Interview with Christopher Martin
02/14/2017 by Gardy Stein
Maybe his birth on Valentine's Day 1987 was a sign - a child sent by Amor. Maybe musical talent has been passed on to him by his parents, Cleveland and Maxine Martin. Maybe his exceptional skills have been honed during his years at St. Jago High School. Whatever the reason, we have to be grateful that Christopher Martin is there to sing for us. His beguiling voice and the way he is able to wrap every romantic feeling there is in a song constitute a richness in Reggae music that aligns him with the likes of Beres Hammond. Reggaeville spoke to the prolific artist just prior to the release of his debut album Big Deal, touching on details of the release, his experiences on tour in Africa and the gift he feels obliged to share:
How are you? Where do we catch you?
I'm good! I'm in Kingston right now.
When you entered the Digicel Contest in 2005, have you imagined you'd reach the point you are at today?
Well, I was always working for it, you know... I think I was blessed with this gift to share it with people. I always wanted to share it on a wide scale, so, from when I got this opportunity, I always told myself the sky is the limit. There was no border, no boundaries... I never caged myself, I just worked really hard.
From back then until now, how was your journey?
I would say my journey has been a very solid one. I've grown as a person, I've grown as an entertainer, I've grown as a singer, you know. I've been to so many different places around the world, I performed on so many different stages, I have such a wonderful support system around me, it's wonderful! When I look back on where I was then and where I'm at today, it's definitely a true blessing.
Since 2013 you are signed to VP Records. Do you see any differences on the business side of things, compared to Big Yard, for instance?
Well, I'm still at Big Yard, Big Yard is my home. I wasn't signed to them, but I've always been there, that's where my base is, that's where I record all my songs, you understand, but since I've been signed to VP, it's a plus. You know, being an independent artist, there is only so much that you can do. So when the link came about now, there are different avenues based on the fact that VP is so big in the music form, there are so many avenues, so many channels in which to push the music, so I'm benefiting from all that. It's been an awesome journey so far!
When I read the announcement to your album, I almost couldn't believe that it's your debut album. I mean, you are on the international screen of music for so long...
You could say it's my debut, yes! I released an album before this, entitled Christopher Martin, but it was just for Japan. In its truest form now, where everyone anywhere in the world can get a copy of this album, definitely this is my debut album. I've been working on it for almost two years now. You see, I'm at a stage in my career now where those people support me. I've been looking for a body of work, and I'm very pleased. I'm very pleased because at the end of the day, you have people who want a piece of you. They want to say 'This is my singer, this is his album...' so they get a chance to listen to it plus they get a chance to hear tracks that they've never heard before, so that's a wonderful thing.
That would have been my next question... some of the tracks are very well known, of course, like the Cheater's Prayer, but some are brand new. Which are out for the first time now?
Distance is an exclusive, Long Distance Lover is an exclusive, Easy Like Sunday Morning too, Lady Of The Night, Blind Girl and Hide Away. Magic was an exclusive as well, but it's being promoted now as the first single.
Can you say something about the artists you collaborated with? I mean, we all know Busy, but the others might not be so well known. What is their background and how did you link up with them?
On Long Distance Lover I collaborated with a beautiful young woman by the name of Destiny Moriah. She is based in New York. That link came about via VP Records. I had the opportunity to listen to her and I said I would like to have her on a track, so... she has talent, she is very talented, plus she is very good looking. We were supposed to do a video (laughs). She's a wonderful talent. Also, on Under The Influence the remix we have Chip who was known as Chipmunk before, but it's just Chip now. He is a rapper based in the UK, so yeah... again that link came about via VP Records. And he did the song justice, you know, he loves Caribbean music and I think he interpreted the kind of vibe wonderfully. Tanto Blacks is an entertainer here from Jamaica. You know, his whole talk of life and upliftment, it catches on with the people, they love him. They love his whole outlook on life, so when we had that song One Life, it was only natural for him to put some ad-libs to the song.
And, as you said, Busy Signal goes without saying. We did a lot of collaborations before, so it was only fitting for us to do something for the album. Outside of music, me and Busy Signal are friends, you know, very close, so we've always done songs together. I think this is the fourth time. Any time he wants a singer on a track, he links me, and most of the times I need a DJ on a track I link him, so yeah... it goes without saying. The general, man!
For which of the songs do you plan to make a video?
You'll definitely get a video for Magic, also for My Love... these are the songs that we will start shooting very soon.
How about the song Pirates Of The Caribbean? I love that one, and in my head it has a video already!
Yes, it's really nice and it's very popular as well. You see, if it was up to me I would video every single one of my songs (laughs). I love all my songs and then I listen to my supporters, they love them as well and they would love to see videos for each and every one of them, but my focus is based on some songs only now. But I would honestly love to do a video for this one, too!
