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Mar 2011

Press (long!): Tea Party singer returns with new album and band

Tea Party singer returns with new album and band
By Jason Clevett,

It’s bitterly cold in Calgary, and Jeff Martin is a long way away from his current home in Perth, Australia.
Comforted by a blazing fire and a Caesar in a downtown hotel restaurant, he brims with excitement in discussing
his new band Jeff Martin 777 and their new album The Ground Cries Out.
In town on a cross-Canada media tour before band-mates Malcolm
Clark (drums) and Jay Cortex (bass/keyboards/everything else) join him
for a concert tour, Martin opened up about the new band, his former
band the Tea Party, and more.
“They are amazing musicians, very respected in Australia. I met
Malcolm ten years ago backstage at a Tea Party concert. He was always
a big fan and we became friends. I met Jay a little bit after the break
up of the Tea Party. It is one of those things that was destined to come
together, it was just a matter of time. It is a real joy because it is a
confidence and familiarity that I haven’t felt since The Tea Party. We
made this new record over the course of six months. There were a lot
of breaks because we each had commitments but, we put [the album
together in] an incredible studio in Perth and this is the result. It was a
labour of love, I took my time doing it and making sure that I created a
sound for this new band and brought their personalities to the forefront.
I am very proud to show off the new band in Canada. If I was going to
come back here with a power trio it better be a damn good power trio!”
Martin returns to Calgary for the first time in three years. His previous
visits have been solo shows, as well as a show immediately after the Tea
Party breakup which featured a five-piece band in support of his album
Exile In The Kingdom. Exile was a notably different sound from Martin’s
Tea Party songs. The Ground Cries Out sees him return to an evolved
version of the style he first gained fame for on early albums Splendor
Solis and The Edges of Twilight.
“I have a lot of pride in being an artist. If I am going to put a new
recording out I have to feel that it is better than what I have done in the
past, that I am moving forward. I feel that way with this record. I am
very proud of what I have achieve in the past with those big musical
statements like Sister Awake and Temptation and all that – it is iconic,
its lovely. I feel these 11 songs on this record stand up to anything I
have done in the past. With Exile I tried a five piece band and I felt more
constricted, it was almost suffocating. There are too many walls. In a
three-piece, especially if the musicianship is up there every song will
have its signpost, but how we get there, who knows. When you see the
band play, the next night is totally different with a lot of jamming going
on. That is what I found so appealing once again.”
The music Martin has created, both with The Tea Party and on his
own, is incredibly versatile. Having been blended with full orchestras to
being stripped down to a guitar and solo voice, the music resonates no
matter what the form.
“As a producer and composer I can make the grand sonic landscapes
but the true test of a great song is that you can take all those beautiful
colours and textures away and bring it down to a voice and acoustic
guitar. If you can, it is still a great song. That is in the back of my mind.
When I produce a song like The Ground Cries Out or The Cobra, I am
going big, but am I going too big? Am I still able to bring it down to that
and get the same intention across with simplicity? That is one thing I
am still learning as a producer. I feel that I am getting wiser at doing it.”
The tour brings Jeff Martin 777 to Alberta for three shows – The
Republik Nightclub on March 10th in Calgary, Airdrie’s Bert Church
Theatre on March 11th and Festival Place in Sherwood Park, March
12th. Having played arenas and massive festivals, Martin is excited to
bring the band to smaller venues and be up close and personal.
“There is a very distinct possibility that this band could get to the
level the Tea Party was at, but I don’t want to get there to soon. I haven’t
had a chance with a three-piece to play intimate venues like this for
such a long time I remember how good it was to do it. I want to give
to the fans that intimacy before it gets out of hand. Even with the Tea
Party, I believe we had the ability. Even though we would get a few
thousand people, we made it feel intimate somehow, some way. This is
very special to be able to come back to Canada and tour this and it is an
introduction for Canadian fans to Malcolm and Jay, and I want them to
be close and really understand the musicianship of what is going on. I
just want to make it grow organically. I would like to see this band come
back to Canada another two times over the next two years. We have a
lot of commitments and enthusiastic interest in Europe and Australia so
there is a lot of touring to do. This record has legs – there are so many
great songs on this record that we have the fortunate [dilemma] of what
single do you choose? My goal for this record and band is for people to
experience the same amount of joy and happiness out of it that we did
making it. If that can be accomplished, I am a happy camper. ”
Martin has long possessed an intense connection with fans. He often
leads the audience in singing songs like Save Me. It is demonstrated by
the look of bliss that crosses his face as his lyrics are sung back to him
by the audience.
“It is a connection, symbiosis, the chord. When I first started off there
