Before he was anything else, Martin Stephenson was a busker. It was the beginning of an instinct, a need, for live performance that continues to this day. “I used to see a sunny morning when I was 18 and thought ‘I’m just going to go on the street and play, nobody knows who I am anyway.’ The doo-wop singers used to do that, stand on street corners. That’s how I started off.”
Then, as for so many, along came the new wave to jam the door open. “When I went into music, it was punk that got us to try to play,” says Martin. “But when I went into the music industry, when I was like 19, I had a completely different perspective. It wasn’t something I wanted to conquer or be part of.”
The Daintees’ first single, ‘Roll On Summertime,’ appeared in 1984, and soon the big boys were taking notice.
‘Boat To Bolivia’ displayed an extraordinary maturity, from the country charm of ‘Candle In The Middle’ to the Cohenesque acoustics of ‘Rain,’ and sounds as fresh today as it did then. A degree of UK chart success followed with the top 40 albums ‘Gladsome, Humour & Blue’ in 1988 and ‘Salutation Road’ in 1990.
“I have a song called ‘Home’ which I do a lot, which I wrote for my mother when she passed away,” says Stephenson. “People connect with it. There was a woman who asked me to sing it for her dad the other night, and to me that was the highest level in the gig, because someone wanted the song for their dad who’d passed away. That’s a really humbling thing.”
In the Autumn, he and the Daintees toured the UK to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the release of Boat To Bolivia, selling out venues such as The Sage, The Lowry and The 100 Club. A few days later he was in front of about 100 in a small theatre in Sheffield. These days, wherever it is, the love and respect flows to and from the stage.
There is rarely a dull moment in conversation with Stephenson, but that’s exactly what you’d hope from someone who’s never stood still during 35 years in love with music. For him, it’s not a career, it’s a lifetime calling, and his restless troubadour spirit has now amassed an extraordinary catalogue of 40 albums.
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