“I feel like everything I’ve written is already inside of me. It’s really just a matter of living enough different experiences to hatch those songs and bring them to life,” muses England. The hatching began at age 13, just two years after he started playing guitar, when his lack of formal musical training made it easier to write his own songs than to decipher the work of others. His rural hometown of Rollinsford, New Hampshire and its dearth of childhood stimulus required Martin to have a serious imagination to thrive, and through its thorough ordinariness evoked a mental agility that has benefited him greatly as a creator and deeply sensory songwriter.
It is his songwriting that sets him apart and defines his work to himself and others. With a signature that is accessible to people from all walks of life and ages and mentalities, he is a reporter telling stories, a doctor spooning out elixir, a traveler suggesting routes. That traveler thing is literal in England’s case, as he is most often struck with inspiration while at the wheel of his car and makes use of any available scrap of paper to scrawl lyrics on, most notable among them being his marriage certificate. Yep, his wife loves that little anecdote. Yet, as she knows better than anyone, everyone and everything around Martin is fair game for the song tornado as he mashes up memories and philosophies and people from all decades and corners of his life for the sole purpose of poking at the heart of the listener.
The tornado has served him well with more than 350 songs to his credit, penned over 30 years of making music. Even so, he considers himself a late bloomer and feels like he’s just now coming into his own in a time of transition from band member to solo artist. For 17 years England was part of the Northeast regional powerhouse Pondering Judd, writing and recording six records, rocking a national tour in 2006, and receiving a constant stream of nominations and awards. Having had his musical experience so deeply entrenched in being one of four in a band, it was a massive switch to understand himself as a solo artist, a process tipped off when Lost Sailor Records offered him a contract as a solo artist and called him up to a new level of confidence in his work.
Razed and Reconstructed is England’s solo debut, sharing 10 of the 18 songs he wrote for the record in Americana style and sound. While the focus is squarely on the songs and not on any performance in particular, the list of players on Razed and Reconstructed include keyboardist Jason Cohen (Ryan Montbleau Band), guitarist Adam Terrell (Assembly of Dust), and 2009 International Bluegrass Music Association Mandolin Player of the Year Jesse Brock. This hit squad followed England at the helm on vocals, and acoustic guitar, creating a passionate, driven, imaginative collection of sounds and sensations.
In his solo work Martin England has found, after many years of music-making, another new road to welcome listeners down. Liberated as a songwriter with just one voice to write for and one opinion to satisfy, he is free to get at every song that waits inside him. The purpose for Martin, though, is not only to write the songs, but to take them out of his chest and place them in yours. “I want people to engage with the messages and melodies in my songs. If someone can hum a melody or recall a lyric from one of my songs three hours after a performance, it’s nirvana. But it’s not just what you take, it’s what you do with it. If one person feels like they’ve truly connected with my songs, I feel like it’s an unmitigated success.” That service to the songs, and that hunger to impact, is why he and the road through his heart are here.
How do you describe your music to people?
Amerifolkana...Johnny Cash meets Ray Lamontagne.
Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
I started playing guitar when I was 11, and began writing my own songs and singing at age 14, more or less because I was having a hard time learning other folks' tunes, so I thought it'd be easier to just create my own.
What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
Play music with good friends while sharing a bottle of nice wine.
What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
Getting people to like me. It's exhausting at times, but is critical to get folks to listen and buy your music.
When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
I always knew I'd be a writer of some kind. The fact I turned out to be a songwriter only killed another bird with the same stone (I've loved, listened and purchased music since I was 5).
In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
I am surrounded by hard working New Englanders who take nothing for granted, and certainly don't look for anyone to hand them the world on a platter. This work ethic was infused in me from an early age, and has helped shaped my music career, as I've always known that (a) nobody's going to work harder for me than myself, and (b) nobody's ever going to give me the kingdom keys. Your career will only be as successful as you're willing to work for it.
What other artists out there do you love?
Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Ray Lamontagne, Ryan Bingham, Justin Townes Earle, Wilco
What does your future hold?
I look to eradicate each and every song that's in my head and present them in a way that's easy to understand. Music is a communication. The simpler you make it for people to understand, the more accessible it will be.