were all these accusations about being like Jim Morrison. If you think
about The Doors, Morrison couldn’t have been more detached from an
audience – he didn’t care really and tried to piss them off. When I was
a young man I was very insecure and quiet and people mistook that for
arrogance. Fair enough. As you get more confidence and the insecurities
slip away I realized that there is this beautiful connection, people are
here for a reason and want to be a part of it. I started letting people in
and the more I did that, the more rewarding the whole existence of being
a performer onstage became. It is to the point now if I don’t get that
connection it is disappointing. It seldom ever happens that way. It is the
most important thing for me.”
Tea Party fans can expect songs from that extensive catalog, included
in the set as well.
“The Tea Party – those songs are my life. It can’t be ignored, the music
is beautiful. I look back at it as a fan. All of those things that I put myself
through and where I went to make that music, I would be disrespecting
myself if I didn’t play that music still. It is not going to sound the same. It is a fresh, different approach because it is different personalities
interpreting, but the song remains the same.”
Another long-standing tradition for Martin is that of including covers
in the live show. While Daniel Lanois’ The Messenger and The Rolling
Stones Paint It Black were recorded, songs like Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt,
U2’s One, and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah are just a few of the songs
that have popped up.
“First and foremost its fun – rock n’ roll has to be fun. That would
be the cornerstone now of what I am getting out of things. Also it gives
people an insight into my psyche and where my inspiration comes from.
On this tour, the band does a wicked version of Love Will Tear Us Apart.
Joy Division and Ian Curtis was a massive influence on me when I was
13 years old. He made me want to write lyrics and explore the dark side
of the psyche. That will be a song that is heard once in awhile. There are
a few up my sleeve that you haven’t heard yet.”
There seems to be a strong connection between Australia and Canada,
and many of their artists find success in the opposite country. Martin
shared his thoughts on why that is.
“I think it is a case of a pride in identity. Canadians get a lot of flack
for being in the shadow of Americans but, if you are actually here, there
is a national pride and a vibrant music scene. It isn’t as cookie cutter
here. There are the dangers of the Idol shows but that is the pop world,
I don’t think of that as music. That is about fame, living the dream and
all that stuff.”
“The Arcade Fire winning the Grammy for Album of the Year? How
cool is that?! That gives someone hope about the music industry that they would recognize such a
talented bad. That is so far removed from your Jay-Z’s, Eminem, Lady Gaga. I don’t want to hear that stuff anymore
I want to hear something with substance. The Australian music culture is the same, they have a lot of pride and
back their own. Because there are such similarities (between Australia and Canada), they mirror each other and in many
ways have such a correlation and love going to each other’s countries. The Tea Party was the first Canadian rock band to
really be embraced in Australia and opened a lot of doors for other Canadian bands. I was hanging out with The Trews in
Perth on my birthday and they were treated so well. Canadian bands don’t want to leave when they go over there because it
is paradise. The women are beautiful, the animals will kill you.”
His former bandmate, drummer Jeff Burrows (now a member of Crash Karma) announced that his son
Nicholas and his band The Indecent had signed a record deal.
“I knew Jeff’s boys well, and Jeff was such a positive influence on
them but never pushed them. They came to all the concerts and lived
and breathed it, watching their Dad who is one of the greatest drummers
in Canadian rock. I think it was more of a natural thing for Jeff’s kids
to go into it. With my son Jango unfortunately the nature of my life and
continuing to tour and record it is very much a gypsy life so I don’t see
him as much as I would want to. He is very proud of me and thinks the
world of his Dad as a rockstar but, it isn’t something he has lived and
breathed like Jeff’s kids. I will encourage him if he has the interest, he
has the genes for it. It is really up to him. He is still very young, he is six
and I started playing guitar when I was seven or eight. Jango is following
all the same trends and interests I had, like a fascination with electric
trains and Speedracer. When I was seven my uncle showed me my first
guitar chords and I took it from there – that was it for me. Maybe that will
happen with him, maybe not.”
If Martin’s music is diverse, so are his fans. The crowd at Tea Party
concerts included a wide assortment of ages, races, and sexualities.
Martin is proud of how much his music has appealed to so many people.
“It is a testament to the music and the audience. The attraction would
always be that The Tea Party’s music, my music, the new band’s music,
what lies underneath it all is integrity. It means something. It is sexy
music and gays, lesbians, teens, 40 year-olds – there is a certain mindset
that transcends that. People like sexy music. If you want to think about
it with the chakras, when you think early Stones, Led Zepplin, you could
feel the sexual chakra in the music. I have to hear that in what I am
doing and if I don’t hear that, I am not putting it on the record.”

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