Ahead of his August 27 show at The Voodoo in Belfast, Eric Martin took time to chat with Gigging NI.
Promising to be a great craic, the hairstyle is notably smaller, but the sound is still big. In the 90’s the big voice of Mr. Big frontman, Eric Martin set the bar for glam rock power ballads with dulcet tones and just enough grit to make it metal. Steely guitar riffs and straightforward lyrics rounding out his signature style.
Eric talks with Gigging NI’s Noelle Ellis below.
Q: Speaking of signature style, in your various musical lineups, your voice is the stand out. Was this a conscious effort, or something that occurs organically?
“I guess the answer is organic. The EMB/Eric Martin solo singing was pretty clean with a bit of gravel, but In Mr. Big I always pushed my vocal performance’s to the maximum because we always played a little more louder and aggressive. I listen to our live stuff and my voice sounded like I was gargling with whiskey and I ate some of the glass with it..ha.. but that being said it was edgy and raw and had character. On the recordings I could hear myself and so my dynamics were a lot better but I think the years of belting out those high pitched screams and yelling over the band…hmm I’ll have this gravel voice forever.
“On a footnote ; I thought I wrecked it a few years back but with a little rest I bounced back.. my voice is a bit different now, the high pitched whiney thing is gone and a more smoky tambor is happening now..ha.. this could all change and morph into something else… Oh and thanks for the compliment.”
Q: I understand you come from a musical family. How has that shaped your decision to become a musician?
“When I was a little kid I use to see these pictures in family photo albums of my father playing drums in a studio and on stage in front of an audience. He had some record recordings of himself and I used to play them and talk to him about music and performing. One day he brought out his old drum set and started to play… he was so good , he said he’d teach me to play.. I was hooked. He was in the army and every evening he’d come home from work and we would practice for a couple hours. I got to be pretty good for a young kid.
“I played for a few years joined a couple local bands but I wanted something else out of this mysterious music thing.. I wanted to sing. That’s where my mother comes into the picture… she had a smoky velvet voice when she sang around the house and that was like a subliminal singing lesson for 16 years. So I became a singing drummer like the guy in the band that was popular at the time; Rare Earth. But the years of lugging drum set hardware up 3 flights of stairs to practice took it’s toll. So I got out from behind the drums and braved my way into standing up and shouting out. My parents always helped me and stood behind me with my pursuit of happiness through music..”
Q: I’m a California girl myself and can recall the Day on the Green days. The music business has seen a great deal of evolution since those days. What would you say has been the most significant change for good or ill?
“I was a child of the 70’s and 80’s and still carving out my destiny sort of speak. I was getting my hard knock school of life on’ in rock and roll from watching all those bands at winterland in SF and at the day on the green as well. So a lot of bands in the 80’s and 90’s had tons of places to play so more record company reps could see them and they had a chance to prove themselves. Tons of bands were signed including me which meant I was working for a living and finally getting paid.
“But then as the world turned the clubs dried up, it was like a musical changing of the guard. Record companies easily dropped a hundred bands, including me. Back to the drawing board. I’ve been at the mercy of record companies my whole life – they love your song, they hate your song, give me the next “ to be with you” or what good are you. Toasting champagne one minute and getting kicked to the curb the next.
“The good side of it was the soldiers that worked for the big companies, they worked so hard to get your record played and placed in record stores, they were always my heroes. I would have done anything for those brothers and sisters ( I did as much as I could to promote as well). But then the record stores dried up and then radio became so odd. You couldn’t get a DJ to play a requested song anymore because they weren’t even in the building, it was taped recording. I’m on tangent right now.
“So an even longer story shortened – “ the times they are a changing” – I’m assuming a handful of my music colleagues have resorted to selling albums at gigs, promote our shows through our Facebook and websites, make a hop skip and a jump out to the mailbox for our monthly royalty check and tour our asses off all over the world for years to keep the family and musical addiction going.”
Q: You’ll soon be playing Belfast’s Voodoo. I find Belfast’s climate similar to California’s Bay area. You’ll likely feel right at home. Have you toured Belfast before?
“I have , I played a show at Auntie Annie’s in 2013 it was so fun , a real barn burner. The audience let me do my thing and be as crazy as I wanted to be. I was singing like a champ, cracking jokes, taking the piss at the happy drunks, jamming with the great Pat McManus and local musician faves. The whole audience was singing with me at the end of the night. It was a spiritual thing, we were all on a mission to have some fun. With all the huge musical history Belfast has, nobody judged me, I was welcomed like a brand new member of the family the moment I stepped out on that stage. Oh Yeah!!! I’ve been to Belfast before.”
Q: For fans of your previous hits, what can be expected with the new material? Will you include some of the older stuff on your touring set list?
“I like to play a couple songs off of every record that I’ve done. I’ve been playing a lot of Mr. Big lately because that’s what the audience wants to hear. I’m playing acoustic so some of the heavy rock tunes don’t work because of all the solos but somehow I manage it. It can be pretty comical but it makes for a fun show.”
Q: Already an impressive resume and a testament to longevity of career, what does the future hold? Is there anything you haven’t done (musically) that you’d like to explore
“Currently I am on tour in Japan doing my first ever acoustic tour and accompanying me on this adventure is my MR.BIG bandmate of 26 years Pat Torpey, playing percussion and backing me up on vocals. I’ve been threatening to do another solo album for many moons – yeah well, after I get off this endless “ Mama needs a new pair of shoes tour”, maybe I’ll just do that ’cause the shoes are piling up. I’ve got some Rock Icon full band package tours coming up with a bunch of artists including my boyhood idol Joe Lynn Turner in Europe, some Mr. BIG shows on BIG boats, some solo acoustic shows on big boats with Def Leppard, and maybe even do a rock opera in the mix. Anything goes is my motto.”
Eric Martin plays at Voodoo in Belfast on 27th August 2015.
NOELLE: On a footnote, I’d like to say thank you to Eric for taking the time for this interview. That, and dude, you would kick ass at a rock opera. Do it!