Martyn Joseph has been called a Welsh natural treasure by Mojo magazine but I’d go one step or many steps further and call him an International treasure. Martyn’s music has touched the hearts and souls of countless people all over the globe and his humanitarian work has helped them in very real concrete ways. Martyn and his team from his “Let Yourself Trust” foundation have contributed their time and energy to global charities and have combated injustice with love and compassion. His live shows are vibrant, emotional and inspirational. The Boston Globe refers to his performances as a “profound experience.” I totally agree.
To learn more about Martyn Joseph, visit his website.
Here’s a video of “I Searched for You.”
If you had to describe your music in one word or phrase, what would it be?
One word – Passionate
Phrase- Passionate, rough edged and blazing
You are one of the most prolific songwriters in recent history. You’ve produced an extraordinary amount of material, something like 30 or 32 records! Is your head, heart, and soul full of music 24/7? Does it just spill out of you and out to the world on CD, downloads, or what have you?
Well some of those albums are ‘live’ or ‘special projects’ but I think its 19 studio albums now, not that I would want to listen to all of them! But yeah, there is something deep inside that is compelled to write and make sense of the journey.
So do tell us how music became so much a part of your life? Was it a lullaby when you were a child, a song you heard on the radio, or a live concert that moved you toward making music your life’s passion and work? Or something else that just triggered something within you?
It was not my first love. At one point my dream was to be a professional tournament golfer. I got very good at an early age but turns out I wasn’t good enough. I played guitar from the age of ten. My Grandfather was the musical influence, he had the record collection. But music was the ‘in’ for a relatively shy boy who struggled to feel confident in the company of his peers.
Who were your musical inspirations when you first started to write your own music?
I loved story tellers. The Brits are great at being cool and bringing you the next big trend or whatever but don’t ask us to show emotion! So it wasn’t long before I was listening to Glen Campbell, John Denver, Springsteen, Dylan, Paul Simon etc.
Do you have any recollections of your first times playing in public? You’ve got such a vibrant presence on stage. How did you gain the confidence to break down that wall between the performer and the audience?
It takes time to build that relationship between yourself and an audience. Through the years I learnt to be honest, a little vulnerable and open. Folk value that. Add that to the boy trying to prove himself and it’s a decent balance. I try to make the shows a gathering of community. A large dinner party.
Okay, I’ll admit. I’m a Bruce Springsteen fan and have been since I first heard ABOUT him even before I heard him. I was a regular reader of all the Boston alternative press in the 1970’s and I can actually see myself reading the review by Jon Landau of Bruce Springsteen’s performance at the Harvard Square Theater. That was a pivotal moment in music criticism for me…and I knew that I needed to know more about this guy Bruce. And so I did…. Tell me about your introduction to the music of Bruce Springsteen and how you have weaved him into your live shows.
Well, I grew into Bruce. There is a moment when you go from respecting an artist to realising they are articulating things that are deep in your heart. They then become very important. His ability to narrate the ‘male’ journey is extraordinary. It’s hard to write songs that articulate things deeply for a man. We’re taught not to go there. He does that for me — makes me feel like I’m not alone and that’s very precious. I try to emulate his work ethic. There is only tonight.–.this is the one that counts and I will play as if it’s the last show I ever get to play.
You are a true inspiration when it comes to making a difference in the world. Please tell us how you got involved in humanitarian work around the world.
I have always taken on board causes and issues in my work. I try to tell the story. Tell one person’s story and you tell it for everyone else. That’s a better approach than just moaning about things. As I did that I would point to organisations and people doing amazing work to turn things around. It made sense to do that.
Do you have any pivotal moments in your humanitarian work that have spurred you on to do even more to make a difference in the world?
Well there are many but more recently I visited The West Bank in Palestine to play a festival and stayed on for 9 days to observe life for folk there. It was horrendous, people trapped behind a wall with no prospects of bettering themselves, no University for a young person, no chance of travel, no grass, no libraries, just a wall around you that says this is your life. As if a wall is ever the solution to any problem? Then I found a Children’s Theatre when a guy called Abed gives young people musical instruments, brings in teachers and artists to help give those youngsters a means of positive expression in such a negative place. I spoke to him and asked how he did it. How he remained to positive and wise in such a dreadful situation. I said I was going home but he couldn’t leave, how did he do it, how did he find the resolve to carry on. He smiled and looked at me with kind eyes and pointed to his beautiful four-year old daughter. He said ‘if all I do is get angry or sad I give her no hope for the future. I do not have the luxury of despair.’ That for me was an amazing moment and was the catalyst to forming my own non-profit movement that has supported Abed’s work and 6 other grass root organisations worldwide. We change projects over six months and it’s been amazing to see the beautiful and positive change we have been able to bring about because of the compassion and big hearts of my audience.
How would you suggest that people get involved with making a difference?
Got to our web page www.letyourself.net
But do what you can where you are –.it’s the small stuff that often makes such a big difference.
What do you have up your sleeves for upcoming projects and new music?
My 20th studio album is being written and this year looks as busy as ever gig wise. It’s usually around 170 shows a year, but am looking forward to the Me and Thee gig.. It’s my first time there and I have heard wonderful things.