You spoke and Marti listened. During lockdown, former Wet Wet Wet frontman open-end up his laptop and started recording his 'lockdown sessions'. 12 million tuned in to watch him perform songs that he had performed as part of the band, as well as songs he had always wanted to perform. The messages he received from fans inspired a new album 'Stargazer' and this brand new Greatest Hits tour. Marti chats to Craig Maplesden about finally being able to put on a show that will celebrate all the wonderful music throughout his career and that he, and all of you, fell in love with again through the sessions.
Thank you for chatting to me ahead of what is going to be a busy few months touring. I understand the new tour came about through fans tuning into your lockdown sessions and asking for you to go out on the road after lockdown?
So this is the second leg of it. I managed to get out at the tail end of last year for 15 - 20 shows and thoroughly enjoyed it. The reception I got was fantastic, I think everyone was ready to embrace that live format again and you could see the enthusiasm on their faces, because they wanted that shared lived experience again. I adored it.
So do you think that's why the lockdown sessions worked so well, because of that shared experience?
You know, I think it came from a good place. It actually started from a message I got from a family whose mother had caught covid, they asked me to send them a song, so I sang 'I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends' and sent it out on the social media platforms. It was so well received that I decided to do another one to help raise money for essential PPE for the nurses in my hometown of Clydebank. But there always seems to be a little destination for the songs, so more people came on board and it's just me singing songs in my spare bedroom - who would of thought it would attract millions of viewers?
To be honest, it was nice for me to shoot the breeze and just connect with people through that medium in a positive way, as there is a lot of digital noise. So it turned into people messaging me saying 'what are you gonna sing for us next?', I did a little Q and A's etc, and when I asked them about a 'Greatest Hits' tour it's what they wanted. And, you know, if you come and see me and I'm playing songs from my new album then you are engaging a different part of your mind. You would be sitting there listening to a song for the first time, so I didn't want the tour to be about the new catalogue - don't get me wrong, I may squeeze one in, but the evening is about escapism; whether it's a song from Wet Wet Wet, or a song from one of my albums, it's doesn't really matter - it's about songs you are familiar with. As they said to me 'No Marti, No Party!'.
Your back-catalogue is so extensive, going back to the 80's, do you think that the music from the 80's is so long-lasting and appealing that you are getting a lot of new fans who are now discovering those songs?
I think you've hit the nail on the head, you know it never ceases to amaze me that when I recently did a show I was talking to a couple who were in their 80's and said they starting listening to me in 1987, when they were the same age as I am now. And next to them was a teenager wearing a 'Popped In, Sold Out' t-shirt, which was my first album. She was there with her boyfriend, who were only 17, and they told me they accessed my songs through Spotify and YouTube and all the social media channels and they were telling me about songs they loved that were released before they were born. The elder couple then told me their favourite song is 'Angel Eyes', and I think that's beautiful and it gives you an understanding that music can transcend barriers and isn't dictated to by a time and place and that's the way a good song can navigate its journey.
And I suppose that the lockdown sessions allowed you the opportunity to access a whole new set of fans who may not have seen you live before.
Yeah, look, it's not rocket science, I plug into some songs that they know and I speak to my audience on social media, as well as think about them when I write new songs, so I write for 'us'. It's important to me to that I see my audience in that picture when I write. I've been blessed that audiences will go on a journey with me; whether that's on a stage on Broadway, at the 02, or at the Bath Forum. So, it's all coming from the same place whether it's musical theatre or a Greatest Hits show.
Speaking of musical theatre, as a performer and songwriter, you are telling a story in a different way. Was it a lot easier to transfer that to musicals such as Chicago and Chess, because of your love of storytelling?
Yeah, because as a writer and storyteller, I'm just moving the goalposts a little bit. If you are work with a score by Tim Rice or the Abba boys, you're like, this is a good day at the office. So as a storyteller you are adding colour and setting it up through the spoken word and stage-craft. If you are a natural performer, then that comes to you naturally because you engage the audience in a certain way that is honest and accessible.
A lot of people just play the songs rather than engage, I like to give the audience the bigger picture, so I can go off on a tangent when playing live. So, when you buy the ticket you might get to know the man a little bit by the end of thee show too.
"I was talking to a couple who were in their 80's and said they starting listening to me in 1987, when they were the same age as I am now. And next to them was a teenager wearing a 'Popped In, Sold Out' t-shirt, which was my first album."
So talking about the set list, you said this is the second leg of the tour. Are you adding, or changing any songs, or are there some songs that people may be surprised to hear.
Look, I know I said I wouldn't be talking a lot but I can't help myself. I am going to try and get in as many of the back catalogue as possible. Sometimes I just read the room and see what the room is saying to me. Are they are little more subdued? Well there is no point bombarding them with dance songs! So, you just kind of engage in the evening and live in the moment.
So the show is on May 5th at Bath Forum, have you been to Bath in the past?
Man I've spent loads of times in Bath. The first time was to see Peter Gabriel in Box where I've made a couple of albums and written. I've been out on the town in Bath, I was in 'Blood Brothers' there, stayed up at the Royal Crescent and had Afternoon Tea - lovely!
The first time I played there was in a club called Moles and I thoroughly enjoy my time there. It's a beautiful city that is right in heritage and they embrace their art and youth culture there - I just think it's a wonderful part of the world. Every time I go there, the sun always seems to be shining!
After the tour, what does the rest of 2022 have in store for you because we can almost start planning things again?
I'm writing a new musical as we speak, based on my Scottish heritage, which is really inspiring for me. I've spent enough time in musical theatre for the last 15 years, and having spent a long time in that genre, I thought it would be great to write a piece that could fit in that world. All we have at the moment is 'Brigadoon', so it's all been inspired by stories my Grandfather told me when I was a child, and I'm using all the original instrumentation of Scottish music.
I'm also working on my memoir, which is quite funny. Memoir sounds a bit uppety! So I'm bringing things together and there will be a tour at the end of it called 'Pellow Talk', and it will be in very small, intimate venues; somewhere I can dangle my feet off the end of the stage and maybe sing some songs too; just to add some stories that shows the colours that makes me who I am.
Pellow Talk is such a great name!
It's just a wee play on words, but it also works well as I want to play some of the smaller arts venues and more intimate settings. So it's about embracing the art of the spoken word, as well as me being a bit of a travelling minstrel and talking as much about the city and what I ate that night than the songs.
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