In an era of country music where story songs are becoming harder and harder to come by, it is always a pleasant surprise to come across an artist that makes stories the focal point of their music.
Nashville-based artist, and Massachusetts native, Sarah Martin does just that, hoping that listeners can find something to relate to, allowing them to get to know her as a person.
Martin’s album “Muddy Boots” does just that, giving a glimpse into Sarah’s life so not only will listeners appreciate her as an artist, but as a person as well.
Hear from Martin about getting hooked on music at an early age, writing songs with depth, being involved in a contest to open for Alan Jackson, and more!
Pro Country: Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Sarah Martin: I grew up on a lot of local artists. They really helped me get my start; artists that would let me get up on stage at their shows and have encouraged me my whole life. Mainstream music, I listened to The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Temptations, and also 90s-country. There was also this one Irish drinking music cassette tape my mom had that we played once in a while (laughs), but basically all the other influences I had were local musicians in Massachusetts.
PC: You joined your first band in seventh grade. What was it about music that appealed to you so early on in your life and that’s kept you hooked?
SM: I just always loved to sing. I actually didn’t learn guitar until I was almost 21. I took piano lessons when I was little, and I also took up saxophone for a year. My parents wanted me to learn guitar for the longest time, and I just was never really interested until I was 20. I realized that I either had to learn guitar, or depend on someone else to do what I love for the rest of my life, but I always loved to sing from day one. Just being able to sing in front of a crowd and people acknowledging that I had a nice voice was pretty awesome!
PC: Was there a specific moment that you knew you wanted to pursue music?
SM: I think it was just a combination of things, because I’ve always been a very practical person. I didn’t go to college for music because I remember talking to my mom and she was like, “You know, why don’t you go to college for music?” and I remember specifically telling her, “Mom, it’s not practical, you know?” Fortunately, I think fate has gradually pushed me in the right direction over the years. I love to sing, and started playing bars in college after learning guitar. After college, the first real job I had, just didn’t end up being the experience I thought it would be.
It really lit a fire under my ass to find gigs to play and go full-time. Then of course I visited Nashville for the first time when I was 25. After that week, it was like I didn’t have a choice in the matter. I just really fell in love with the city, the possibilities it had to offer, all the things I could learn from it, and it genuinely broke my heart to leave- I knew music was what I wanted to do and Nashville was where I had to be.
PC: Were you feeling any type of pressure, internally or externally, as you were preparing to release music for the first time with the “Bottle of Whiskey” single or the “All Acoustic” album?
SM: There was a level of pressure with the first album: it was my first time, so I didn’t want to screw anything up too bad (laughs). Also, the original songs I wrote were about real people, and things I had gone through, and while it’s scary to release that out to the world, my main concern was not wanting to hurt the person on the other end of the songs I was writing. Mainly, I released my first album because everybody had always asked me if I had any original music that they could purchase, and the response was always no. I wanted to put “Bottle of Whiskey” out so I could have something onstage; my original work, to present to people.
PC: What kind of validation did it give you when “Bottle of Whiskey” and its music video performed so well and have now become one of your signature songs?
SM: It’s really cool. I feel like in every part of your career, there’s always that doubt when you take the next step. Singing cover songs is one thing, but when you write original music that has to do with your life, it’s a vulnerable thing. Plus, it was my first music video, to know people enjoy it is a lot of relief.
PC: What was it like recording the “Muddy Boots” album full-band as opposed to “All Acoustic”? Did that feel like the next step for you as an artist?
SM: For sure. The “All Acoustic” album, I actually recorded that in my friend, Jeff Rosen’s kitchen. He’s a really good friend of mine, and he said he would help me out if I wanted to get something together. So in a matter of three or four days, we recorded everything, and he mixed it. For me, it was actually a pretty simple process. “Muddy Boots” was a bit more complicated and very involved because there was a full-band, and I wanted to be there for every step I could. I actually started recording in Alabama, so I made a few trips down there, but unfortunately that kind of fell apart, and I had to start over with my producer-friend Justine Blazer, here in Nashville. Since it was really the first album I was releasing as a Nashville Artist, there was a lot of pressure and stress that went with it. It was trying to figure out the right sound that we wanted, getting notes back and forth on mixes, getting up early and staying up late to get things finished and sticking to the timeline- and that was just the music on the album. There was also all the promotion, scheduling, planning, designing, photoshoots, lyric videos, and music videos that goes with it, that I primarily did by myself- and that’s just the tip of the iceberg- it was a lot, and I definitely learned some things for the next go around.
PC: The song “Muddy Boots” has become another one of your signature songs. Why did you decide to name the album after that song?
SM: “Muddy Boots” is a song about who I am as a person. I think if there’s one thing that’s important to me, it’s having a relationship with my fans. It’s easy to like somebody because of their music, but I always want people like me for me as well, and I felt like “Muddy Boots” is a representation of who I am, my upbringing and being a little rough around the edges, and I want to share that commonality with my fans and other women.
