#009 - Interview with LEE MARTIN - Bluegrass Martins by Sandi Millar Lesson Pros

#009 - Interview with LEE MARTIN - Bluegrass Martins by Sandi Millar Lesson Pros

(Mandolin player for The Bluegrass Martins) 
by Sandi Millar

SANDI: How did you get started?

LEE: I was surrounded by music from a very young age. As far back as I can remember, my dad would always have music playing. In the house, in the van on the way to a bluegrass festival. As well as hearing the music my brother and sisters listened to when they weren’t practicing as a band. It was only a matter of time before I wanted to take part. I tried the fiddle when I was six, the guitar when I was ten, and the bass when I was twelve. None of them really held my attention for longer than a year. When I was fifteen, I finally realized that I couldn’t play those instruments without being awed and inadvertently intimidated by my family. So, I picked an instrument that would allow me to be a part of the band. 

SANDI: Who was your inspiration? 

LEE: The music itself did all of the inspiring. My family, now my band, has always been extremely supportive of my musical growth. Listening to them talk about their music and seeing their passion really made me believe I could play. My brother Dale wins that race. He and I have spent, and still spend, hours out of any given day just playing and singing. As far as people I don’t know personally, watching Chris Thile’s musical progression really pushed me to come up with my own sound and learn the craft of mandolin.

SANDI: Who were your musical heroes? 

LEE: In the beginning, Adam Steffey, Chris Thile, Doyle Lawson, Dan Tyminski, John Mayer, Michael Buble, and my band. Later on, I discovered B.B. King, Sean Costello, and bands like Rush, Paramore, and Soundgarden.  

SANDI: Have you played with other bands? 

LEE: Only experimentally so far. Not professionally. 

SANDI: Are you a full-time musician? Do you do other things for work?

LEE: I don’t understand the question. Is it my only source of income? No. Sadly, not yet. But music has saturated my soul. I work part-time jobs as they come and go. Everyone must eat. 

SANDI: What is the one thing or series of events that led you to play bluegrass full-time?

LEE: Truck drivers use the term “grandfathered” when someone has been driving so long that they don’t need to apply for a commercial driver’s license. I was “grandfathered” into playing and singing. It’s in my blood.

SANDI: If you could have done anything but music, what would you have done?

LEE: I have never seen anything in my future other than music and entertainment. In the words of Gordon Lightfoot, a house carpenter. 

SANDI: If you could play any stage that you haven't played yet, what stage? Why?

LEE: Austin City Limits. I have seen some of the greatest people play on that stage, as well as people I have never heard of. It is a level playing field, where the art is all that matters.

SANDI: Favorite stage you have played? Why?

LEE: Every stage I put my foot on. No matter where, no matter when, and no matter how many people, every stage on which I get the privilege of performing with my band is a thrill and a challenge. There was a show once where there were three people in the audience. In an amazing theater with five hundred seats. Three people. I gave them everything I had. Because the music is all that matters. 

SANDI: What instruments, picks, strings, pickups, etc. do you use?

LEE: Blue Chip Picks, D’Addario Strings, Hinde Mandolins, Shure Microphones, and ear monitors.

SANDI: Favorite hobbies besides music?

LEE: Besides smoking and drinking? Reading. I read mythology and science fiction. I am a sucker for a good story.

SANDI: Are there any mentoring workshops, instructional camps, etc, that you give, and/or do you teach private or group lessons?

LEE: None as of yet. I have an increasingly humble approach to my music. 

SANDI: What instruments, picks, strings, pickups, etc. do you use?  

LEE: I play a Hinde mandolin, made by a man named Steven Hinde from New Hartford, Iowa. The instrument is as I am. It has a unique and independent sound, unlike any I have ever heard. Then I discovered he made electric mandolins. Of course, I had to have one. It is a beautiful instrument for branching beyond the traditional role of mandolin.

SANDI: Do you have any causes that you support?

LEE: I am a feminist.

SANDI: Do you ever or have you ever been nervous on stage?  Any advice for those who do get nervous on stage? 

LEE: Nervousness before performing is perilous. Nervousness during a performance is like an action scene in an over-the-top alien flick. I have learned that energy management before the performance is very important. Relaxing before the show is the key. Watching TV, sleeping, and reading are great methods of distraction.

SANDI: What would you say to someone just starting their music career?

LEE: Stay focused on the music. There is no shame in waiting tables. It takes a long time to learn one’s place with the music. Be patient yet persistent.

SANDI: What is your favorite thing about the Minnesota Bluegrass Festival?

LEE: At MBOTMA, I visited a stranger’s campsite, where they had set up a drum kit. I played with the kit and connected with the owners. Later, they tagged my band in an Instagram post. I was only being friendly and found a kindred spirit. 

SANDI: What would it be if you could change anything at the Minnesota Bluegrass?

LEE: It should stop being “Minnesota Bluegrass.” Music should be shared. It brings people together from every angle of life.

SANDI: How long have you been with the Bluegrass Martins?

LEE: Six years. 

SANDI: How is it working with your family?

LEE: I was homeschooled with my sisters and brother. We have developed a connection that is more than just family. They are my best friends, the people who will pull me out of a tight spot, the ones I would help even if I had nothing. Playing music with them is the most natural thing I have ever done.

SANDI: Have you ever been interested in fronting a band?

LEE: Yes, indeed. It will not be bluegrass. 

SANDI: Favorite thing about being on the road?

LEE: Getting to leave. I thoroughly enjoy leaving. No matter where I am, cabin fever sets in. I like to keep moving, and traveling is the only way to satisfy that feeling. Waking up in a motel is home to me.

SANDI: What is your least favorite thing about being on the road?

LEE: It’s super hard to eat healthy. I am so tired of Subway.

SANDI: Are you a songwriter? How long? Favorite song you have written? Do you belong to any great songwriting organizations?

LEE: I am an aspiring songwriter. 

SANDI: Who is your favorite songwriter?

LEE: Chris Cornell.

SANDI: What is your favorite thing about being a musician?

LEE: The satisfaction music gives. Nothing else on this earth can fill the void in my soul like playing, singing, and listening to music.

SANDI: What are your future plans as a musician?

LEE: I plan to make music. I want to lead a band. I want to back a band with my drums. And I want to produce albums. I don’t plan further than a week ahead. Beyond that...we’ll see what happens.

Visit Beyond the Notes The Story of LEE MARTIN

For more information on Lee Martin visit:
Website: www.bluegrassmartins.com
Email: Lee.elvin.martin@gmail.com

For more information on The Bluegrass Martins visit:
Website: www.bluegrassmartins.com

Lesson Pros

If you are interested in learning to play the mandolin, check out our Mandolin Courses or All Lesson Pros Courses.

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