Photo by Melissa Wax
A quick google search of, “Drew Martin,” turns up thousands of results. Modify to, “Drew Martin music Seattle,” and you’ll find past shows that the Hawaii musician has played, along with a bunch of other things you’re probably not looking for. Why is he so hard to find? Well, it turns out it was a conscious decision to stay off of media.
“It’s almost been part of my little mission to show you can be a successful musician without having a social media presence,” Martin begins, “I think it also comes from my simple background growing up in Hawaii. We are quiet, simple people. My folks taught us to do your art because it’s something that keeps your spirit alive…don’t worry about recognition. Keep yourself healthy through your art and creativity. If you play with honesty and passion, it will resonate with people.”
Martin instead says that he simply plays a high volume of shows and maintains a large email and phone list to engage listeners. Having performed at the Tractor Tavern, Crocodile, Sunset, Royal Room, Fremont Abbey, High Dive, Ballard Homestead, Conor Byrne, Kirkland Performance Center and playing at Folklife and Bumbershoot, audience reach isn’t an issue for Martin.
Photo by Melissa Wax
But what can you expect at a Drew Martin show?
Though Martin warns that his set list is never the same, “Big Old Sky,” is a song that has become a staple at Drew’s shows. “It’s really joyful-feeling,” he explains, “always a fun one to play.” Additionally, you can expect to hear, “River Still Runs,” a Bluesy Hoedown-style song about holding on to hope, “Don’t worry about the crazy shit going on in your life, the river’s still running somewhere.” This is a theme that Martin keeps throughout his shows, “I think my shows are all about joy. I want people to feel good. If I can…uplift someone’s spirit, I’ve done my job for the night. There’s a lot of dancing and…laughing going on at the shows.
Also performed by Drew Martin is a cover of, “I’ll Rock You to the Rhythm of the Ocean,” originally by John Angaiak of Alaska. “His music is featured on Light in the Attics Native North America compilation. It’s a great song that I’ve fallen in love with; Speaks to the importance of simplicity in your life and taking care of Mother Nature.” Nature is a common theme in Martin’s music, as he believes it to be a force for healing. He states that most of his riffs and melodies are born out on a trail and built up from there, “I write out in nature. A lot of my music has come from spending time on trails and camping in Hawaii. Nature is my main inspiration for writing.”
Photos by Melissa Wax
Martin moved to Seattle from Maui five years ago and finds that his music fits in much better here. “I was in a funk/rock band in Hawaii,” he explains, “It was always a struggle playing for crowds and venues that were only used to hearing reggae or cover bands. We were critters in that scene, definitely the outcasts. The audiences [in Seattle] are looking for something new and fresh. Seattle embraces critters!” He says his typical day here includes making coffee, listening to music, and playing with song ideas on the guitar or banjo. Martin paints and draws when inspiration hits and also enjoys renting, “weird movies,” from Scarecrow Video.
There’s a blend of influences that give his bluesy-folk music its sound, namely Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Mississippi John Hurt, and Blaze Foley. His acoustic sound is influenced by Gabby Pahinui, who he notes is the King of Old Hawaiian music style, and he gains writing inspiration by Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks album. Add elements of Hawaiian slack key guitar and, when playing with full band, elements of funk and rock and you’ve got Drew Martin’s music.
While his musical influences are vast, the story of how it all began is simple: Martin starting playing guitar at age 11 when he first developed the urge to learn an instrument. Initially inspired by BB King, he decided he wanted to play 3 O’Clock Blues. So he bought, “this funky Epiphone acoustic guitar for $80 and hasn’t stopped playing,” for the past 17 years.
You can catch Drew Martin with his full band at the Tractor Tavern on Thursday, February 22 or at his favorite venue, the Sunset, for a solo set on March 11. Martin explains that he’s had some of his best shows at the Sunset, “It’s always such a great feeling in that room. You can take a show in any direction in that space. It’s good for quiet moments, but you can also get that room feeling rowdy! We’ve had some really fun nights at the venue.” Mark your calendars for that one.
If you can’t make it out to his shows, be sure to check Drew Martin out on SoundCloud (soundcloud.com/drewma) and pick up his first full-length LP, “The Valley,” which was released on vinyl and CD last summer. Martin advises a BandCamp page for The Valley is coming soon.