Week 3 of my 1990s Cover Series.
1992- "Everybody Hurts" - R.E.M.
You may have heard the main difference between extroverts and introverts is that one is energized by social activity, and the other, emotionally drained by it. I'm the introvert. 100%. Every personality test I've taken has pinned me to the far end of the spectrum, oceans apart from the wild extroverts of the world. Though a bit counterintuitive, I've learned to view this as something good. God made me this way, and he must have a reason for it (not that it's an excuse for being an ass). But most of my favorite people are extroverts. My wife, my brother, my closest friends - extroverts. Jesus displayed the traits of a true extrovert by surrounding himself with people even in times of total exhaustion, so it's hard to imagine him being anything else. Extroverts balance me out.
I'm convinced humanity thrives on this patchwork of personalities. I have to remind myself that I wouldn't be the musician I am today had I not preferred pounding away the hours on the family piano, while the other kids adventured outdoors. Don't get me wrong. I wasn't a hermit or anything. But I bet I can easily outlast you in an alone-time-athon. I will win.
People get surprised by my off-stage personality, especially if we're meeting for the first time after a show. As a courtesy to my fellow person, since I abhor the awkwardness that being a quiet person can breed, I've learned to be more outgoing when it's appropriate. My wife throws the best parties - a lot of them (if you ask me!). Early in our marriage, I'd get very uneasy as our first guests streamed through the door. I dreaded the expectation that I should be a gregarious host, making everyone feel welcome. Over the years, I've studied Crystal, who is a natural, and have come to do it pretty effortlessly. I actually enjoy it now. But I still require that extra time to recharge after I've spent a large amount of time in crowds. Funny thing about crowds, though. Performing for one, no matter the size, doesn't drain me.
1992 was the year I discovered that the stage and I would become good friends.
At L.R.H.S.' Variety Show '92, I performed three times. First, "More Than Words" with the Mezzetta sisters. A few acts later, I was back plucking my mom's classical guitar, singing Eric Clapton's haunting "Tears In Heaven." The closing act of the night was my initiation to playing in a rock band, and I thought I could definitely get used to this. "November Rain" by G n' R! One of my friends said afterwards that they should have called it The Marc Martel Show. Even though he was joking, it stung a bit. Performing was a way for me to be around people, and also be heard. Maybe that comes off a tad self-centered, like the only time I'm comfortable is when it's all about me. But it's not that at all. That night was a huge stepping stone for me in my confidence as a performer.
Being so aware of my own inner workings causes me to wonder about other people's a lot. Like when I see an extrovert being all confident and charming, is there something else going on deep down that they are hiding? We all "perform" for each other, to some extent. Maybe just to be liked. Or maybe to spare ourselves the embarrassment of exposure. Whatever the reason, as diverse as we all are, we're practically identical in our visceral need for love and rescue from the devastating consequences of this life. This week, I'm going with R.E.M.'s iconic "Everybody Hurts" because of the way it so beautifully depicts a common thread in humanity. It's a song that I think made the world a little better when it first hit the shelves on "Automatic For The People" the year I was 15.
Week 3 of my 1990s Cover Series.
Week 2 of my 1990s Cover Series.
1991- "Right Here Right Now" - Jesus Jones
If you asked me on any given day, "Tell me about when you were 14," I'd probably just shrug and tell you it was an unremarkable year for me. But, scanning the list of 1991's biggest songs, memories flood back, and it quickly becomes clear that it wasn't unremarkable at all.
Michael Bolton's "Love Is A Wonderful Thing" was out, and I had my first girlfriend. Honestly, we were romantic pen pals more than anything, since we only saw each other at Summer camp. Another love I was discovering was a new form of expression. Guitar. I was teaching myself after years of piano lessons, and the constant ache in my fingertips was no match for my passion for playing. It's also the year I started writing my own songs. Sadly, I don't have a record of them, so they're lost forever in the ether.
Then there's "More Than Words" by Extreme, which I performed with my friend Suzanne and her older sister at our high school variety show the following year. That was my first time playing guitar in front of an audience.
Dominating at #1 was Bryan Adams' monster hit "Everything I Do (I Do It For You)," making us Canadians proud. Besides the image of Kevin Costner splitting an arrow with an arrow, I remember my brother and I doing it as a duet at a wedding. David, though 2 years younger, could do Bryan's rasp really well (to this day, I can't manage it without coughing up a lung). And his voice hadn't changed yet, so he could easily hit the high notes, relegating me to the lower harmonies.