We met in 2013 after your show in Hamburg, and you told me that you plan to do a song for your father. Now I realise that you wrapped it up in Mom & Dad, which I like very much because the Dads are underrepresented in Jamaican music. Every artist makes a Mama song, but there are hardly any Daddy songs. Can you tell us about your motivation to do that?
Yeah man! I did that song Mama, it was such a big song and everyone loved it, and then, you know, some people believed that maybe I grew up in a single parent home, based on the fact that the song had so much feelings, so they probably felt like I don't know my father or something like that. So I just wanted to make it clear that my father really is my general, so these songs are true life issues, you understand. So that was the main motivation behind the song. Me and my Dad have a very good relationship, awesome actually, so when I did that song for my mother, and with the amount of love I have for my father as well, I did one for mum and one for dad!
What is planned tour-wise?
We have work to do. We plan to do the States, but we have to come to Europe in the summer...
Yes please! (laughs)
Yes, I will be in Europe for the summer and I will also be looking forward to go to Africa. We have some Caribbean stops as well, and I'm looking forward to go to Japan and Australia, so... we are just working on that. I want to push this album to its full potential!
I read that last year you've been to Zimbabwe on tour, can you tell us about that?
That was awesome, man! I go to Africa every year, and every year it's even better, bigger and better. I had such a wonderful time in Zimbabwe! So many people came to see me at the airport, so many people came out to the show, it was wonderful, and what made it even more wonderful was the chance to bring my band with me, you understand, so... it was awesome. The people love my music so much, and I love them, so it was a wonderful reciprocation of love.
Was there any special moment that stood out?
Yeah man! For one, I got an award for the best visiting performer in Zimbabwe, so that was awesome, as well as just to see how much my songs touch people. To be on the stage and see people crying in the crowd, that's an awesome feeling, you can't pay for that. I definitely realized then that the type of songs and the type of music I do is very impactful on people's lives, you understand, so I would never change, I would never try to switch to please anybody, you know, so the type of songs I'm doing right now, I love and appreciate that. And when I go to places and see that first-hand, it's wonderful!
I see that on your Facebook-page. Almost anything you post has comments from Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and so on...
True. I have a very big following in Africa and I appreciate them so much, I really really appreciate them, they show me so much love. So at the end of the day I feel like they connect with my songs, based on the fact that, you know, seeing their messages to my songs. Whatever they are going through, there's a Christopher Martin song that's fitting. Whatever struggle, whatever happiness they are going through… whenever I go to Facebook and I see that, that is payment for me, that is the reward, to see that my music is helping or my music is facilitating a road on which people can find each other. They were in love before, they broke up and make up, or someone just wants the courage to go and say something to someone, I have a song for everything. When I go on my page and I see all those comments and all this love, I just feel super appreciated. That motivates me to go to the studio and work harder, make more music.
Which countries have you visited in Africa, apart from Zimbabwe?
I've been to Kenya, Uganda, Ruanda, Marocco and others. They've been trying to get me to Ghana, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi... but in time!
Yes, you are still so young! Now, speaking about your name... it's Christopher Martin, but sometimes it's shortened to Chris Martin. Has there ever been any mix-up with other people by the same name?
Yes, you can see the mix-up sometimes on my page, on social media, you know. People messaging me about Coldplay events coming up and stuff (laughs). And then I have to say 'Oh, this isn't Coldplay's page' you know, that's when they use Chris Martin. When you use Christopher Martin it's clear who they are talking about. When they shorten it to Chris Martin, there is a mix-up at some point in time. But it's not bad, you know, it might win me new fans too. So there's no harm in it!
Apart from the artist Christopher Martin, which plans does the private Christopher have for this year?
For me, I'm very simple, you know. If I'm not playing music, I love to play football, I love to be around my family, I love to be around my friends, I love to run jokes, that's me on a daily. I love to chill out, drive through the country and just spend a night or two. My life itself is very busy, so… my life is like a party. We go to shows, we perform, before we perform we get to party, so... whenever I get free time, I just love to do simple things, spend time with my family and friends, spend time with my daughters, play dominoes and just act a fool, you know (laughs).
Is there anything you wish to add?
I would just like to say thanks, first and foremost to Reggaeville for all the support. They supported my music and my movement from Jump Street, I appreciate it so much. Also I want to say thanks to all the readers and listeners, everyone who's been there for Christopher Martin. Without you, this movement Christopher Martin would not have been possible. Thank you so much for all the love and support! I will continue to give you the music you love and respect me for. I wish everyone a prosperous 2017! Just stay in love and be safe and everything will be nice.