By Jenna Stecker
Photo special to SneakPEAK
What: Free concert as part of the Bud Light Hot Summer Nights concert series
When: Tuesday, July 3 at 6 p.m.
Where: Ford Amphitheater in Vail
Next week the entire country will be celebrating of the Fourth of July, and those in Vail looking to celebrate a little early with some fun music should go check out Martin Sexton at Vail's Hot Summer Nights at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater on Tuesday, July 3.
Known for his diverse blending of musical genres and large vocal range and style, Sexton has had pieces of the national spotlight over the years, with songs featured in show's like “Scrubs” and NBC's “Parenthood”. However, Sexton's popularity is mainly based on his consistent touring schedule and solid fan base. Sexton attributes his success to two things - a fan base that isn’t fickle and something else unusual -- not having a number one hit song.
“My fans are quite loyal and keep coming back with their friends and family, which serves me well, especially in this crummy economy. I am truly blessed,” he says.
Sexton is the tenth of 12 children born to an Irish Catholic family originally from Syracuse, NY. The desire to play music started when he was a child, when he would sneak up to the attic bedroom and play his older brother's “Frampton Comes Alive” record without him knowing. Sexton's working man's approach to music is the foundation that began his career and the strength that continues to maintain his popularity. Busking the streets of Boston and Harvard Square in the 1990's, Sexton sold 20,000 copies of his first demo “In the Journey,” which was recorded at a friend's house on an old eight-track player.
While listening to Sexton's collection, his songwriting and vocal range are the things that jump out. He moves from a sweet tenor to a cherubic alto with what seems like no effort. Also known for improvising and scat singing during live shows, Sexton has credited Mel Blanc as one of his heroes. Blanc was the man singularly responsible for almost all of the Looney Toons voices. Sexton has tried to emulate Blanc within his own personal style. Listening to some of Sexton's tracks you may hear what seems to be an entire choir backing him up. What you may not know is that the whole choir is really only Sexton himself, recording and layering his voice a dozen times over or more to create many diverse styles of harmonies.
In a 2007 interview with National Public Radio, Sexton said, “Mel Blanc was the one who gave me permission to sound like what ever I wanted to… That's why create my own backup singers. I have in me a gospel choir, and I have in me a cowboy trio. I have in me what I call ‘the soul sistas.’”
Sexton's newest release is a five-song EP entitled “Fall Like Rain.” Along with the title track there is another notable addition, a cover of Buffalo Springfield's “For What it's Worth.” With an album consisting of only five tracks, making one of them a cover is a statement.
The addition of politically or socially conscious songs to his repertoire has been in process for the last few years. On November 12, 2010, during the 30th Annual John Lennon Tribute at the Beacon Theater in New York City, Sexton chose the song “Working Class Hero”. The Lennon song is a take on the class split of the 1940s and 1950s. Earlier that year Sexton released his ninth album, “Sugarcoating,” in which the title track discusses the attacks on the World Trade Center Buildings in 2001. The chorus says, “With all this sweet, sweet, sweet sugarcoating. The nightly news gone enter biz. And the politicians out showboating. One day somebody tell it like it is.”
It seems that Sexton has begun to dip his toes in the pool of the socially conscious musician. Sexton says he is just starting to awake in that sense. He has stated in the past that he believes that music has a utilitarian duty to motivate and unify along with entertain.
“Now that we are aware, what are we going to do about it?” he says “Are we going to just sit our couches and watch the nightly news and believe it? ‘It's time we stop and say what's that sound, everybody look what's going down.'"
Choose the type of musical artist, and Sexton can be it: hard working busker, gospel choir, protest singer and much more. Head to Vail July 3, and see which artist Sexton chooses to be. He just may be them all.