Interview: Martyn Joseph | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Welsh singer-songwriter, Martyn Joseph is a musical force of nature. He has relentlessly written beautifully crafted songs with ‘outstanding lyrical intelligence’ (Bob Harris) across a 25-year career that has seen him have five top 50 UK chart hits, win the 2004 BBC Welsh Music Awards and release a staggering 30 albums. He’s received critical acclaim for both the quality of his songs and his fantastic live performances and thanks to Down By The River the good people of Stockton get to see him in action when he performs at The Georgian Theatre, Stockton on Thursday 5th December. We chat with the talented troubadour ahead of the show.

Which artists inspired you growing up?
First influencers when I was ten years old were Glen Campbell and Elvis. I was drawn at an early age to narrative and stories so it wasn’t long before I’d be listening to Dylan, Springsteen, Paul Simon etc. A lot of North American writers really though I also loved Bowie and Led Zeppelin.

In January you released your 33rd studio album in 30 years. What is the secret of being such a prolific songwriter yet being able to maintain a high standard of songwriting?
Those are kind words, thank you. I have always felt there was so much to say both on a  personal and communal level. It’s like there is always a secondary narrative in my head as I wander through the world and you get into the habit of looking for the song. And you learn to pay attention to the promptings otherwise it drifts away and someone else gets to write the song! I want to believe that my best songs are yet to be written so that helps keep the bar at a decent height.

What is your latest album, Here Come The Young, about?
It’s about hope. The hope I think that resides in a new generation who are more open and tolerant than those that have gone before them. They rightly find so much of the current political agenda is at total odds with who they are. It’s natural that we evolve as people and issues that my generation and others before have struggled with are not ‘issues’ to them. I’m looking to the day when they get to make the decisions. Not that they will be without their own ‘baggage’ as such, but it’s going to play out a lot better than what we’re dealing with right now.

Social justice has an essential presence throughout your music. Where does this come from and do you feel that music can still play an important role in bringing about social change? 
The guitar gave me the privilege of travel. It took me to some beautiful places and some tough ones and it helped form a world view where a level playing field for everyone became very important to me. I think right now music, art, etc can play a vital role in reminding us who we really are. It’s fairly easy to be sucked down that dark hole of cynicism and fear and, when we gather together and sing or listen to poetry or see great movies, it can point us back to our core belief in ourselves and others. In that way, music can come alongside, encourage and accompany change.

You have a reputation for being an outstanding live performer. What can the audience expect from your show on 5th December?
A lot of passion and commitment. My goal is always to play every show like it’s the last one I ever get to play. There is only this night.

What are your plans for 2020?
I never really stop touring so plenty of that and I will probably start work on a new album of songs. We’re also just releasing a tribute record to the American Folk singer Phil Ochs and my wife Justine and I have a non-profit organisation called the Let Yourself Trust that runs alongside the music which is really growing and keeps us very busy.

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