Texas-indie-Americana-and-folk music is what David Martinez does and he does it really well, with a little rock and roll thrown in for good measure. A passionate, powerful and yet gentle singer- songwriter, Martinez has crisscrossed the country, been spun on radio in the US and the UK, appeared 3 times at SXSW and has a new album out, Piece of Me, produced by legendary LA-based bluesman Leroy Miller. Martinez has a voice that can belt the blues or croon as smooth as glass andhe is using it to bringa refreshing vibe to Texas roots music and to folk and Americana music everywhere with a take that is uniquely his own. We caught up with him on his current Texas tour supporting the new album.
Patrick. David, let’s talk about this new album, Piece of Me.I love listening to it. It just makes me feel good. But the title, piece of me sounds like a challenge. Actually, it is more of a welcome party of very accessible music. Why did you call it Piece of Me?
David. Every time I go on the road and do a show I leave a piece of me somewhere…it is like I give a piece of me to where ever I am. I mean that metaphorically. It doesn’t mean I am sacrificing myself. It is kind of like my record One More Time, my second record – one more time, here we go again.
Patrick. In the chorus on the album’s 4thtrack “I’m Alright”, it sounds like you open the chorus with a pedal steel – kind of a neat accent. Is that a pedal steel guitar?
David. Yes it is. I was listening to a Ricky Nelson song called “Garden Party”when I wrote that. I wanted to come up with something like that – not rip him off, but just come up with the vibe. After a little work I came up with that – the pedal steel was part of that vibe.
Patrick. In the five years I have been doing this show I never talked to anyone from my hometown, Corpus Christie Texas, and now this year, two people have popped up from Corpus – you and El Dusty. Is there a hot music scene shaping up in Corpus. Is it becoming the new Austin?
David. We have thisgroup, CC Songwriters, It was started by Jimmy Willden and Steven James and the Jaded and myself and some other really talented singer-songwriters who are part of the music community here. We work together to help each other out and foster younger singer-songwriters. I put together a data base of singer-songwriters here for opportunities do gigs in front of more people. I have seen that a lot of music scenes thrive because of community and that is what we are trying to do here. We are getting people together. We produce these singer-songwriter events at the House of Rock here to showcase artists. We are getting capacity crowds every month now. Original music only – no covers. El Dusty used to play in a band called IH5 – sort of a Rage Against the Machine band – they were crazy. I asked him to open a show for me and he said “acoustically?I said “just do it”. It worked and he has opened for me three or four times. He is really talented and I am really happy for him.
Patrick. I understand you played locally while you were in college. I had a musician roommate while I was in grad school and I saw that, at least for him, playing and studying is not easy; late nights and early classes. Did that experience toughen you up, or just addict you to coffee?
David. When I was playing live I was in grad school and I would drink coffee late anyway. I was working on my masters –that was tough because I got my masters in ayear and was really loaded up on courses. ButI still managed to go to the open mics and stuff. I was thinking of working on a PhD but I just wanted to play rock and roll.
Patrick. What did you study?
David. Undergrad waskenisthology. Grad was instructional technology
Patrick. That is what music is…teaching people how to be happy.
Patrick. The title track “Piece of Me”moves into the pop rock world in its arrangement and the topic –it sounds like a break up song, a favorite pop topic. Is that what it is?
David. Yeah, it pretty much is. It’s a break up song – it’s really a song about coping with break up. Yep, it pretty much is.
Patrick. You produce your music here in LA with bluesman Leroy Miller. Seems like an unusual combination. How did the two of you get together?
David. He is very talented. We got together through Myspace…it was big back then; it got people together who wouldn’t normally meet. He was signed to a couple of labels and touring the world. I just reached out to him one day and we ended up working together. It was a lot of fun and a lot of hard work.
Patrick. About that hard work, how does having a producer like Miller affect your music. You seem to have pretty different styles.
David. We also write together. We ended up on Lobster Records writing together. I basically had the main idea and we would take it from there. I find it a lot easier to work with a musician producer who understands music. There are a lot of talented producers, but in my opinion it helps to also play… I know that some people don’t agree, but it helps me understand what will work and won’t work.
Patrick. I understand what you mean, now that I read music.Did going to grad school affect the way you write music?
David. It helps, but ultimately you have to have that gift. It can be a help.
Patrick. Your song “Rise” really nails a mood – it is one of the most emotion-generating songs I know of outside of blues. Did you have to work on it to get it just right, or did it come together immediately.
David. I always work on songs to get it just right. My friend says anything worthwhile takes work. I love that. That song was written for a friend who was in so much pain. She was one of my great friends and shewas going through a break up and I just wanted to say to her, “you’ll rise one day ” so that I said I will write a song and I did.
Patrick. Do you only play acoustic guitar, or do you pick up an electric from time to time?
David. I do play an electric. I have a studio Les Paul and working on getting another Les Paul and a Telecaster. I don’t use any solid state. If you want to, you can go to YouTube and Itunes and download “Crazy Ride”. That’s me playing electric. It’s kind of punk rock and that’s me on it.
Patrick. Do you lay down tracks and then mix them, or do you try to record with the band together?
David. We recorded in LA butI plan now to record here in Texas – a couple of albums in the next two or three years. I will bring my dad into the studio. It is a lot easier out here. I will bring the band in on them. In my first album I was lucky. I had a player from the Black Crows, but I am going to record here. My dad is a drummer, but he plays it all – guitar,bass, piano. I got my first guitar when I 15. One day we were sitting in the back yard with my guitar and his friends and he said “play me a song” – then he said “I am going to teach you how to play. We are going to learn these chords and sing, and drink a lot of beer.” That’s how I learned to play. No lessons.
Patrick. Your song “Something Real” is good old fashioned blues rock. and it sounds like a lot of fun to perform. Where did the inspiration come from? Your soft delivery contrasts perfectly to the gritty downbeat and the high tempo background drumming is a perfect match. Your drummer is really good – who is that?
David. Leroy. He and I did that in the studio – we didn’t bring any outside people. That was a challenge song. He had come up with the idea and we wrote it together and that was what we came up with.
Patrick. Thanks’ for taking the time to talk with us.