RIDGEFIELD — Singer, songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire Martin Sexton is very interested in discussing the future, and even what he is up to currently. Just don’t ask him to talk about his youth or the earlier part of his musical career.
Both his publicist and the artist himself indicated that any questions about his background would not be welcome during a brief chat with The Newtown Bee ahead of his scheduled January 18 show at The Ridgefield Playhouse. So those who want to know more about Sexton’s history can tap bio information available on his Facebook page, or on sites like Wikipedia.
Sexton explained that he was more inclined to discuss deep background as a new and upcoming artist. But after ten albums and numerous previous area appearances Sexton doesn’t see any practicality in rehashing stories about his salad days.
For those who are unfamiliar, his Facebook bio recounts his roots in Syracuse, N.Y., where he grew up the tenth of 12 children. While he came of age during the mostly infertile musical period of the 1980s, the bio states he gravitated to classic rock sounds he was exposed to around the house by older siblings.
Like many aspiring musicians before him, Sexton rejected the notion of finding success in New York, Nashville or Los Angeles, choosing Boston as a destination where he could hone his developing guitar and compelling vocal styles.
It was apparently material Sexton wrote and recorded during his days as a street performer in Harvard Square that started ramping up his popularity among fans and critics alike.
His 1992 collection of self-produced demo recordings In the Journey was recorded on an old 8-track in a friend’s attic, and Sexton managed to sell 20,000 copies out of his guitar case, the bio states.
Since then he has produced eight more studio projects, including the 2012 EP Fall Like Rain, and several live albums. During his call with The Bee, Sexton talked about plans for his next recording project, his friendship with Connecticut native John Mayer, his choice of guitars, and what he’s planning for fans coming out to see him in Ridgefield January 18.
Newtown Bee: You’ve been pretty consistent putting out new material over the years. Aren’t you about due for a new album?
Martin Sexton: I’m in a writing phase right now. It’s always an ongoing process right up to the moment the tape is rolling. Even then, I’m always there with a pen and paper while I’m in front of the microphone. I take things right down to the wire. I’ve been working with several co-writers from across the Northeast, and I’m looking at putting out a new album probably in 2015. It’s been a busy couple of years touring behind the last few records, so I’m taking some time to slow down. It’s really nice just to settle down and be a dad, just sit around the house and enjoying some quality family time with the kids.
Bee: So who are you working with in terms of co-writers?
Sexton: I’ve been working with musicians I’ve worked with before, as well as writers I’ve been introduced to through friends, contacts in the music business and through ASCAP. It’s been kind of cool. I’ve actually never done a whole lot of co-writing and I actually like it.
Bee: Is most of that co-writing being done long distance, or do you prefer the energy of being in the same room together?
Sexton: I just work face-to-face. I haven’t yet Skyped my co-writing, although a lot of people are doing that.
Newtown Bee: So I understand you’re bringing out some friends on the current tour.
Sexton: Yeah, I’ll be bringing my opening act, The Brothers McCann, to back me up on a few numbers. This trio is really a bunch of talented guys, so after their set, they will come up and do some backing vocals with me. We first tried it out during a show in Annapolis, Maryland, and it worked out really well. It brings an interesting new element to the show without overpowering the songs. They kind of sit in and do their harmonies. On all my records there are always different kinds of harmonies that I create myself — I’ll make a gospel choir or a gay men’s chorus, or a cowboy trio or a soul sister’s section. So it’s nice to have some representation of that in the live show.
Bee: I’ve seen you playing different guitars in your videos. Do you bring a big rack of guitars with you on the road?
Sexton: Not really. On the road, my Godin is my workhorse, but I’ve been known to bring out any number of instruments from a Danelectro baritone to a [Fender] Strat to a [Gibson] Les Paul. But the Godin has been a very manageable guitar. I call the Taylor my radio guitar. I use it during radio interviews and on certain recording situations that call for a smaller, brighter-sounding instrument.
Bee: I understand you’ve had an interesting history with our Connecticut neighbor John Mayer?
Sexton: Doing what I do, on pretty much a daily basis you meet up-and-coming artists who want to hand you their record. Mayer was one of those guys. And you don’t tend to remember because those meetings happen all the time. I think I met him in Atlanta in like, 1999. And he handed me his record and he was asking to open for me.
But the next time I saw John, he was asking me to open up for him on a sold-out shed tour. And he had a Grammy in his pocket and his girlfriend was Jennifer Love Hewitt. He’s a good guy — a great recording artist, and he’s been good to me over the years having me on shows and saying nice stuff about me in interviews.
Bee: You perform a really diverse number of cover songs along with your own material in concert. Does your love of doing covers come from your days playing on the street?
Sexton: Not really. You know every hero of mine always covered songs. Look at Jimi Hendrix. I like to be an interpreter of other people’s music as much as I like writing my own material. So sure, I’ll whip out a cover. It’s not so much a throwback to the days of being a cover artist when I first started out. I think all my heroes cover other artists and there are so many great songs in the world that I don’t want to limit my show by just playing songs I wrote.
Bee: You said earlier that you’re just starting to work with co-writers. Have you also used a lot of collaborators when you are recording?
Sexton: Oh sure, I’ve had a lot of folks in the studio recording — like Patty Griffin to Keller Williams to Nils Lofgren to name a few. I did a collaboration with Peter Frampton a few years ago. I’d really love to work with him again on this new song I’ve been writing. That would be a dream come true. It was certainly a dream come true playing with him, but to have him playing on my record — that would really be a bucket list item, having Peter Frampton do a solo on my next record. I’m gonna try and look him up.
Bee: Do you do most of your work in a home studio?
Sexton: Just for preproduction and ideas. When it comes time to make the record I’ll do all the basic tracks at a proper studio. I like to do the overdubs at our camp up in the Adirondacks. That’s the way we’ve done the last few records. It’s such a win-win thing to be up there in the woods smoking meat and getting that wonderful fragrance coming through the windows — cutting tracks — and when you get burnt out you jump in the lake, go fishing, eat some ribs and refresh you mind before you go back to get that right sound. I love that.
Bee: You built a huge following after one of your songs was featured on “Scrubs.” But now you have a lot of tunes out there on TV and movie soundtracks, right?
Sexton: The newest one is on the cable series “Masters of Sex.” They’re using “Can’t Stop Thinkin’ About You.” It’s funny how that stuff happens. I must have fans in the right places because I’m currently not employing someone to get me music placement. Usually we just answer the phone. Showtime used the same song in a series called “Brotherhood” a couple of years ago. It’s wonderful owning your own catalog — it’s like owning real estate. It sits there for years and then all of a sudden the phone rings and it’s on TV. Then you call up your mom and say, hey, check it out. It’s nice for the years when you’re off cycle — when you don’t have a record out and you’re on tour backing it. It’s nice when these things happen whether its “Scrubs,” or “Parenthood,” or this new one, “Masters of Sex.” It’s kind of funny because I have never seen it, but a couple of my family members say it’s their favorite new show.
Bee: You have some material in the new movie Lucky Them as well?
Sexton: Yeah, it’s great. We just saw a screener of the film and it’s a great film with Toni Collette and Thomas Hayden Church — there’s also a really good cameo at the end, but I don’t think I’m supposed to give it away. They used “Where Did I Go Wrong?” and “There Go I” — those two are in that film.
Get tickets to Martin Sexton’s January 18 show at The Ridgefield Playhouse by visiting RidgefieldPlayhouse.org or call 203-438-5795.