Blessed with a voice that’s equally adept at delivering gritty soul as it is with his folk-infused falsetto, Martin’s songwriting represents the pure essence of his classic influences. It’s a trait that’s particularly evident in his first single, Nostalgia – a song that reflected the experiences of his friends who were finishing university or leaving home, but which possesses a universal theme that reflects the experiences that almost everyone shares.
“I think it did so well because it resonated with a lot of people,” he states. “Artists that I really admire like Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles or The Beatles – not that I’m comparing myself to them – they’re obviously legendary musicians and great songwriters, but they often wrote really unifying songs. There was something much deeper to their songs than just the music, whether that be a political message or a theme that wasn’t so commonly explored.”
As a child, Martin would absorb the sounds of his parents’ record collection: The Kinks, ELO, Simon & Garfunkel and their contemporaries – “My parents were Sixties kids and that really rubbed off on me” – and he’d often be found playing the family’s piano rather than listening to music himself. He acknowledges the likes of Paolo Nutini, George Ezra, Adele and Sam Smith as contemporary artists that he admires for their honesty, but he’s more likely to spin some Motown or Northern Soul if he has a quiet Sunday afternoon. “Even now, I prefer to sit down and play music myself rather than listen to other people,” he admits.
Martin grew up in Leicester spending his early teen years at the family piano and started playing small gigs at the age of fourteen – his fondness for the city is clearly evident as he laments the loss of famed venue The Charlotte and praises current local artists Leo Stannard and By The Rivers. He soon discovered that his confidence grew the more often he played, until performing became second nature: “It’s interesting really, it just affirmed the ideology for me that you can be anything you want to be if you just push yourself a bit,” he says.
The biggest change that push demanded would be his move from his hometown to the bright lights of the capital: “University was just a route to London for me, which was a plunge I knew I had to take at some point because if I hadn’t gone, I’d have had to spend the majority of my time doing shitty jobs and not being able to focus on my love of music.”
Some of those stories are covered in his debut EP for Parlophone which offers a snapshot of his musical approaches. The angsty stomp of Take Out of Me “reflected a rebellious year after leaving London, where I just indulged in various things and it ultimately left me feeling a bit empty.” Meanwhile, Stitch recounts his emotions during a fading relationship: “The vibe I was going for was, I want the best for you, I just don’t want to be part of it.”
Martin rarely writes about the travails of love as he “tends to avoid romance as it just complicates my way of live at the moment, especially music. I’m a big believer that while I’m young I need to invest in myself as much as possible.” In fact, the other two tracks that feature on Take Out of Me EP, Thorns and the stripped back Bring It Back To Me, are tributes to the support of his family. The latter, he laughs, was written to remind them: “Look, if I ever get arrogant or turn into a jumped-up diva, please tell me.”
Currently dedicated to creating a vast songbook of material to ensure that his debut album will live up to his undoubted potential, Martin Luke Brown’s modest ambitions suggest that such a warning won’t be necessary. “I want my record to be dead honest and come from a heartfelt place,” he asserts. “It’s going to mean a lot to me I just want to make an album that I’m 100% proud of. If I achieve that, I can’t have any regrets, and I’ll look back on it in years to come as a fair reflection and documentation of my life at that time. And fingers crossed, they’ll all be great tunes as well!”