INTERVIEW: Marty Zylstra



Marty Zylstra


IT is always difficult channelling emotional and personal experiences…


into a cohesive, original and impressive work. Marty Zylstra tells me about his mini-album, The Dragonfly and the Spider, and the personal loss he experienced around the time of creation/recording. I ask the Canadian musician if he has standout cuts from The Dragonfly and the Spider; whether, he feels, the heaviness and intensity of the music creates a positivity and sense of hope; what it was like growing up in rural Canada – and, in terms of gigs, he has plans to come to the U.K.

Zylstra discusses musical influence and upbringing; some new artists worth a look; what he has planned for the remainder of the year – completing the interview with a rather fine song selection!


Hi, Marty. How are you? How has your week been?

I'm great! I've been busy working on rehearsing for my launch party on March 31st at Blue Light Studios in Vancouver and, also, doing some podcasting and talking to awesome bloggers like yourself – and, also, attempting to juggle family life (my wife and I have a toddler!) and work etc. etc.!

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?

My name is Marty Zylstra. I am an independent recording artist from Vancouver B.C.! My new music sounds like Elliott Smith, Harry Nilsson; John Lennon, and Gord Downie, with a bit of Beach Boys influence. Mom Rock with dad vibes...

The Dragonfly and the Spider is your mini-album. What sort of themes and ideas compelled its creation?

Originally, I had been releasing a song at a time kind of building up a catalogue and carving out my solo career starting, in about, 2013. I played some shows and stuff and was kind of ‘getting there’ if you will - and then found out my mom had cancer. It halted the whole process and stopped me in my tracks. Her and my dad lived with us for about six-eight weeks as she was going through treatment in Vancouver. 

Then, about nine months later, my sister died also of cancer. This was all within a short, crazy period of time. The last thing on my mind was music, but I had been writing a lot and some of the ideas were developed into songs on this record.  


I know you experienced devastating loss in a short time – losing several relatives. Did that shock force you to write and put your emotions into music?!

Yeah. The theme of grief may or not be all over this record - but I think there is a light in the dark. I would hope that how you feel after listening to the E.P. in its entirety is how I felt through the journey of grief. 

What was it like working with JP Maurice at Blue Light Studios?

He's a great producer for me because he is a songwriter first.

He was definitely able to bring out the best in each song and willing to try new sound experiments. He also speaks ‘Beatle-ese’ which makes it easy to discuss sound ideas based on music that we both love (The Beatles).

Is there a cut from The Dragonfly and the Spider that stands out? Which one do you bond with the hardest?

Moon stands out because it was such a simple idea at the beginning: just acoustic guitar and some weird whimsical lyrics about space. That being said, it has deep meaning for me talking about escaping the situation you are in and finding Heaven. Themes of God and Heaven from a childlike point-of-view. 

Wild Ones was the one that took the most time to figure out. It was the oldest song of the group of tunes and the arrangement is so simple - but, I think it's the ‘least like the others’.

Do you think the heaviness and emotional outpouring, in a way, is designed to get the listener thinking about positivity and change?!

Yes. I know that even more now after going through personal therapy for my own grief. When I listen back to the album, there is a sense of hope at the end. I would want people to feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel after the loss of loved ones or going through difficult challenges.


You grew up in a rural area of Canada. Was music a big part of your early life? How did the scenery and setting shape your desire to be a musician?

My first-ever musical instrument was my dad's Thorens TD160 record player (for all you vinyl aficionados). I was about (a) one-year-old when I learned how to put on records by The Carpenters. I've seen a lot of the country, having travelled as a kid. It was less common to fly from, say, Vancouver to Toronto in the 1980s, and so, we used to pile in the family wagon and tent across the country to visit my aunt and uncle and stuff. (B.T.W., my wonderful cousin Aaron sings on my song, How Could I, and he sounds beautiful). 

Music has kind of always been there. Seeing the country and having different experiences definitely allowed me to be able to have an open mind about creativity


Can we see you tour soon? What gigs do you have coming up?

As mentioned above; I’m playing at Blue Light Studios for one of their amazing and intimate Blue Light Sessions events on March 31st. There will be other gigs announced soon, so stay posted!

Will you come and play the U.K. sometime this year?

Ideally, the answer is ‘yes’. My good pal Finn McConnell is from the U.K. (he played cello and keyboards on the E.P.) and he is always attempting to twist my arm to get over the pond.

What do you hope to achieve in 2018?

I start work on E.P. number-two in June. I hope it gets finished! I'm also hoping to put an acoustic covers E.P. out soon too. Stay tuned.

Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

Many. I love writing songs and, when track-two was written, it flowed out of me and I wrote it in the time it took to play it. So quick. Creating music is amazing because, one minute there isn't a song and then, the next minute, it's there. 


What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Continue to learn songs and listen to music out of your comfort zone. 


IN THIS PHOTO: Bend Sinister

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Dom Fricot, Bend Sinister; JP Maurice; ACTORS; Ultrviolence and Wazonek (all from Vancouver/Canada!).


IN THIS PHOTO: JP Maurice/PHOTO CREDIT: Jen van Houten

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

I like to run/exercise and spend time with my family the most. But, in cliché fashion, I'm an avid hockey lover and follow the sport really closely.

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

You should play a song from ACTORS’ new L.P. called We Don't Have to Dance - it's in my current playlist!


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