With Martyn Joseph's new record 1960 just released, I took a chance to ask him a few quick questions about how it came together.
Martyn, when you come to new album time you have to ask what this time? Did a 60th birthday make that decision easy this time?
Lockdown meant that my usual schedule was de railed and I had time to reflect and ponder something of the journey to this point. Crossing the threshold of 60 years on the planet brought mix emotions and it led to me analysing my life to this point.
So your 60th year was celebrated on social media from the depths of a pandemic. How much of this was written pre-Covid and how much did that influence the mood and content of 1960?
Hardly any of it was written pre Covid. There may have been the odd idea or sketch of a lyric but, no, this was mostly birthed in the months when, for the first time in a very long time, I couldn’t travel and play shows. Id always said I wished I sold enough records to be able to take a break from touring, well, be careful what you wish for!
You are very honest about your foibles and quirks yet there is a deep sense of contentedness in this song cycle. Is that fair observation?
Yeh I think so. In the verses of Born Too Late there is a longing for more and the questions surrounding what might have been. The chorus urges reflective wisdom and a re evaluation of of your hearts desire.
There Is A Field is not the first time that you have channeled Rumi. I discovered this idea in Colum McCann's amazing book Apeirogon? Have you read that?
I haven’t but I will now. Great thing about Rumi is you don’t have to pay royalties :)
Oh you need to read it. You'll love it.
I so love the utter treat of Witchita Lineman as a hidden track. Tell me you read Dylan Jones's book on that song?
Oh yeh I did. The first single I bought was Honey Come Back by Glen Campbell and that led me quickly to Witchita Lineman. It's one hell of a song and speaks on many different levels. I’m often surprised by the things it brings to mind as I play it.
Has Jimmy Webb always been an influence or has that been more recent?
No he’s been on my mind a long time. There is a solo album of his called Ten Easy Pieces which someone bought for me in the early nineties. It’s just him playing his great catalogue at the piano. I play it often, it's a stunning record.
I love Ten Easy Pieces.
You are ever reading books, watching movies and listening to records. Any other influences in these songs?
We Are Made Of Stars was heavily influenced by a book called Searching For Stars On An Island In Maine by Alan Lightman. Its about the authors description of the tension between science and faith
Joni and CSN&Y get name checked in Born Too Late. Are there's the houses in Laurel Canyon that you wish you had been honing your craft in?
Well its a lovely thought but I would have been 11 years old and with nothing to add to the story in that moment. But yeh, it's a thought that I might have missed an era that speaks well to what I do by ten years or so. But you can’t dwell on that too much, you have to get to the chorus!
Almost 30 years since you wrote Carried In Sunlight for your Granda. Now it's Shadow Boxing for your dad. Tough times but a beautifully cathartic song for so many of us going through the same.
Yeh. Carried In Sunlight was a gentle song whereas Shadow Boxing is tougher, less poetic maybe and more angry. And again I’m recalling my journey within the relationship I had with Dad. He wanted me tougher but I became a guitar player:) It’s a joy though when folk say that the song helps. Thats kind of the job you know, letting folk know they are not alone.
The album ends with lashings of hope. You've always been a self confessed realist but you have always relieved us from your gloom by dashes of hope. Did you feel that in Covid times it was more important to emphasise that hope?
For all the devastation it has brought Its been interesting to see the goodwill and hope as we try to get on with our lives and bring comfort to those who’s worlds have been shattered. The reality is that this sort of existence has been ‘life’ for folk in developing countries for many years. I do think there is some more compassion floating around and kindness too. I'm an optimist underneath everything, the glass is half full. So the answer is yes!
Read my review of 1960... HERE