THIS week ends with me…
speaking with Stephen Martines about his new track, Sounds Like Whiskey, and what its tale is. The songwriter/actor discusses his path into music and how personal/family events impacted his decisions and dreams – Martines recommends an artist we should all be aware of and get behind.
Martines reveals a few albums that are special to him and the music he grew up around; why he spent time in the Royal Air Force; whether he will come to the U.K. very soon – he ends the interview by selecting a song I have not heard before.
Hi, Stephen. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi, there! First off, thank you for taking an interest in my music; this has been a long-awaited journey and I’m thrilled to be able to reach out to your readers. I’m doing quite well, thanks for asking. My week has been great thus far: we’re amping-up rehearsals – adding another guitar player, Tom Bramer from Radio Iodine, to the touring band – as well as preparing the video for Sounds Like Whiskey and pressing forward on readying our next single for release. A lot going on!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Absolutely! I’m Stephen Martines, a native of St. Louis, Missouri. Some may know me from television, some may not. Either way, I’m incredibly grateful for those who have been supportive and continue to do so. For those who are new to my journey, welcome! I’m humbled to share my passion with you. Me in a nutshell: daddy, singer; songwriter, actor and soccer player.
My music can best be described as ‘Country infused with Soul and Pop undertones’. That said; I’ve just scratched the surface of the sound I hope to incorporate. The beauty of today’s Country music is that it has room for multiple genre infusions, keeping things interesting and alive.
Sounds Like Whiskey is your latest song. Is there a story behind it?
There’s a story behind most every song you hear, wouldn’t you say? Although I didn’t co-write S.L.W., I sure wish I had been part of that process. My dear friend Vinny Hickerson (Trailer Choir) presented it to me a little while back and I’m honored to have the opportunity to cut it and release it as a single. The lyrical content alone grabbed my soul and pulled me in from the moment I heard it.
It’s Country fused with Pop undertones and speaks to so many peoples experience with a fractured relationship, where one person’s heart just isn’t ready to let go. Country music more often than not hits you right in the gut; Sounds Like Whiskey carries with it the vapors of a painful breakup that still echo within me today. The song was written by Vinny Hickerson, Jay Brunswick and Josh Dunne and produced by Chuck Bonano, Johnny Scott and myself.
You were born in St. Louis but moved around a lot as a child. How did this lack of stability affect you at that age?
Yes. My childhood wasn’t the best, to say the least. My mother had her struggles raising two young kids and bouncing between separated homes was difficult in itself. Thankfully, soccer and music became my outlet. My escape. My passion. There weren’t many times I was without a ball at my feet or music filling the room. The instability, although hard, carried with it the impetus to dream – and dream big - regardless of whether those dreams were attainable. They were sometimes the basis of my existence.
You joined the Air Force after your father died. Was that career choice a way of easing the pain of loss? When did you move into music?
After my father died, at a fairly critical age for me, I became pretty despondent and that led me on a quest for something to fill that void. Along the way, I dropped out of college and ended up joining the Air Force after a knee injury marginalized a professional soccer career. After leaving the Air Force I found myself adrift again and, a couple of days after Christmas in the late-'90s, while watching Jimmy Stewart’s moving performance in the bridge scene in It’s a Wonderful Life I had some sort of revelation and made the decision right then-and-there to pursue a dream I’d always harbored: acting. Nine hours later my car was packed and I headed west, not knowing a soul at that far end of the country.
I then ended up sleeping behind a dumpster after my car was taken (a not-unheard-of occurrence for those who pursue acting!). But, providence shined on me a few weeks later when I met an agent and began auditioning. I booked my first two auditions out of the gate and so began my acting career and eventually my pursuit towards many other dreams I’ve had and still have - most especially a career in Country music.
In terms of musicians; what sort of stuff are you into? Who were you raised on?
I grew up listening to multiple genres of music. In my family, Sinatra, Dean Martin; Ray Charles, anything Motown and Elvis (whom my daughter is named after) were hugely influential. Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash; Willie Nelson and George Strait - to name a few Country influences. But, growing up in the '80s happened to be a great time for music, in my view. From old school Hip-Hop to Rock to Pop…you name it, we had it. Then came this guy named Garth and it was all over – life took on a whole new perspective.
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
I have set some pretty high goals for this year, reality dictating, that many may not be reached. That said; lofty aspirations keep people driven, focused and determined, right? My main goal is to land solidly on mainstream radio and begin touring by the end of the year.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?
Although I’m in the early stages of my music career, I have some great memories already - including playing the CMA Fan Festival for the past two years. Country music fans are awesome! But, I would say my best moment thus far would be hitting #16 this past week on The Iceman’s New Country Artist chart, which is a pretty significant step for us.
Watching Sounds Like Whiskey climb the chart week-after-week has been a thriller. It is indicative of our hard work paying off. More so, Country fans have welcomed my music and for that I am truly grateful.
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
First and foremost; Michael Jackson’s Bad
Need I say more?
Second...Hootie & the Blowfish - Cracked Rear View
Aside from selling over twelve-million copies and becoming a staple for my generation, it quickly became my ‘car-radio-blaring-with-the-top-down-‘go-to’ album. Darius Rucker’s voice and authentic Pop-Rock sound captivated me. I have many memories attached that record.
Third...Prince & the Revolution – Purple Rain
This man! The creative genius. The fearlessness. Mind-blowing.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
Wow - great question! I am not certain I could pick only one. I love all genres of music and have been inspired by artists and musicians both past and present of whom I’m a fan. In thinking about this; one artist enters my head and seems to push aside the next, and so on. Almost impossible for me to answer!
Regarding a rider, aside from the basic requests, I’d love to be able to require a stage layout that provides a greater experience for fans - one that allows for engaging with the audience on a more personal or intimate level. Oh - and Red Vines licorice! That’s a must. So: a massive, U-shaped stage that encircles the entire audience and red licorice. I think that’s reasonable.
Can we see you tour soon? Where are you playing?
Yes . We’ve been added to the Country Smooth Festival lineup in New Orleans on October 20th and 21st, which will be a blast! And, Red Rose Records is currently working on tour dates that will be announced in the near-future. I definitely have the itch to get out there regularly and perform.
Do you feel you might come to the U.K. at some point?
I have never been but have always wanted to cross the pond! Say the word and we are there!
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Simple: NEVER GIVE UP! Be persistent. Believe in yourself. Trust your talent and work your ass off, regardless of the let-downs and rejections. All that happens for a reason and serves to hone your craft.
IN THIS PHOTO: Vinny Hickerson
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
No - just me! (Okay; I’m kidding.) I would definitely recommend catching my dear buddy Vinny Hickerson’s debut solo E.P. when it comes out. The guy is a great songwriter and a great musician – he was one of the writers of Sounds Like Whiskey.
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
‘Chill’. What does that word mean? Ha! These days, there isn’t much time to chill. Being a dad to a four-year-old takes precedence over all else, certainly over any spare moments I might have – and all other ‘non-daughter-directed time’ is given to pressing forward on the music front.
I do attempt to unwind, however. That consists of snuggling up to my little girl on the couch, enjoying some ice cream or a Popsicle (her favorite) and watching any inane T.V. show or movie that she wants. So, essentially unwinding per her dictates. And, I play soccer whenever the opportunity arises. Other than that, I’m pretty much a homebody.
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).
Given this opportunity, I’d like to wish upon your readers a song that I can listen to anywhere, any situation and it seems to fit: Chris Stapleton’s awesome Broken Halos. Will that work? And thanks again for your interest in me and my music - we hope to see y’all out there in the audience someday soon!
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