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Martin Sexton on air guitar, busking and seeing the glass half full



When Martin Sexton discovered his older brother’s vinyl collection in the basement of his Syracuse, New York home, his musical fire was ignited. Sexton, whose soulful blend of blues, rock ‘n’ roll and folk defies easy categorization, will perform at Big Sky Resort’s Montana Jack on Jan. 26, followed by a special appearance at TEDxBigSky on Jan. 27, at The Warren Miller Performing Arts Center. Both events are productions of Outlaw Partners, the publisher of EBS.

Explore Big Sky: Is there one particular album that you remember being especially impactful on you as a young boy?
Martin Sexton: [The Beatles’]Abbey Road.” I remember finding it in the basement. It was a very scratched up vinyl.

EBS: Did you already play an instrument at that time?
M.S.: I played an air guitar that I made out of a bed slat and gypsum board. I started learning to play [the] actual guitar years later when I was about 13.

EBS: What is one of the most memorable experiences from the early days of your career busking on the streets of Boston’s Harvard Square?
M.S.: That would have to be at 7 a.m. at the Porter Square station in Cambridge, when an elderly African-American woman had heard my singing from around the corner, and when she caught sight of me with a surprised look in her eyes said, “You black! There’s some black in you somewhere.” Then she pulled out a crumpled one-dollar bill out of her purse and placed it in my case.

EBS: How has getting your start that way stayed with you as you’ve experienced increasing success?
M.S.: Those days of busking were like performance 101. The skills I learned of attracting and keeping the focus of a crowd will be in my shows forever.

EBS: Can you tell me of a time when you were awed or humbled by a venue you played, or by collaborating with an artist you had long admired?
M.S.: Playing “Do You Feel Like We Do” with Peter Frampton at Madison Square Garden. Period. Kind of like three dreams come true in one. “Frampton Comes Alive” was the album that ignited my musical fire.

EBS: The theme of January’s TEDxBigSky event is “positivity.” What does positivity mean to you?
M.S.: Positivity to me is seeing the glass half full. It means being grateful for what I have. It means getting out of myself to help someone else. It means getting off the couch and away from a screen to answer my son’s call to go outside and play hide-and-seek.

EBS: How do you think streaming services like Spotify have affected the music industry in general and you personally?
M.S.: It’s a double edge sword, as it’s helpful as airplay and marketing, but of course it disincentivizes people from purchasing music. If it ultimately results in getting someone to a show, we all win. 

EBS: Your artist bio says that you’re always seeking bigger truths through your music. What are a few “truths” you’ve discovered in your musical journey?
M.S.: The biggest truth I’ve learned is that there is only love and fear, and I’m trying to choose love on a daily basis.

EBS: There are a lot of talented musicians in southwest Montana; what advice would you give to these musicians who are hoping to make it big?
M.S.: Stay true to your heart and jump in all the way, like you have no other options. – Sarah Gianelli

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