PC: “Hey Old Friend” is one of my favorites on the album. Can you talk a little bit about the inspiration behind that song?
SM: I moved to Nashville a little over four years ago, but before I did that, I was actually in a relationship for about four years with a great guy. I had to make a tough decision to move to Nashville and separate myself, and I wasn’t grown up enough to say the right things during our break up. On the “All Acoustic” album, there’s a lot of songs that revolve around that. About two and a half years ago, I met my fiancé, and he was just everything that I have ever looked for. It made me realize that my previous relationship was never meant to work out, because it was never the same kind of relationship that my fiancé and I have with each other. I also felt really guilty that I was so happy and I wasn’t sure if my ex was. I had a dream about him one night that we were friends, he had found someone, and everything worked out the way it was meant to- it was actually really overwhelming. When I woke up, I wrote “Hey Old Friend.”
PC: What do you hope people take away from the “Muddy Boots” album after listening all the way through?
SM: I hope they take away that life can be great, life can have ups and downs, but a good song can get you through a lot. I try to portray that in my music; that life isn’t perfect, but it’s not always crappy either (laughs). If you’re going through something and you can relate your life to a song; something you can scream at the top of your lungs, that’s powerful. That’s what I wanted the “Muddy Boots” album to be about.
PC: You released “Heartbreak Song” a little under two months ago. Can you talk a little bit about the writing process of that song?
SM: I wrote that a while ago- there are so many love songs out there and not a ton of good break up songs to stick it to the people who broke your heart. Even though I felt happy where I was in my life, I realized that not everybody’s there, not everybody’s found someone. I think there were family members that were going through breakups, and it also went along with “Hey Old Friend.” I just really felt that there needed to be a good, upbeat song for those that might not be in the best situation with love at the moment, to get a chance to scream “screw you” and “kiss my ass” to the people that hurt them, even if that someone is me. That’s kind of the point of the song; we’ve all been hurt by someone and we’re also all guilty of hurting someone, it’s just a part of life’s journey of finding the right one.
PC: You were involved in the contest open for Alan Jackson. What did that and the support you received in that contest mean to you?
SM: Honestly, that was incredible. There’s always times in your life where you think, “I have this many supporters,” and then something comes up and you realize “Wow, there are way more supporters than I thought!” At my first CD release party for the “All Acoustic” album, we probably had about 30 or 40 people, which was awesome, and it was a small coffee house setting. When I released “Muddy Boots” three years later, we had over a hundred people at the Nashville CD release party, and I actually sold out my hometown CD release party, which was incredibly gratifying and a complete confidence booster. Then the Alan Jackson competition followed that, and it was just really cool and overwhelming that everyone was so dedicated to voting for me. It was also cool that Alan Jackson and the management crew at AJ’s Good Time Bar gave all their musicians that opportunity, because there’s not a lot of bars on Broadway, if any, that do that. Honestly, it’s just been really incredible and eye-opening to physically see how many followers and how many new fans and new friends and supporters that I’ve gained just in the time that I’ve been in Nashville.
PC: To achieve milestones like that: going to 30 people to 100 to the Alan Jackson competition soon after, does that almost serve as reaffirmation of what you’re doing as an artist?
SM: It definitely is. Every so often at shows, I’ll have parents tell me their child sings, and I’ll have them come up on stage to sing a song. After, their parents will say the child is shy, and I tell them I was in that exact position. It’s taken a lot of people telling me I’m good over the years, and that I’m going somewhere, for me to actively pursue this career. Every time somebody tells me that they love my original music or that they love my voice or love hearing me, it really gives me a confidence boost that, honestly, I still need. Looking back on how far I have come from the shy girl with one hand on the mic and one hand in her pocket, on stage, to a Nashville artist with family, friends, fans, and follows that genuinely care and support me is definitely reaffirmation of the choices I have, and continue to make, in my career.
PC: What are your other plans for 2019?
SM: I want to release a Christmas album this year. That is the plan. I’m also hoping to release a couple singles and do a couple original Christmas songs as well. I have some recording equipment I just got, so I’m really hoping to be able to start to learn more about that. I think the more you learn in the music business, the more invaluable you become. So my goals are just to learn more, to write more, do the Christmas album, and maybe release a couple other singles.
PC: Is there anything else you would like to add?
SM: I appreciate everybody that takes the time to listen to me more than they would know. Like I said, my original songs are more story based, and that’s really what I want to do; I want to tell stories. I want to write songs where people have to actively listen to the whole song to get the full story; songs that mean something and have something to say. I want to continue to write songs that can be therapeutic for people to listen to, and I want to write songs that make people think. I hope everyone reading this will follow me on this adventure through my social media, and that you get a chance to check out my music videos on my YouTube channel. My new music video “PSA” comes out April 1st!