Martin brings new, but familiar sound to Bert Church
By Nick Kuhl | Rocky View Weekly
When the opening riff of The Ground Cries Out began for nearly 350 music fans last week, at first it was a confused mix of familiarity and comfort emulating from a recognizable, yet moderately forgotten source.
But when Jeff Martin’s howling voice and signature Middle Eastern-influenced guitar worked into the first verse of the title track and lead single from his new band’s new album, everything became evident.
Martin, the former front man of the Tea Party, brought his new group – called Jeff Martin 777, to the Bert Church Theatre, March 11.
“It has to be a new beginning, as you can’t just rest on your laurels,” said Martin, who penned nearly all of the Tea Party’s hits, including Temptation and Heaven Coming Down. “A lot of the material on the 777 record will be familiar to people – it’s not like I’ve just gone and done a country record – with songs like The Ground Cries Out and The Cobra being evolutions from Sister Awake and The Bazaar. This record has its dark, sexy moments, but it’s got fun moments too. It’s a really cool rock ‘n’ roll journey.”
Dressed in a leather jacket, jeans and a bandana following the 777 sound check, three hours before the Airdrie show, the 41-year-old Martin quickly shuffled to the green room below the stage to review some film and mix a drink. His new bass player Jay Cortez soon realized, however, that the room was dry.
A humorous, albeit brief, panic ensued as the band came to understand that smaller theatres only allow beer and wine inside and that someone had forgotten to properly fulfill the band’s rider.
Martin, who now lives in Australia, laughed at the situation and said it will just become a story of the band’s first tour.
“It reminds me of the beginnings of the Tea Party and those memorable shows,” he said of playing smaller venues and cities, such as Airdrie and Nelson, B.C., which 777 chose to include on its inaugural tour.
“We want to stretch it out. If I’m going to fly all the way to Canada, we’re going to spend some time and do it right. We really wanted to give people the opportunity to be intimate with the band, and give them really good memories, because if all things go as planned, this band will be on the bigger stages.”
The Ground Cries Out, released March 1, was intentionally issued in Canada first because Martin wanted a chance to reconnect with his original fans. Both his 2006 solo album Exile and the Kingdom and 2008’s short-lived group The Armada’s self-titled album were recorded in Australia.
“I think my Canadian fan base was getting a little perturbed at me spending all my time in sunny Australia,” he said, moments after finally receiving a vodka-water from an assistant. “I know this record will be successful there, but I felt if it could become a success here, where I haven’t been in quite some time, than it’s going to translate everywhere. I didn’t know what to expect, you know, not putting out a rock album in Canada since the Tea Party, but it’s doing really, really well in Canada so far, so that’s great. I’ve been away for essentially six years, but to come back in and be so well received, and remembered and relevant, certainly makes me very proud.”
Martin has been playing about 60 per cent new 777 material and 40 per cent Tea Party favourites so far on the tour, which will wrap up its first leg in Montreal on March 29. Although he said he enjoys the reaction the old songs get, as it helps recognize the Tea Party’s legacy, Martin is most satisfied with the direction the new band hopes to go.
“I’ve had my success as far as fame and money, but I’m not doing it for that now,” he said. “I’m just doing it because of the joy in making rock ‘n’ roll music and the joy of travelling – I am gypsy at heart. This band is never going to stop touring. It’s great rock and roll band now, but in a year from now it will be terrifying. The band is in its infancy still, so were evolving exponentially every night.”