Once in a while you meet and hear a talent that you want to share, not with one or two people, everyone…Dom Martin is one of those artists.
Born in Belfast, the 28-year old singer/songwriter has burst onto the UK and Irish music scene during the past 12 months. With a unique guitar style and voice, and a real feel for the roots and history of the blues, we couldn’t help but take notice and wanted to share this up and coming talent with our readers. Hey, with influences like Rory Gallagher, Tom Waits, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Howlin Wolf, and Muddy Waters, how can you go wrong?
He has been playlisted on both BBC Radio 6 Music and BBC Radio 2 and was a live session artist on the BBC Radio 2 Blues Show. Dom released his debut EP “Easy Way Out” in June 2018, prompting BBC presenter Cerys Matthews to describe it as “absolutely wonderful stuff.” His debut album is due before the end of 2019, and we sat with Dom and asked him a few probing questions…
What got you started on your musical journey?
I can’t really remember a start. It was always there. I guess my dad had a lot to do with it. He was a guitar player, not professional but one of the best players I’ve ever seen. I don’t know why he never really did anything with it. He maybe just never had the opportunity or took a chance. He was an alcoholic and abused drugs for a long time but don’t get me wrong he was a great man but he just seemed very troubled. That was his way of escape I suppose. He taught me the basics of guitar when I was 4 or 5 years old for a few years and I just kept at it. It’s got me out of more trouble than I can remember! He died in 2010 after a 10-year period of self-destruction. He became very sick so I moved in and looked after him for a few years until he died. Since then I’ve felt like I’m living for 2 people and after a few quiet years of this and that, I moved to the closest city of Belfast to pursue a real career in music. It’s been a hell of a journey so far!
What is your musical background (are you self-taught) and which artists inspire you?
My musical background? Well there’s really not much to say. As I said earlier, my dad started me off and I’ve just kept going. I lost out on a childhood because I just played guitar in a room for so long and it just seemed to pass me by. Not that I missed anything really. In fact I think I probably missed a lot of bad stuff, (laughs) but yeah I had an escape from everything with having that outlet. Music and learning to play guitar was like a therapy, it got me through. It hasn’t been a very long time since I…. I don’t know the term…. turned pro maybe, (laughs) so apart from just playing a lot of guitar my musical background is pretty slim.
There’s a massive list of artists that inspire me. Many people have that list (laughs) but a select few would be Tom Waits, Rory Gallagher, John Martyn, Bob Dylan, Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. A little bit of Clapton, just a little bit!
I’m a bit of an old soul I know. There’s not a lot of current music I would list here but I guess the guy Josh from Queens of the Stone Age has written some good songs. PJ Harvey is pretty hot too! Neil Young, Jeff Bridges, Pink Floyd. There’ll be a few gems I’m sure I’ve missed.
When it comes to writing songs, what circumstances or events generally give you inspiration?
Songwriting. Ah man it’s difficult for me. I can’t stand lazy songwriting but it’s everywhere. All over the charts and radio. I try to be more of a deep thinking songwriter. It can take me a while to finish a song but if someone tells me I can’t do it then I’ll most likely have it finished the next day! Writing songs with your guitar is amazing and fun but there’s a darker side to it…..especially I think with blues and blues/rock-soul where if you’re not living it, writing and singing with pride and shame and pain from personal experiences and past triumphs and failures, then it shows and most people can see right through that fake polished over produced muck.
If you didn’t become a musician, what would you be doing right now?
I’d have probably been a luthier, master guitar builder or a guitar tech for some huge blues player the likes of Steve Ray Vaughan or something like that. Roadie maybe? It would be something to do with guitars anyway (laughs).
If you could sit down with one musician, past or present, who would you pick and why?
I couldn’t pick one… I just can’t do it, so here’s 2. One would be my old man, my dad. He was some player. He didn’t really do much with it but damn he could play some mean guitar! I just used to love listening to him. We used to drink and play guitar all through the small hours of various nights of the week. We had a rule, he would play one then I would play one and we would just keep that formula going until we ran out of songs or one of us passed out! I never had that with anyone else and I miss him. Second would be Rory Gallagher, not even to jam with but to have a conversation with the guy would have done me. I learned so much from him and he died when I was only 4 so I never got that chance. I’ve always played lot of Rory’s songs, I want to keep them alive, I don’t want them to fade away. I would like him to have more recognition for his music and I like to think Rory would like what I do with his songs.
Do you prefer working in the studio or playing live?
LIVE! Live all the way. Studio work to me always feels so final, I do like the studio and it’s nice to finish an album and move on to other original material but the thing I love to do is play live. You really don’t know what could happen next. For better or for worse. I just love the edge of it. It gives me a spark and I lose myself for those few hours.
How has your music evolved since you first started playing?
Well I was about 5 years old when I started hitting strings .I like to think I’ve gotten a little better since then (laughs). I have a drive in me to be better. To be more fluent in it, like a language. Not to be the best because what does that mean anyway? My evolution is I don’t try and force it anymore. I used to play really heavy and fast and still do to an extent but there’s more of a science to it now. I know my guitars and what their capabilities are. I badly need an endorsement as I don’t know how long my old ladies are going to last! They’ve been ridden hard for sure (laughs)!
If you had to describe your sound in five words or less what would it be?
Moving castles in the sand!
What’s next for Dom Martin?
Well, my debut album Spain to Italy should be ready for release in a few months so really looking forward to that, then….. more albums! Live albums! Studio albums! More guitars to write more songs with. A lot more gigs. Bigger gigs, more tours of the UK and Europe next year. That would be good …. who knows maybe even get to play some places state side…. hey a guy’s gotta have a dream right?
I’ve got a great team here in Belfast. My managers Fenton and Audrey have really been taking on the world and it is uncharted territory for all of us but we’re always moving forward. We’ve come a long way since my first EP Easy Way Out was released in June ’18. Playing live on BBC Radio 2 for Cerys Matthews on her Blues Show was an unbelievable experience and I got so much exposure from that, I’m so grateful for all of it. It’s a beautiful thing to see that progress! When you know where you’ve come from, you know where your going, you know what your fighting for and you know what you can end up going back to, it gives me great drive and confidence to keep going. I’ll just keep being myself.
If you could have our readers know one thing about you, what would that be?
A somewhat dark and personal one but one that needs said. I cope with a condition, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) from looking after my dying father. I won’t go into details too much here but it was a long battle with COPD, bad lungs. It has taken me a very long time to put myself together again after watching him pass on like that and to move on from the memories of that I hold. The title track of the new album Spain to Italy is about my loss. It’s there with me every day. It will explain why sometimes I’m not a very social person or seem a little distant at times and I know there are a lot of people who understand this and I thank you for your understanding. I know there are many PTSD sufferers out there and we must all stay strong for one another. Music has been my saviour in this life. I think we should all do something musical. It’s beautiful.
Whether you love the blues or not, if you love music and importantly, artists that live and breathe it, you’d be crazy to not give Dom Martin a listen.
Check out a selection of Dom’s music below, and you can find out all the latest by visiting – www.dommart.in Take the time, you won’t be disappointed!
Photo credits: Keery Irvine and Haydn Hart.