Christina Martin: Hearts are yearning

As Christina Martin takes her effortless Americana-rock songs around the UK, the Canadian singer-songwriter tells us about her new single ‘Lungs Are Burning’, falling in love with a song in her pink childhood bedroom, making music with her husband, bringing about positive change through knowledge and love, sometimes feeling overwhelmed by nerves, and learning to love London.

‘Lungs Are Burning’ deals with the Fentanyl drug crisis in Canada. What made you want to write about this?

Concern for others, pain, loss and love.

You’ve said it “reflects my own personal sense of loss, longing and a deep void, and the ache I feel from losing my brother and friends to addiction and mental illness”. Was it difficult to open yourself up so much in a song?

This song, like many of my songs, is a reflection of my personal loss and experiences, and personal observations. I don’t remember this song being difficult to write. I’m a songwriter, so often songs are written quickly, and editing takes a bit longer. My loss is difficult to talk about, but I can talk about it when it’s appropriate to do so. Mental illness and addiction affects so many people around the world, so it makes sense that these topics come through in my work.

I also write about love and light, struggle and perseverance. I believe knowledge and love can lead to positive change.

I don’t write while I’m in the middle of a crisis or struggling, normally the writing happens during my workday or during a sense of urgency and clarity. In those moments, words and music come quick.

 What was the first song you remember hearing that made you realise music can change the world or, at the very least, make you think?

I was 5 or 6 years old, and I remember listening to the radio in my pink bedroom, waiting for this song with the lyrics “starry night” to be repeated. I didn’t know the title, or who the artist was, but some of the melody and lyrics really moved me.  I lost touch with the song for many years. When I was 11 or 12, I ordered my first CDs, including a Don McLean greatest hits album from Columbia House. To my amazement, the song ‘Vincent’ was on that record, and I was super excited to be reunited with the song.

Your guitarist/producer Dale Murray is also your husband. What are the benefits of working with him? And are there any drawbacks?

Benefits: He’s cute and the best guitarist and audio engineer in the neighbourhood!

Drawbacks: It’s not cheap, and we don’t always agree on everything, but we manage to keep our work and personal lives in check.That is, if we disagree on something in the studio, at the end of the day we still cook together and shift to adorable husband and wife mode! Now, when we are not getting along personally, that can affect ‘working’, but we try to resolve issues promptly, as I cannot work when there are any relationship stresses going on.

‘Lungs Are Burning’ is our first taste of your new album. How representative is it of the rest of the album?

I couldn’t tell you how the album will end up. I’m not labelling it as any “genre” or promising something unique or innovative. Expectations can be a bummer and affect your ability to just enjoy a piece for what it is and form your own judgements.

I just believe that the work I do with Dale gets stronger with each album. I think my voice is stronger, and I’m feeling more comfortable going to new places with my voice, but it’s not possible for me to describe in detail exactly what that means for me or the listener. I just hope that I love performing the songs when we release the album, and I hope the songs will find new audiences around the world.

 You’re touring the UK at the moment. What do you get out of performing live?

 I don’t overly enjoy touring as much as I used to. But when I feel rested and have a good line up of shows confirmed, it is something I look forward to. It’s become so much work, as a self-managed artist, I feel worn out mostly. But when the sound is great, and the audience is there, and the venue makes you feel welcomed, it can be a relaxing a fantastic experience.

There are times I still  get overwhelmed with nerves, but there isn’t much I can do to prevent that, I’ve tried. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow and ride the waves and make the most of any performance. I’m a working musician, so if I don’t tour and  perform live, it’s difficult for me to pay the rent! I would love to perform one big show each weekend, and have rehearsals to prepare each week, but that’s not realistic.

You’ll be performing in London in a couple of weeks. What are your lasting memories of the first time you performed here?

My first London show was at The Slaughtered Lamb in 2014.  I remember having to pay a lot of money for parking in central London, and not having much time to really enjoy the experience.  But my nephew Jason Sharpe and his new wife Rebecca-Anne showed up, and I remember finally meeting members of my UK marketing and booking team at that show.  But it wasn’t until we returned multiple times, that I got a better feel for London and now I love the city and am looking forward to our band show at The Sound Lounge on Friday July 7. 

  • See Christina Martin on tour in the UK. Dates and tickets are here.
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