“I did not want to turn 40,” Christina Martin says from her home in Port Howe, Nova Scotia. We are talking on the phone. It is a sleepy morning for Martin, home after touring Newfoundland. Martin and her husband/guitarist Dale Murray are enjoying two days of rest before hitting the road again in the morning. Their Canadian tour will take them as far as British Colombia. “I didn’t want to turn 30. I don’t like the idea of aging. I think it has to do with the industry I have chosen to be in.”
Last month, Martin released Wonderful Lie, the award-winning musician’s seventh album. As part of the Wonderful Lie Tour, the singer-songwriter will perform in Fredericton at The Muse Cafe, November 22. The venue is not far from where Martin grew up in the capital city.
“Both my parents are from Saint-Léonard,” Martin says. “I was born in Florida. We moved to Harvey Station when I was about eight months. Not long after, we moved to Fredericton. I grew up in Fredericton with my parents and two brothers until we moved to Rothesay when I was around nine. I lived on University Avenue.”
Martin remembers wandering the neighborhood and catching burdocks on her clothes in the field behind her home. Behind her home, too, was the train.
“That train went off the tracks while we were still living there,” says Martin. “Nobody was hurt. It did damage some of the homes, though, just around the corner from my house.”
In 2002, Martin released her debut album Pretty Things while living in Austin, Texas.
“It was a soft launch,” Martin says. “I did record an album and it was available, but I had no concept of what it was to promote an album outside of the town I was living in. As an artist in Austin, I was focused on trying to be a better musician and learning the ropes. I only started thinking about how to properly launch an album independently or with the help of partners once I moved back to Canada and became a resident of Nova Scotia.”
Martin’s attitude towards her craft changed when she began learning how to develop and grow her business as an independent artist. “Before it was all oh, I don’t need to learn that or do that. I’ll just focus on writing songs.”
In her tour journal, Martin speaks openly about managing the details of her business. “We do the best we can and it’s not always glamorous,” she writes. I ask Martin about the journal entry and the work that goes on behind-the-scenes.
“I do it because I have to,” she says. “This is my business. I have to pay the bills, and I want to grow. At this point, I can’t afford to hire somebody full-time or part-time. It really is a full-time job. It could be two peoples’ full-time jobs. I’m doing a lot of it myself. It’s hard. You are trying to find time to write and to record and to tour and to also have downtime to be healthy. All I can say is I just try to do the best I can. I make mistakes. I wish I could do more.”
The work comes with Martin on the road. While Murray drives the vehicle, Martin is answering emails, working on funding reports, and taking care of booking.
“You are always thinking ahead because you got to plan the next tour that’s like half a year, a year, even two years ahead,” says Martin. “I always feel that pressure, you know. You have to book this now because, otherwise, these venues are going to be busy. You aren’t going to have work. That’s always a fear of mine. That I’m not going to have work, and I’m not going to be able to pay my bills. I won’t be able to continue the mission, which is to build connections with the music and the messages.”
I ask Martin about life on the road and how she stays healthy. Martin says she tries to stick to a routine that includes exercise and drinking plenty of water. “If I don’t exercise, I feel really anxious and just not centered.”
Exercise has always been a major part of Martin’s life. She was an athlete in her teen years.
“If it was sports season, I wasn’t experimenting with alcohol or drugs,” Martin says. “It was when the sports season was off that I started experimenting with alcohol and drugs. Because my brother struggled with addiction, I knew that could be something that I might struggle with. That might not be good for me. I went through a couple of years, on and off, of overdoing it with alcohol. I was conscious of it because of my older brother. I was cautious because I knew the negative effect it had on his life. I was scared that would happen to me.”
In her early twenties, Martin made the decision to stop drinking alcohol.
“That was around when I started singing,” says Martin. “I was very busy with other jobs. I learned early on that if I wanted to be a singer and manage all these jobs and my music career, I couldn’t. I had to take care of myself physically. That included staying away from drugs and alcohol. Being in the entertainment business, it’s hard to say no and to not be the life of the party. It took until my mid-thirties that I became comfortable saying I don’t drink alcohol. Or to really say no and not feel that pressure to please people.”
Martin recently celebrated her 40th birthday.
Growing up, Martin received negative messages about aging. “The message I got was in the music business if you weren’t young or a prodigy right away, you wouldn’t make it. You would never be a star.” Today, she knows there is no single definition of success. Still, the idea of growing older is something the musician struggles with.
“I suppose it’s ingrained in me that as I get older, I will no longer be useful or wanted,” Martin says. “It’s such bullshit, but it’s still there. It’s a fear. It also keeps me going and working hard. I want to do more. I want to do more in my career and be better.”
And that is why Martin strives to live a healthy, positive lifestyle.
“I would like to be a role model as someone who is aging and kicking ass at what they do,” says Martin. “And breaking negative cycles. Those are important things to me.”
Our conversation turns to the new album and its release.
For Martin, a lot of the details involved in releasing an album are “a pain in the ass.” The details, she explains, take time away from creating more work. Where the magic lies for Martin is in the writing and dreaming of the concepts, as well as the collaborations along the way. “I get excited when I know I can get on that journey again to write and record.”
Wonderful Lie opens with Martin covering ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All.” I ask Martin how she decided on recording the song for the album.
“Growing up, I loved ABBA’s music,” Martin says. “I started going through the material, and I landed on this one. It’s the one that stands out to me as a really beautiful song. I picked up my acoustic guitar and tried finding the right key for my voice. It felt good. It felt right to sing it.”
Before our conversation comes to an end, I ask Martin about her Patreon page.
Patreon is a subscription service where fans can help fund artists and creators. The membership platform offers exclusive content for patrons. Martin tells me that initially, she was hesitant to start an account with Patreon. “Who am I to ask for money? People are going to think I’m begging them.” What changed Martin’s mind was when she realized that in order to sustain her career, she was going to need to ask for help.
“I felt the pressure financially that I needed to change something,” says Martin. “I love touring but, you know, sometimes it kicks you in the ass. Like if you get sick on the road. I have been scared many times where I didn’t know if I could keep touring.”
Knowing, too, that historically, artists have relied on patron support also motivated Martin to sign up with Patreon. “I think it’s really no different today.”
Among the perks Martin offers to her subscribers is a tree planted in their name. Martin plants the tree on her property in Port Howe and sends the subscriber a yearly update about their tree. She calls the initiative her Plantreeon Family.
Christina Martin will perform in Fredericton at The Muse Cafe, November 22. Tickets can be purchased here.
For more tour dates, visit Christina Martin’s official website.