirling-in-the-corner hippie, who I love, to the Wall Street multimillionaire, who I also love. And those two people are singing in harmony.
Action: Tell me about the opener, Adam Gontier.
Sexton: He sings with Three Days Grace. He’s a bona fide rock star. He’s been listening to me for years and he wanted to branch out and do a solo thing and open some shows for me. He’s done Canada and a few on the East Coast and now we’re going to do like a dozen together. It’s just great. He’s a really talented guy.