- Martyn Joseph
I stumbled upon Martyn Joseph a few years ago when I saw the following video on You Tube. I was struck by his voice and guitar playing but it’s only recently that I discovered there is so much more to this man than being able to knock out a good tune:
When I ‘looked him up’ I discovered that he has been in the music business for 30 years and has produced 32 albums. He was signed to Sony but has since started his own record company – Pipe records. He is a gifted songwriter and his poignant lyrics reflect his passion for social issues, He uses his gift to empower and speak for his audience. He has toured with Art Garfunkel, Jools Holland, Joan Armatrading, Celine Dion and Shirley Bassey (to name a few). He was, however, asked to leave the Shirley Bassey tour because he insisted on wearing denim on stage! That made me laugh especially as I read on the website: http://www.ohbabynames.com that characteristics for the name ‘Joseph’ include:
Martyn is not so much a ‘hidden’ gem as a ‘rare’ gem because he doesn’t just sing about social injustice, he has set up a charity to do something about it: The following information is taken from Martyn’s Let Yourself Trust website:
“The Trust represents a vision I have had for some years now,of finding a way to help fund some very beautiful
and life giving projects both here in the UK and globally. At the heart of the music I have had the privilege of playing for the last 30 years has been the common theme of justice and a chance for change fueled by the ability to find love and hope in each other. I’m so thrilled that this is now coming to fruition in such a practical way”
So does he sit back and relax now that his charity is up and running? Not a bit of it! He doesn’t live the superstar lifestyle – unlike some I could mention, Mr Gongleshanks! He takes great pride in jetting off to war torn countries with groups of volunteers and getting ‘stuck in’ to the hard graft. Martyn is determined to make a difference, not just with his words but with his actions and that is the reason he is being featured in our series:
Here he is working with a team in Palestine:
Considering he is so busy I was delighted when Martyn agreed to an interview. There is a lot of information about his music and career on the internet so I decided to try and find out a bit about Martyn Joseph, the man:
Where better to start than at the very beginning so I asked him what his earliest childhood memory was:
His answer shows that even as a child he was a sensitive soul with a questioning mind:
“Watching an ant crawl across a brick on our front wall and thinking how fragile it was.”
Martyn told me that he attended Albert Road and Evenlode junior schools in Penarth then went on to Stanwell comprehensive school in Penarth. He didn’t have a favourite subject but remembers that he was better at creating than listening! So did he have a favourite teacher?
“I had a lovely teacher called Mrs Poole in Junior school and I still remember her as someone who cared.”
After leaving school Martyn worked for a while in his dad’s ceramic tile centre business but even then his head was full of dreams:
“…at that time I was playing in a lot of top amateur Golf events with a view to turning pro, so I guess i never really had a proper job.”
He told me that he saw the film ‘Brooklyn’ last week and loved it so when I asked him what his favourite film was he said:
“Thats just about impossible to answer..too many……. . Chariots of Fire comes to mind but then again…so many.”
When I asked about his favourite author and book there was no hesitation:
“Ok, think probably I would go for East Of Eden by Steinbeck on this one.”
Martyn’s answers make perfect sense, he is a spiritual guy with a strong sense of social responsibility who obviously enjoys stories about overcoming ‘struggles.’ Like most believers he appears to struggle at times with his own faith, at least that is what I concluded after listening to his song I searched for you:
Martyn admits that he has ‘the sweetest tooth in the world.’ And then stunned me by telling me that he suffers from claustrophobia.
“Don’t try and pin me down or enclose me in anything.”
The reason I was stunned by his revelation is that I know it can be an extremely debilitating condition. Sufferers tend to avoid lifts even if it means climbing twenty flights of stairs. Some can’t travel on aeroplanes because the thought of ‘not being able to get out of the door’ fills them with panic.I asked Martyn how he copes:
“Thankfully It’s nowhere near that bad for me. I Just don’t like anything over my face or the thought of being pinned down. I don’t mind lifts etc.”
I asked him if he has to eat healthily and exercise – like an athlete – due to his punishing schedule:
“Well yeh, especially as I’m not as young as I was. I go the gym most days at home and try to find time to work out when Im on the road as well. My eating habits have improved in recent years so I’m trying to look after myself. I also enjoy the odd hike in places like the Brecon Beacons. I think it’s travelling that is the most tiring thing. Performing itself wrings you dry (or it should) but the energy is so positive you don’t really feel it till a while after its all done.”
You tend not to think of yourself as an entertainer. Do you see your writing gift as a tool for you to use to communicate important messages to your audiences?
“In some ways I would have to say yes to that, but Im of course aware that what I do is a form of entertainment. I have always seen that as a form of collateral damage rather than something I set out to do. Im fortunate to have an audience that really listens and that gives me the chance to impart my ideas. A lot of us are not far from the same page.”
Bearing in mind that more people probably listen to songs than listen to politicians these days! Do you feel a responsibility to communicate the ‘right’ message when writing songs? Would you describe yourself as a sort of ’musical Guru’?
“No I wouldn’t be so bold but Im aware of the ‘blessing’ of having an audience that trusts you. With that comes a responsibility to both yourself and them. Honesty, integrity, passion and a real love and devotion to those who listen and to some extent rely on you are often vacant from both politicians and artists. I try to remember that”.
Do you ever have the urge to just write a ‘fun’ song with no message?
“No urge but I occasionally do it because I can”
Have you always aimed to set up a charity or did this idea come to you through writing about social situations?
“It just dawned on me a few years ago that it was the next natural step. I observed at close hand the work of a Trust that was set up many years ago by a friend and I thought why am i not doing something like this. The question was what work would we support and as we decided to change projects every six months it means we cover a wide rage of issues. We look for Grass root projects that don’t get coverage or much funding. I talk about them from the stage, we raise money for them and then move onto something else. It works and its an exciting new chapter that has opened up.”
When the next 6 month project has been decided do you write a song to specifically highlight it?
“Not always..it depends on how it moves me at the time. I may have something that says it already or it may not be necessary. the best songs come along when you have something you really want to say. But someone may have said it well already and there is no need to repeat the obvious”.
In one interview you said you almost envied someone like a plumber because he fixes the tap and his job is done. Do you feel as though your work will never be finished? If you didn’t have your talent for music or golf what job would you have liked to do?
“Who knows when the job is done? I think what Im trying to do now is just concentrate on doing good work. To look back whenever the day comes and be satisfied with the greater part of the work done. I’m not sure what else I might have done, but I like places of transit and like helping out so you may have found me in an Airport to a Hotel to pay the bills.”
Martyn’s Let Yourself Trust is named after a beautiful song he wrote. You can hear the song here:
I had noticed that Martyn likes to take photographs and post them on his Twitter page so I asked him if he had an interest in photography:
“I do but not in a technical way. I just frame a shot and press the button. I’m told I have an eye for it. The best songs are like good photographs.”
I asked him what three songs were special to him, these were his choices:
With Or Without You U2
Pacing The Cage Bruce Cockburn
American Trilogy Elvis Presley
If he could change one thing about himself, what would it be?
“The need to prove who I am.”
What headline would Martyn like to see on tomorrow’s newspaper?
“Donald Trump, rejected as the Republican Party’s nominee and indicted for inciting hatred and division.”
You can find out more about the singer and his charity work on his website: http://www.martynjoseph.net/
follow him on Twitter: @
Regular readers will know that I compare artistes to food. Martyn Joseph is a bowl of porridge!…….full of goodness and bursting with energy!
Thank you Martyn for taking time out to answer my questions and also special thanks to Nikki Woodhead from Pipe records for making it possible.