Martin Sexton ready to play a ‘bouquet’ of solo songs
When Martin Sexton takes the stage, he usually doesn’t know what song he’s going to play first.
In fact, the critically acclaimed singer and songwriter rarely relies on a set list when he’s headlining a venue.
"I use them only when I’m doing a festival slot or if I’m a support act for someone and I only have a certain amount of time to play," Sexton said during a phone call to The Park Record from his home in wqestern Massachusetts. "So, I tend to just wing it and then the show kind of takes a life on its own."
Sexton likes that because he ends up playing songs he never thought of playing.
"I mean, someone in the audience will shout out something, and I’ll play those songs and even break into ‘Freebird’ from time to time," he said. "Last week, we did Led Zeppelin’s ‘Going the California,’ and I had a mandolin player sitting in and it was spontaneous and beautiful.
"When I do things like that, I feel like my shows are like individual bouquets," he said.
Sexton will design one of his flowering musical arrangements when he plays Park City Live on Thursday, Feb. 21.
"I’m just gearing up for the run out West where I’ll be hitting a bunch of groovy, snowy destinations like your town," he said. "I look forward to coming to Park City. It’s beautiful country."
The tour is in support of his new CD, "Live at the Fillmore," which was released a few weeks ago.
The music was culled from one of the four sets Sexton did in San Francisco over the past eight years, he said.
"I always enjoy playing at the Fillmore and we wanted to release a bridge between (my previous CD), ‘Fall Like Rain’ and the next thing, just to keep something in the pipeline," Sexton explained. "But in reality, I really didn’t make this CD. We just grabbed the recordings out of the hundreds of shows we recorded for the archives.
"We don’t record all the shows I do, but we do a lot of them," he said.
Sexton listened to a few performances, including one that was from the House of Blues in Los Angeles and one from the Nokia Theatre in New York.
"We also went through one that we did in Amsterdam, actually," he said. "But the one at the Fillmore was more complete. All the other ones were good, but this one had a nice flow and a little more zing."
When Sexton records a live show, he and his crew make sure they do it right.
"It’s very professional," he said. "We try to find the right microphone placements and all that other technical stuff. They’re not just ripped off the (mixing) board, so they don’t sound dry."
Mixing-board recordings can be "a drag," Sexton said.
"You can play in front of 10,000 people and if you listen to the tape, it can sound like there are five people in the audience," he explained. "We didn’t do anything to the recordings. The CD is pretty much how the show went down."
The only thing Sexton had to do to the songs for the CD is track them, so listeners could play the songs individually or skip around.
"There was no big editing or mastering," he said. "It was good the way it was."
One of the reasons the show stands out is because Sexton enjoys playing the Fillmore.
"It’s always a blast wherever I play, but I love San Francisco," he said. "I love the Fillmore and it was a good sounding show, but in reality, somebody just pressed the record button, you know what I mean?"
The CD features 16 tracks including Sexton’s own "Diner," "Candy" and "Happy," but also solo acoustic remakes of The Beatles "A Day in the Life" and Prince’s "Purple Rain."
It also shows off his vocal range and delivery, and his sense of humor, spontaneity and connection with the audience.
"I didn’t realize that I said the ‘F’ word a few times," he confessed. "That’s unlike me, but that night I dropped it a couple of times, but I don’t think it was too offensive."
Since he was 16, Sexton wanted to play music.
"I wanted to be Jimi Hendrix and each night would be Woodstock," he said. "But then I grew up and started making money with the music and started gaining fans."
With the fans came some adjustments.
"I realized that I wanted to influence and inspire folks and be part of the solution to some of the world’s problems," he said. "While I’ve always had whispers of social awareness on every one of my records, I never intended on doing that. I just wanted to play rock ‘n’ roll, but my music has taken on a more of a social-awareness platform in the past five years."
The reason was self-awareness, Sexton said.
"Since I’m a human being with eyes, ears and a mouth, I want to sing about what I’m feeling, what I’m thinking, hearing and what I’m seeing," he said. "I think it’s incumbent on me as an artist to not simply entertain, but to report. I feel the need to show people that, yes, you can actually do this without a mega, multi-national corporation.
"I happen to be an independent artist," he said. "Music is a powerful force and I’m honored to be a part of it and I want to use it the best way I can."
Martin Sexton will play Park City Live, 427 Main St., on Thursday, Feb. 21. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are available for $20 at http://www.ticketcake.com , http://www.smithstix.com or wwwparkcitylive.net. For more information, visit http://www.martinsexton.com.
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