Martin Sexton goes solo in Beaver Creek
Vail, CO, Colorado
Martin Sexton understands the importance of making the audience feel like part of his show. Whether it’s an acoustic performance or he’s jamming with a backup band, the singer/songwriter from Syracuse, New York will talk to his audience during, in between and after songs. He sometimes takes requests. Sing alongs are encouraged and though Sexton said he never performs a song exactly the same way twice, he’ll teach you the lyrics so you can join in. The improvisation factor in his stage show is huge for Sexton, who is part showman, part musician. He gives partial credit for this talent to his experiences in life and the rest to his family.
“I think of my father. I think I’ve got the gene for it, you know, because he could always get in front of a crowd of people … he always had a natural way with that,” Sexton said.
He only uses a set list if he’s on a tight schedule on stage or during a festival with an allotted time slot. Other than that he said he likes to keep things as loose and free as possible because it makes it more interesting for everybody.
Saturday night Sexton will play a solo acoustic set in Beaver Creek. He doesn’t seem to think he needs a band because usually the audience will back him up.
“As a solo guy I really enjoy the spontaneity of it. The crowd tends to make up for the lack of accompaniment. They’ll sing the harmony parts or clap to the beat … and I think when that happens people walk away getting even more than what they bargained for. They’re not just going to see a show, they’re going to be in a show and it’s beautiful. The show takes on an energy that’s way larger than the sum of it,” Sexton said.
Sarah Dixon said she saw Sexton play at the Mile High Music Festival in Denver this summer, and was sucked into listening despite the fact that there were other bands playing all around her at the time.
“He really just kind of pulls you in and engages you. He’s got a really kind of charismatic, kind of story-telling, fun style,” said the marketing manager for the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek. “It definitely pulls the audience in.”
Although Sexton’s music spans many genres, from folk to blues to jazz, he boils his own style down to soul music, which he said is the most prevalent influence in his singing and playing approach. He was inspired by “the meat and potatoes” of rock and roll, he said, everybody from Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, The Beetles and Janis Joplin; and lyrically he is fueled by the singwer/songwriter genre of artists like John Hiatt and Jeff Buckley.
“I’m of the John Lennon school of writing. You turn off the editor and just make shit up,” Sexton said. “At times I want it to be playful, with a little joy, and other times the song calls for a more somber tone. But I definitely like to have joy in what I do.”
Many artists like to bask in the glory of their own growth, bragging about how far they’ve come musically, how experimental they’re willing to be in the studio or how they’ve evolved past what made them popular to begin with, but not Sexton, who said he’s pretty much always sounded the same. And in this case, that’s not a bad thing.
“I’m still a singer and songwriter and performer. Haven’t had any radical departures from that. I haven’t made a disco album or a techno album or a dance remix album or anything. It’s all pretty much American, you know,” Sexton said.
Sexton’s style may stay comfortably familiar, but fans have no problem recognizing that within that style, every song is distinct from the other.
“I like that it’s acoustic-based and that the songs are different, not every song sounds the same,” said Tom Palic of Edwards, a fan of Sexton’s music who will be at the show Saturday night.
And with as far as he’s come in his career, he’s still humble about his origins, but not surprised he made it this far, either.
“My career has been like watching a tree grow. It’s been very slow and steady and has grown into a beautiful, fruitful and providing career,” Sexton said.
A career built on the ability to see the song for what it is: a way to express the soul while bringing joy and entertainment to thousands of other people.
“I just try to have fun with it, you know. I basically view my songs like a kid sees a set of monkey bars. You can play on those monkey bars every day and never have the same experience. You can make a fort out of it or imagine it’s a freaking spaceship or whatever you want. I try to look at songs that way,” Sexton said.
High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or email@example.com.
What: Martin Sexton with opening act Ryan Montbleau Band.
When: Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek.
More information: Call 970-888-920-2787 or visit http://www.vilarpac.org.
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