The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Interview: Christina Martin

Canadian singer-songwriter Christina Martin chats to Rebekah Shaw about her upcoming UK tour, stripped-down shows, and the social responsibility of music artists

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Having just finished a series of shows in her Canadian home-turf, Christina Martin didn’t have long to rest before starting her UK tour. This Friday, Manchester hosts Sonder Festival, which presents a combination of exciting new music, comedy and arts performances, and Martin is excited to continue the momentum she’s built up, although she admits that she is feeling “pretty fucking exhausted” – and no wonder.

She’s been playing as a solo artist since 2002, built her own music label Come Undone Records from 2011, and has won multiple ECMA and Music Nova Scotia awards – and Martin is no stranger to long bouts of touring. She’s looking forward to returning to familiar British venues, such as Little Rabbit Barn, The Bank Eye, and The Latest Music Bar, as well as trying out new places such as The Sound Lounge and Sonder Festival.

Speaking about the pros and cons of stripped-down shows, as she will be playing at several venues, Martin has mixed feelings. Although she misses the rhythm section and playing electric guitar, she sees these shows as an opportunity to really “share a bit more of my stories” in such an intimate setting.

Martin’s music has strong influences of Americana and rock, largely inspired by her early music career in Nashville: self-penned, full of emotion and heavily reliant on guitar. Her most recent single, ‘Lungs Are Burning’, is exemplary of her personal writing style and background in addressing social issues of mental health through music.

“The song was a response to reading about the Fentanyl crisis in Canada,” she explains, “I’m sensitive to the issue because I lost my brother to an opioid overdose in 2013.”

With such personal connections to what she is singing about, Martin chooses to disconnect from these when workshopping songs such as ‘Lungs Are Burning’. She describes this as being on “automatic”, drawing on her writing experience as a professional musician for the past 18 years so as not to become overwhelmed by the emotional content in the studio.

The social responsibility of music artists is a very relevant topic of discussion today, particularly acknowledging Simon Cowell’s recent collaboration of “Artists for Grenfell” on a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ in order to raise money for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Although Martin doesn’t believe that that artists have a definitive responsibility to do anything other than create music, she does state that “music can be a great way to build connections and raise awareness.” She herself attempts to raise awareness for CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Foundation) by sharing her personal experience – “stories have a great healing power,” she says.

Lastly, when asked about earlier tour experiences, Martin particularly relishes a high point in 2009 performing for the Queen in Ottawa. In typical musician fashion, however, when further pressed Martin admits “I can’t tell you the other memorable road stories, for confidential reasons”, ending our interview with mysterious winking emoticon. I guess we’ll never know.

Christina Martin will be playing at Sonder Festival on Friday 30th June 2017. Sonder Festival runs this weekend in Manchester from 30th June – 2nd July.