Chris Martin's whirlwind - A decade in music biz and still counting
With a career that has spanned a decade, Chris Martin has accomplished much. The Jamaican reggae artiste burst onto the scene in 2005 when he won the 'Digicel Rising Stars' competition. It speaks to Martin's talent and work ethic as an entertainer, as he is one of perhaps only three 'Rising Stars' winners who have gone on to have successful music careers. His music has earned him a large and ever-growing fan base across the globe from the Caribbean to Europe and several countries in Africa.
The journey from Back Pasture, St Catherine, to the world at large has seen Martin reel off a number of reggae hit songs, make a successful foray into acting, and accumulate substantial personal wealth, but in many ways, he is only just begun.
"I have accomplished so much that if I was to complain, I would be ungrateful," Martin said during an exclusive interview with The Sunday Gleaner. "It has been a whirlwind of a ride. I have been on almost every continent. The one place I haven't been is probably China, and we're going to change that this year."
He continued: "With all the accolades I have received, I am more than pleased with what I have amassed in the last 10 years. From where I started and the fact that I got my break in a different kind of way in the music, and the history of people who have come through the ranks the way I have come through the ranks, the success rate was hovering just above zero. It's like I have defied all the odds. The mere fact that I have done that and accomplished so much, I am already a winner."
Despite the great personal gain in terms of material possessions, Martin believes his greatest achievements are his songs.
"One of the greatest things is to have songs for myself that I wrote that connect with people. We have a number of hit songs where, wherever we go in the world and we sing those songs, the reception is great. For me, that is one of my greatest accomplishments, for that is what I owe everything that has happened in my life to," he said. "When I sit somewhere and write a song and then it connects with people and people want to see you, Ö let's say I wrote this song in Jamaica and this song takes me to Africa and that song takes me to the Fiji Islands, it doesn't matter. It goes to show that you have accomplished something great."
Martin has produced a long and ever-growing list of songs that has resonated with his fan base. Songs like Take My Wings, Melody to My Song, Real Friends, Cheater's Prayer, Let Her Go, Chill Spot, Paper Loving and many others have helped him carve a niche and lay the foundation for better things to come. That time is now.
"For all that I have achieved, I would say I am at 50 per cent. I say 50 because I feel the Almighty has greater things in store for me," he said.
In 2013, Martin signed a multi-album deal with VP Records. Under the deal, the company will put its resources behind tours and publishing. It is a deal that Martin believes will take him to the next level. Over time, the collaboration will make him global.
"For eight to nine years of my career, I have been independent. The ground-breaking success that I have had has been without a major backing. I have a very strong belief in VP Records, based on the talks that I have had with them, and I feel like with the work that I am willing to put in and with their traction, we can break into new ground," he said. "That is the difference in my career now. I am now with a label. It's a totally different thing now. I feel like the mediums are broader. Now with the backing of a major company, the sky is the limit."
The first test of that partnership comes this summer with the release of his latest album, Stepping Razor (or Big Deal, depending on who you talk to). Martin has high hopes for the record, which he said will have something for all types of music lovers.
"The type of songs that are on the album, I feel so proud about that body of work. I feel like everyone will have a song on it that appeals to them. I have a song that is like a gospel kind of vibe, just giving thanks for everything God has done for me, so my fans that are more geared towards Christianity, it will appeal to them. Just like any other song on the album, there is no derogatory language, there are no expletives, so everyone can listen to it."
He noted that there are also a few dancehall tracks, a tune called Lady of the Night, as well as a doo-wop-sounding track called All Around the World, and a reggae track called Still Got Feelings for You.
"The mere fact that people are asking for it makes you have a sense of pride that when it drops, you are giving them something that is worthwhile," he said, adding that the title is still up in the air. "Nothing is cast in stone," he said.
The album will be out on April 21.
Reaching those new limits, he feels, has been helped by the success of his first major role in a feature-length film. Destiny, the Jeremy Whittaker film in which Martin plays the love interest, Sean, to Karian Sang's Lisa Pullen, was a success locally, topping local box office numbers for several weeks.
His appearance in the movie has and will continue to help Martin broaden his appeal and open doors for him to venture more into film.
"It showed a different side of Christopher Martin. I feel like I did a very good job. When the movie is released on DVD, it will go to more places that I have not really seen. It gave me an opportunity to showcase myself in a different light," he said.
"That in itself is another accomplishment. If 10 years ago somebody said to me you were going to be in a movie and that it would break box-office records in Jamaica and that it would be the longest-running in Jamaica's history, I would just laugh and go work at Scotiabank or something."
Already, his work in film has earned him other opportunities. In the past six months, Martin has attended casting calls for three different projects and he is confident of landing at least one of them.
"We've been asked to do other casting calls and I have been casted for another movie. They like how I look on camera and they like how I talk - I still use the Jamaica dialect. If the opportunity presents itself where I can do acting again, [I would]."
China beckons this year as Martin seeks to broaden his appeal one fan at a time.
"We are already in talks with places affiliated with reggae music. We are letting them know we want to come there and we want to bring my band. It's not about money, just the mere fact that I want to open a new market. I am really looking forward to doing that," Martin said, explaining that he wants to be a household name in China, like he already is in certain parts of Africa, especially Kenya.
It would be a major step in achieving the global stardom he desires as he carves out an even bigger niche in the global landscape.
"I want to make a name not only for myself, but for where I am from, and we're not talking just about Back Pasture, we're talking about Jamaica," he said. "When people talk about Jamaica, they talk about Bob Marley, they talk about Usain Bolt. In some places, they talk about Chris Gayle, that's the kind of esteemed company I want Christopher Martin to be in."