A few notches down from that, there's one by a band with a peculiar name - Jesus Jones. Although "Right Here Right Now" was no slouch in 1991, the song itself doesn't mark my life the same way that "Freedom! 90" does. Still, it reminds me of something else very significant - my old band, Downhere, in which I spent 13 years. We didn't normally do covers, unless we were leading worship or some other special occasion. We did do a lengthy stint with U2's "Beautiful Day," and the only other cover that comes to mind is "Somebody To Love" when the Queen Extravaganza thing began. We often discussed including more covers in our concerts, but when it came down to it, we much preferred playing our own music. Jason, my co-lead in the band, suggested "Right Here Right Now" a few times when the "covers" conversation resurfaced. He always said we could do a great job of it, and now that I've learned the song, I agree with him. That line about watching the world wake up from history is epic. It captures a sentiment that we always aimed for in Downhere's music, both lyrically and musically. The idea of the sacredness of what we do with this present moment was monumental in our mission as a band. So, in honor of my band members, Jason Germain, Glenn Lavender, and Jeremy Thiessen, here's my acoustic take of that song we never did together.
P.S. Check out Downhere on iTunes. I recommend starting with the album "Ending Is Beginning". That's my favorite album of ours. Listen to "Cathedral Made Of People" and "My Last Amen" if you're a "one song at a time" kind of person!
I've been playing around with this idea for a while, and I'm excited to share it with all of you! The 1990s was a great time for music so I've decided to pick a favorite of mine from each year and do my best rendition of it!
Today starts with 1990 (of course)- George Michael's "Freedom! '90"
I was too young for "Wham!" The first time I heard George Michael, it was "Faith," and I was in 5th grade. My class was unusually large, so they put a few of us over-achieving 11-year-olds in a split class with the 6th graders. All the cool older kids were listening to a controversial new artist who was portraying himself as a sexual bad boy in blue jeans, leather jacket, and amazing hair. Oh, and he could sing his butt off, too. I was both fascinated and intimidated by the sound - the groovy rebelliousness of it all.
I fell in love first with Michael's ballad "One More Try." I didn't own the album, and knew there was zero chance Mom and Dad would buy me such a dirty thing. So I did what every 80s kid did when faced with that challenge: sit by the radio with a fresh cassette tape loaded, poised to hit "Play/Record" as soon as those first few familiar notes signaled "this is it!!!" Didn't take long for me to snag my own "pirated" copy of the single. I was absolutely taken with the throaty and breathy qualities in George's voice - how it seemed to swim in a large cathedral, and float through the song. Every note and word had its own character and special place. I also fully got how his relationship with his "teacher" could be in such turmoil, since I had a crush on mine that year. But what I knew most is that I wanted to sing like that. I also knew I had some building blocks to work with to get there, as his voice was similar to that of one of my other favorite artists - Keith Green - but with more of an edge.
When "Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1" released, I had my own cash from my paper route saved up to buy the album for myself. I ate it up. Even at the age of 13, I loved the honesty and maturity in the songwriting, especially when compared to "Faith." George was taking a deeper approach, and seemed to be daring his audience to stay with him, though they might not get what they wanted from him. It seemed so brave for a pop artist.
"Freedom '90" is easily one of my favorites from the album, and a no-brainer as the first song in this series of 90s covers - one from each year of my favorite decade in music. To me, the song ushers in a new demeanor, and a refreshingly unpretentious and vulnerable approach to popular art. I wonder if George Michael had any inkling as to just how much pop music was about to change. Regardless, this very personal song of his about shedding the past, now seems so prophetic on a much larger scale.
I hope you keep coming back every week to see a new video!
We just released my new live music video for "Say The Word," and I wanted you to be the first to know! You can check out the video HERE!
Next month I am heading back out on tour with the Queen Extravaganza. More Martel dates coming this Fall. Stay tuned for more info. For more Queen Extravaganza dates click HERE!
Queen Extravaganza Tour
8/7 - Luxemburg - Den Antelier
8/10 - Monaco - Monaco Sporting Club
8/12 - Amsterdam - Melkweg
8/13 - Ostend - Casino Kursaal
8/15 - Reykjavik - Harpa
8/16 - Reykjavik - Harpa
Hope to see you there!