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Singer-Songwriter Martin Sexton Charts His Own Musical Path

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Martin Sexton performing on stage.
Owen W. Brown: http://www.flickr.com/photos/owenwbrown/4584112501/
Martin Sexton performing on stage.

Singer-songwriters are everywhere. Go into any bar, coffee shop, train station, and almost anywhere on the Internet, and you are bound to run into one.

But next time you meet a singer songwriter, ask him if he's ever heard of Martin Sexton, and then brace yourself for a ton of high praise, because in the singer songwriter world, there are very few who are more admired than him.

John Mayer once called Martin Sexton the best live performer he's ever seen and one of the most treasured songwriters in the world.

Critics rave about him and they always start with his voice.

In an era when a lot of new music is made without actual instruments, Sexton uses his voice and one guitar and makes them sound like a full band.

Sexton says he found his sound back in the early '90s when he was just an unknown singer-songwriter playing on the streets of Boston.

"There was always this necessity of a hole that I needed to fill something," recalls Sexton, "because one guy with a guitar can get boring really fast.

So Sexton would scat a solo or beat box. "I'd start banging on my guitar like a drum set or play it like a bass."

He says scatting may have been the hardest skill to master.

"I first heard scatting and first mimicked the scat I heard on a Bob Marley record, then I tried to mimic and it just sounded stupid."

But as anyone who's seen him live can attest, he got the hang of it. And there are other vocal tools in Sexton's arsenal, inspired by things you might not expect, like cartoons.

"Charlie Brown always had the teacher, and I thought wow, that's a muted trumpet with a plunger," says Sexton.

But his fans will tell you he's much more than vocal acrobatics or guitar tricks.

He's praised as a heck of a songwriter. One tune called Sugarcoating, a critique of the media's coverage of Sept. 11, caught the ear of NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, who fell in love with the song, even though it essentially called out people like him.

Sexton's live shows are like intimate sing-a-longs with a thousand people from all walks of life. He says it's like going to church every night.

"Some accountant from Wall Street side-to-side next to a guy that maybe just got out of a tent occupying Wall Street, and they're singing harmony next to each other," says Sexton. "This is like God has entered the room when this happens. This is the power of music, and what I feel so proud to be a part of, and to be able to deliver every night."

Martin Sexton will be in D.C. Jan. 12 at the 9:30 Club in support of two new records: an EP called Fall Like Rain, and a live record titled Live at the Fillmore.

He says the 9:30 Club is one of his favorite venues in the world to play, and he holds his legions of D.C. fans in similar acclaim.

"They're smart, they're intellectual, they're soulful, and they seem to love good music," he says. "So I just give it all I have whenever I show up."

And don't be at all surprised if many of the passionate fans singing along with Martin Sexton on Saturday night are also singer-songwriters.


[Music: "Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades" by The Great Karaoke Channel ]

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