Singer brings unpretentious style to Arden
Martyn Joseph returns after a decade away
By: Anna Borowiecki
| Posted: Saturday, Mar 22, 2014 06:00 am
Friday, March 28 at 7:30 p.m.
5 St. Anne St.
Tickets: $32 Call 780-459-1542 or online at ticketmaster.ca
Welsh singer-songwriter Martyn Joseph is one of those singular individuals who could be equally at ease dressed in a tux meeting the Queen as sitting in a gritty bar sipping a beer with a couple of fellas he just met.
A man of few pretensions, he ignores trends and instead uses his gift to rouse people across the world into displaying compassion toward the helpless and maltreated.
It’s been a decade since the unpretentious singer performed at the Arden Theatre. But on Friday, March 28 he returns, slinging his lone guitar on a six-week tour of Canada and the United States.
People enjoy drawing comparisons between Joseph’s singing style and John Mayer’s or Bruce Cockburn’s. But it’s Bruce Springsteen, the blue-collar rocker, with whom Joseph feels the most kinship.
“I love his music. I love the man. Probably of any artist, when I have my moments of doubt, he was the artist I reached out to,” Joseph said.
Joseph’s latest album, Tires Rushing By In the Rain, features a track list of 17 Springsteen songs. In fact, the title is borrowed from the rocker’s The Promise, a tune that Joseph first heard on TV.
“It was beautiful. It was one of those songs that illuminated the journey for me and certain lines spoke to my soul.”
Springsteen’s commercially-successful albums are known for their poetic lyrics and political social sentiments in support of the American working class.
Many reviewers have dubbed Joseph’s album an homage to the great New Jersey singer. Joseph believes it’s more than a simple salute.
“I’m trying to say thank you to Bruce Springsteen in an attempt to open up his songs in a way others who may not be familiar with it will enjoy it. It’s good to come from a different angle.”
And for Joseph that means getting inside the piece of music.
“Despite his global stardom, Bruce Springsteen sings for the common man. He also enters a realm we can’t always understand, but are seeking to understand. For me that’s art – trying to make sense of the world.
“He doesn’t stand on a soapbox and that’s the best musical response. But in his last album there was a great deal of social commentary. He took a go at the banks. He went about it in a way that was real and open and honest. He measures the American dream versus the reality.”
Like a rolling stone that gathers no moss, Joseph’s 25-show circuit can be grueling at times.
“As the years go by, travelling can take it out of you. But I love it. It’s in my DNA. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to participate in social causes and see the greater good. It’s not about entertainment. It’s about a bigger calling. It’s loving my neighbour.”
These aren’t just words. In fact, within the past few weeks Joseph officially launched Let Yourself Trust, a foundation that aims to benefit global charities at the grassroots level.
“We invite people to let us know what we can do. We will concentrate on one or two projects every six months and it will continue to evolve.”
For instance, the foundation has provided musical instruments to young Palestinians living in refugee camps.
“We give the instruments to kids so they can express their frustrations in a creative way through music. And the kids give back in a beautiful way.”
Two other patrons are an African AIDS program and a donation to Seattle to purchase bicycles for people who are unable to afford them.
“It feels great,” Joseph said. “Circumstances led to the point where we can do something. I’m very enthused and excited.”