Interview: Martin Sexton

Interview by Steve Lampiris 

February 22nd, 2017 @ The Back Room @ Colectivo Coffee 

Syracuse native Martin Sexton is returning to Milwaukee on his headline tour in support of his ninth studio released 'Mixtape of the Open Road'. Sexton, who began playing music in the streets of Boston, has headlined all over the country at venues like The Fillmore to Carnegie Hall. His songs have been featured on television shows like Scrubs, Parenthood and Masters of Sex. Mixtape of the Open Road, premiered by CMT and Wall Street Journal, features notable songs 'Set in Stone' and 'Pine Away'.  

Photo: Jo Chattman 

You’ve played covers on tour previously, including a medley of songs from artists who’ve recently passed away. Can we expect something similar for your Milwaukee show?

Usually I shake it up a bit and generally work without a set list. If the moment is right I break out that medley because 2016 saw such a loss in the musical community and I feel moved to tip the hat to those heroes.

Do you prefer larger venues (500+) or smaller ones? Does the extra intimacy of places like The Back Room better fit your performing style or your songs?

What I do seems to work everywhere from 10,000 people at Newport to a few hundred people in a listening room and I honestly love them equally. No matter what the audience size I try every night to leave it all on the stage.

Given that Mixtape is from 2015, any chance the audience will hear new music at this show?

Yes, a couple of new ideas and covers will surely make their way into the set and as always the show will be unique to itself as every night is its own thing. 

You tend to have a cordial, even joke-y, relationship with the audience. Is that simply a product of who you are as a person?

I enjoy riding the line of light and dark, intense and comical. It is basically who I am, and I appreciate the connection I have with my audience as it is a blessing for it to be so strong and personal.

You don’t speak much on politics publicly (recently, at least), either on stage or on social media. Is that a conscious choice? How do you feel about artists being overtly political in a public setting?

What I've chosen to sing and speak about is the power of music to unify. I say now what I've said all along that being divided is a dangerous game. I try to maintain a static mind and not a fixed one so it's open to new ideas. I do my best to appreciate and respect others.

You sound like you genuinely have fun when performing, even going as far as declaring you “have the best job in the world”. Do you prefer playing live over recording?

The two are completely different art forms and I love and enjoy them equally.

Do you have any favorite venues or cities to play?

Most nights there's always magical component to it whether it's Shank Hall or The Fillmore.

Your choices for covers can sometimes be seen as bold or surprising. How do you pick what songs/artists you will cover?

Everything from being dared to do it to falling in love with a song and learning it off a record, to paying tribute or just pure spontaneity like last night in Maine I broke into Bob Seger's On the Road Again and a hundred other reasons... I think for every cover I do there's a different purpose.