A man after the hearts of all Brits, that played England’s beautiful game through high school and getting drafted by the Kansas City franchise in their inaugural season in the MLS, Stephen Martines really has done it all! A regular face on television screens which included being a victim of Stefan Salvatore in The Vampire Diaries that found his way to Nashville to write with the likes of Ross Copperman, Jon Nite and Nicolle Galyon who now continues to deliver a marvellous sound of of his own that depicts relatable and wonderful stories as shown with his latest single “Like Father, Like Son”.
Whilst promoting the single, we spoke to Stephen on his Birthday whilst he was on the road with his sister heading from St Louis, Missouri out to the lake to celebrate. Once we had established the mutual adoration of transatlantic accents and that he was heading out to the WATER (as opposed to warda as you tend to pronounce it Stateside) we touched upon, how a celebration in this current climate feels a little different:
It was probably stranger for my daughter, as a kid you’re used to having Birthday parties. She luckily got to have a semi Birthday party where my other nieces didn’t and my sister’s son, my nephew he had like a drive past party! For me to be honest, during COVID, I’ve been living pretty normal because I head to the lake almost every weekend and utilise the boat, so my daughter and I have still been doing that and right in the middle of the water is a lot safer than most places. It’s different, I’ve got some friends travelling in from Nashville and Texas heading down for my Birthday this weekend, so people are getting the chance to get away from their environment and escape a little too!
and how has the current state of the world impacted life as a touting musician:
It’s kind of a catch 22, we’re supposed to be touring right now. Almost every artist would have planned to be touring and every artist is struggling, we’re all trying to figure out a way to monetise what we’re doing and outside of the big 3 labels a lot of us are starving to find the avenues outside of Instagram and Facebook. For us it’s been sort of fun to have the downtime, it’s allowed us to get in the studio and get the next few singles, so that’s sort of been our plan now.
With such an intriguing and diverse biography from Major League Soccer, to significant roles on television and receiving offers of a recording contract in Los Angeles, what exactly was it that drew Martines to country music?
I used to ride around with my dad, when Garth Brooks first came out in 1993 with the “No Fences” album and my fathers’ favourite song was “Unanswered Prayers” by Garth Brooks. I used to drive around with him and I used to make jokes saying I’m going to make a country record one day! If I would have turned around and said I wanted to be a garbage man, my dad would have supported me and said do it because you love it! He said, well one day you should! When I got to Los Angeles in 1999, I got very lucky! I ended up on General Hospital at the time, it was always a dream of mine and over the years I kept pursuing that. Around 2000 I got offered a record deal when General Hospital found out that I sang, Ron Fair at Hollywood Records who is now at RCA and was Christina Aguilera’s manager at the time had brought me in and I didn’t want to do pop music. It just wasn’t for me, I was more of a rocker. Long story short I put music on the backburner until Vampire Diaries came about, knowing I was so close to Nashville from Atlanta, I decided that I was just going to move to Nashville to try and experience what songwriting was. When I made that decision, I was living in Sherman Oaks in California and I was watching the CMT Awards. I made a joke to my buddy saying: we are going to be at that award show next year and he didn’t believe me, so sure enough I said let’s move to Nashville and we did. Then a year later we were at the CMT Awards! I had a great time in Nashville being part of the Warner Chappell stable with the people I had met and the writers I had met but music only really became full force when I had my little girl. I moved back home to St Louis, because I wanted to be able to be a full time dad and gave up a career for her. A lot of people don’t know that but I walked away from my career so I could be where I needed to be for my daughter and in doing so, music just became a passion of mine again and I could do it whilst I was being a dad, so that’s how we’re here right now doing everything independently and do the best we can.
The main port of call for our chat was to talk about his powerful and emotional new single “Like Father, Like Son” which is out now and available HERE that he co-rote with Madonna Nash that tells the story of love and affection between a parent and a child after the loss of a father-figure:
This song is a 10 year journey. When I moved to Nashville in 2009, I was doing a show out of Atlanta called “The Vampire Diaries” and at that time I had been asked to be in a video for Madonna Nash, who was my co-writer on this song, called “Dirty Little Secret” and when I went to shoot the video, I had already pitched this song to several songwriters in Nashville but I guess you could say that the place I was at, I wasn’t ready to be that vulnerable. I’m a very private person and it wasn’t comfortable for me at that moment but when I met Madonna and I pitched her the song idea. I write differently, I write from a visual perspective being an actor and on the directors side rather than from a lyricists perspective. I’ve had the vision of this song, obviously dear to my heart from when I lost my father and when I pitched this idea to her, we just had this natural click so I gave it a shot with her. Then I guess a few weeks later, she sent me our first pass at the song and lyrically it was right up my alley then melodically borderline identical to what I had heard in my head, almost everything you hear in this song is one hundred percent truth! She nailed it for me, so then we got it together and id another sort of write session and sort of narrowed it down to a better direction for me and where we wanted the song to go. Ironically enough, once it was written, I didn’t think it was something I thought I wanted to cut. I wanted it to be a pitch to Miranda Lambert, it reminded me so much of “Tin Man” like that was the sort of melodies and transitions that I had heard in production that I wanted to hear in a song. As I put it on the shelf for a while, I wasn’t at a place until I had my little girl where she became the inspiration towards the end of the song.
I had been a little afraid to release it because when I got the finished master of the song, it has brought up so many emotions. So much of my childhood, both good and bad. The relationship that we shared, the bond that him and I had then most importantly the sacrifices that he made as a father. A lot of it is, I’m envious of some fathers and sons out there that get to see their dad in their seventies but also see them become grandparents. I know that if he was around now, the relationship that he would have with my daughter, would be identical to what he had with me! I can’t tell you what that loss has been like over the last 26 years but the sweet side of this song release is that I get to share with the world the depth of love I had for my father. I hope when people listen to this song that they can relate in their own pain, their own grief or their own loss and even be inspired to pick up the phone to say Dad or Mom or brother or sister that I love you, or to your friend or girlfriend or whoever because let’s face it: life is too short, right? So for me, I hope that’s the positive that people take.
along with how releasing new music in the current climate feels:
Well it’s a little different, not digitally though. We go through the same process with that but the radio is where everyone is getting hit at. As you will well know, it’s difficult enough to get placed on radio anyway and now it’s harder as it’s almost dead at the moment. Nobody is releasing songs to radio because nobody can get out and tour, the reason you would release songs to radio is to be able to get out and play them for an audience. So everyone is doing the digital releases and then look to revisit a radio release when things open up.
In addition to life as a musician and a father, Martines has another passion that is mutually adored by many particularly on this side of the Atlantic. The Americans insist on calling it soccer (a game played with a round ball where players use their feet) to avoid confusing “football” with their own version of football (a game played with a lemon-shaped ball where players use their hands) but Stephen and I were on the exact same wavelength talking about the beautiful game as the best way to end any conversation. We shared mutual respect for the “Special One” who currently manages my team: Tottenham Hotspur, but also for the man he looked up to:
I’m a Man City fan! Well I’ve got to be honest with you, I’m more of a Pep fan. I don’t think you get much better than Pep, with the style of football that he plays, he’s brought that Barca style to the EPL that nobody thought he could do well with.