Martin Leroux is an up-and-coming artist from Tokyo, Japan. He has one album out and will start recording his second one in mid-2012. I am pleased to feature him today.
Cendrine Marrouat: Hello Martin, thank you for answering my questions. You released your debut album, “Parks and Cafeteria,” in 2010. What are the themes?
Martin Leroux: I had written songs on the album over a long period of time – some of the earlier ones were from my later teenage years, and some written during the recording process. When my friend Mike Kendra sat down to write for the album, we wanted to write songs about life: the randomness and the expected, the beauty and the ugliness, the known and the unknown. And I think the songs cover those aspects I’ve seen at many points in my life.
CM: What is the story behind the title of your album?
ML: The album’s name is a result of the places we wrote and rehearsed our music. Mike was in Japan to study for two semesters, and we had utilized his university campus cafeteria to play while the other students ate. The other times, we took our guitars to public parks and wrote and played there until it was dark.
CM: How did you meet Michael Kendra? And how did you work together?
ML: I met Mike at a show I was performing at; he had come to see one of our mutual friends’ set and he hadn’t caught mine. But ultimately, we decided on hanging out and jamming – and it led to the discussion of recording an album and writing songs together, fusing our influences and skills, before he had to return to California at the end of the school year. Mike is a very talented and genuine musician and songwriter, and I’m very honored to have created this album with him.
CM: Your voice has a distinct feel. I can hear Tracy Chapman and Damien Rice. Did you receive any formal training?
ML: I get quite a lot of comparisons to Tracy Chapman – who I love – but Damien Rice is a first. Thank you! I never received any proper vocal training; most of my singing was done at home, growing up. I picked up a guitar at 14 and have been singing along ever since.
CM: What are your main musical influences?
ML: I have been influenced by quite an array of musicians and styles. I grew up in a very musical and eclectic household – there was always Motown, salsa, and bossa nova at home; my uncle is a big jazz aficionado; and my other uncle was a fan of classic rock.
Personally, I was greatly influenced by the songwriting of Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, and Tracy Chapman – all of whom had a strong sense of narrative, and wrote informatively and elegantly. Vocally, I’ve always felt a connection with deep-voiced blues and soul singers like Nina Simone, B.B. King, and more recently Amy Winehouse. And I’ve always admired the showmanship of Debbie Harry, Jim Morrison, and Kurt Cobain.
CM: You have been performing in some of Tokyo’s independent music venues and creative spaces. Any favourite moment you would like to share?
ML: Perhaps one I remember most fondly was earlier this year at a music venue, for a lengthy show lined up with mostly rock/metal bands. The first band that played was quite hardcore; the guitars were distorted to the max, the vocalist screamed throughout the whole set, and the whole room was really getting into it. I could tell this was the kind of music they were there to see. And following that band was me, this guy with an acoustic guitar and ballads. But as soon as I played a few songs, I could see the room react the same way: headbanging to the upbeat stuff, even when someone requested that I cover Lady Gaga. This was then that I realized, music knows no boundaries. Or more specifically, Lady Gaga knows no boundaries.
CM: Thanks to the Internet, you have been able to reach worldwide audiences. How have Canadian audiences reacted to your music so far?
ML: I was actually surprised by how positively Canadian audiences have reacted to my music – particularly those from the west coast. I was told the kind of aesthetic my music has fits in nicely with the kind of genre – singer-songwriter folk – that has a large following in the Vancouver music scene. And judging by what I’ve heard of Vancouverite bands and musicians, that’s a formidable place to fit in!
CM: What is next for you?
ML: One of my goals for the coming year is to record a new EP with new songs as well as full-band renderings of some of the songs on “Parks & Cafeteria,” which is a predominantly acoustic album. Afterward, I would also like to set up performances overseas – possibly in North America – towards the year’s end.
CM: Where can people find more information on you and your music?
ML: I have some of my music from “Parks & Cafeteria” available for streaming in my Reverbnation and Facebook pages, and some general performances can be seen on my YouTube page.
CM: Any last words?
ML: I would like to thank you Cendrine and your Canadian readers for taking an interest in my music and myself; and hopefully I get to see you all whenever it is I get to share the stage with some of Canada’s finest in their home turf. Meanwhile, please continue supporting the indie music scene! (Tokyo has plenty of undiscovered indie gems.)
Cendrine Marrouat may be contacted for potential interviews, reviews and general enquiries at email@example.com. Website: www.cendrinemarrouat.com.