Cody J. Martin: 'I wanted it to be honest'
Singer/songwriter Cody J. Martin releases debut
By Dan Kane
Canton Repository-Thursday, January 23rd, 2014.

When listening to Cody J. Martin's new album of mature and well-crafted original songs, it is hard to remember he is just 21. Influenced by Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and others, Martin already has developed a distinctive style of his own, with vigorous singing, unpredictable melodies, nimble finger-picking and lyrics rich with imagery and emotion. His music is genuine and inspired.

Martin, a 2010 Tuslaw High School graduate who works by day at a warehouse, will celebrate the release of his 12-song solo debut, titled "Somewhere You'd Rather Be," with a concert Saturday night at The Auricle in downtown Canton.

Q. Congratulations on your first solo record. You must be excited.

A. "I'm really proud of it. It's the first thing I've ever been able to wrap in cellophane."

Q. You don't write simple verse-chorus-verse songs.

There are a lot of bends in the melodies and the lyrics tend to come non-stop.

A. "Sometimes the hardest part is catching my breath. There's a lot of words."

Q. When you are writing songs, is it usually the melody first or the lyrics?

A. "Since I started out as a guitar player, I write the bulk on guitar first, and the words separately, then I try to fit them together."

Q. One of my favorites on the album is "Lies of the Precious Kind," with that haunting line "I will die for you tomorrow only if you swear to die for me today." What is that song about exactly?

A. "It's about having a pre-conceived knowledge that you're going to cop out of a romantic involvement. About having someone in the palm of your hand and clenching your fist."

Q. Another line of yours that sticks with me is, "for tonight I failed to win your heart, but tomorrow is a brand new day" (from "Tomorrow Is a Brand New Day"). Good to hear some optimism there, Cody.

A. "On a record full of somewhat callous, confrontational songs, this is the one that kind of keeps you comfortable, I suppose. It's simple and self-explanatory. Very hope-filled.

Q. Your finger-picking is impressive throughout the record. How did you learn to play guitar that way?

A. "I just picked it up from learning old Bob Dylan songs, like "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright."

Q. What were you going for sound-wise on the album?

A. "I wanted a stripped-down sound with not many bells and whistles. Stick to traditional instruments. Some are complete live-performance takes. John (Finley, co-producer) and I worked really hard to achieve a very natural-sounding recording. I wanted it to be honest to how I sound live."

Q. Where did you record?

A. "We did a lot at friends' houses. We went around and checked rooms. We did some at my grandmother's house. We recorded organ at Ron Flack's (RealGrey studio), some piano at Kopperhead, but we didn't do much studio."

Q. So it was a low-budget project?

A. "The real costs were buying microphones, which John and I went in on, the mastering and ordering the actual discs. We recorded through Pro Tools (software) on a buddy's laptop."

Q. You played electric guitar in a couple of rock bands (Creation in Chaos and Blackwater Union, both Repository Battle of the Band finalists) before going solo acoustic. How did you make the transition?

A. "After Creation dissolved, I started writing songs as practice more or less. I wrote a lot of songs that I never played out until I found my style. I kinda eased into performing at open mics, then I started playing at Arabica (now Karma Cafe), doing covers of Bob Dylan and Elliot Smith.

Q. Can you tell me about Dylan and other musicians you admire?

A. "I'm a big Dylan fan, especially from 'Bringing It All Back Home' in '62 up to about '76. I like Tom Waits for his lyrical style and weird instrumentation. Elliot Smith wrote some incredible stuff. Tallest Man on Earth is a Swedish folk artist I've seen twice and met; I adopted finger-picking from him. Lately I've been listening to the 'Anthology of American Folk Music,' which is a box set of music by Appalachians and old blues musicians taken from old 78s."

Q. When and how did you start playing guitar?

A. "Guitar bit me pretty hard. I used to draw a lot, that's the only other artistic thing I've done. It started in '05 when a friend came over to spend the night and he brought an electric guitar and that got me interested. My dad had an acoustic guitar and I just took to it right away. Then I got an electric guitar for Christmas the next year."

Q. I've seen you perform in a variety of local settings, and you always seem focused and intense regardless of the audience.

A. "Since it's just me up there, I get into it. You kind of have to. I like making eye contact. Because it's acoustic, I want it to be personal."


Meet Cody J. Martin, young songwriter gaining a local presence
By Dan Kane
Canton Repository-Friday, January 18th, 2013.

There’s a somber, soulful, even lonesome quality to the music of Cody J. Martin, a young singer-songwriter who is establishing a following at local coffeehouses and concert venues.

A 2010 Tuslaw High School grad, Martin made a strong impression as a vocalist-guitarist when fronting two different bands, Blackwater Union and Creation in Chaos, in The Repository’s Battle of the Bands at the Palace Theatre in 2009 and 2010 respectively. A warehouse worker by day, he is busily completing his first solo album.

Q. What kind of music is it that you play?
A. “I think folk music just about covers it. There are a lot of influences in the mix — blues, outlaw country and roots music.”

Q. Who are some of your musical influences?
A. “Bob Dylan is the unavoidable influence in this genre, and I'm no exception to his influence and inspiration.  Besides him, I'd say equal influences would be folk artist The Tallest Man On Earth, Tom Waits, Johnny Cash,Robert Johnson and Hank Williams Sr. There are countless more, but these gentlemen are the first that come to my mind.”

Q. You seem like a fairly low-key person. Is performing solo for a room of people well outside your comfort zone?
A. “I can tend to be a more private person but performing is a very liberating thing for me. It's what I believe I'm best at, and it is where I invest the majority of my confidence. Plus, I have the most fun doing it! If I could skip talking to people and just play for them, I think a connection could be found more comfortably.”

Q. Do you have a favorite show that you’ve played, or a favorite venue?
A. “Every show is a different experience, honestly.  I have a lot of fun at every venue and have been very fortunate in dealing with a lot of kind people. The thing that sets shows apart are the people that I meet from the audience, and the local and/or touring artists that I share the stage with.”

Q. How do you write songs? Which comes first, the melody or the words?
A. “I’m still learning, really. But it seems most times a melody comes first.  The songs I’m most proud of have that origin. It can go either way, though.”

Q. Tell me about your forthcoming album.
A. “I’ve been recording with the generous help of my friend and local producer, John Finley. We started recording the final tracks in October and it should be done within the next month. I’m very anxious to complete it. Twelve original songs and pretty sparse instrumentation. It’s going to be a very good representation of how my music is in a live setting.”

Q. What was it like playing onstage at the Palace in the battle of the bands?
A. “Indescribable! Some of my best memories as a musician were doing those. So many people — it’s hard to recall that kind of thrill. Maybe someday...”

Q. Is it difficult to perform at a coffee house or open a concert, when a lot of people might not be paying attention?
A. “It can be, but it’s just something that comes with the territory. It might’ve been hardest when I was first starting out but it’s not really an issue at all now. If people are interested, they’ll listen. I get a lot of joy out of the times where it seems that most everybody is paying attention.”

Q. What are your goals as a musician?
A. “To just keep working and to get better every day. I want to do as much as possible with everything that I’ve been blessed with. If any opportunity is ever there, I’m gonna do my best to make sure I’m in the position to take it.”