Martin Harley is not your average blue musician. His music is the result of years of traveling the world and writing songs with no intention of becoming a professional musician. Bouncing between solo performances and gigs with his band, The Martin Harley Band, he has become a staple in the European blues scene. Recently, while taking a break from recording his third solo album in Los Angeles, Harley spoke with the BandWagon about his career and what’s next for him as a musician.
“Blues is the quickest road between the soul and the mouth,” said Harley at the beginning the interview. Harley’s sound is a call back to early days of blues, bringing out the traditions listeners are accustom to. It carries the heavy soul of southern blues while at the same time projecting the expansiveness of a worldly sound.
Harley came into professional music much later than what is considered normal in today’s industry, cutting his first record in his late 20s. Leading up to his move into blues music, he studied art for seven years and also held a wide range of odd jobs such as a tree surgeon and breakfast chef. All of this though took a back seat to his love for traveling and experiencing new things. “I was traveling around Australia having adventures and writing songs on my guitar. When I got back home to England, I recorded some of them and I guess people liked them. I sold a few records and started getting more shows. It was a very organic experience really.” To give a sense of his worldliness, in 2005, he held the record for the world’s highest performance with a gig in Kathmandu for charity at 5540 meters above sea level. Now opening for ZZ Ward on an extensive North American tour, having The Martin Harley Band record, titled Drumrolls and Somersaults reach #1 on the iTunes U.K. blues chart, and finding similar success with his 2012 release, Mojo Fix, Harley’s career moving in many positive and new directions.
Harley’s music is modern and natural, neither contrived nor overreaching and seems to speak from his heart. As an Englishman, he brings an outside perspective to the genre and while for some it is easy to pigeonhole British blues musicians, Harley is a reminder that blues as a form of music does not belong to anyone or any place.
When speaking about his new album, Harley said he felt “like a kid in a candy store,” when it came to the resources of a professional recording studio. He said this album was much more experimental and he felt it was a true Martin Harley solo endeavor, exploring the eclectic side of his music.
As he establishes himself in the U.S., his plan is to continue writing and touring. His next project, keeping in the spirit of traveling and finding new experiences that has been such facet in his life, is to tour the country by motorcycle and record at many of the iconic and historic recording studios he finds along the way.
Martin Harley is an independent artist that embodies the “do it yourself” attitude that is so important in today’s music climate. What makes his work so impressive is how natural he has established his career and listeners will hear it in his music. He is a blues artist for the new era of blues and who without a doubt U.S. audiences will be hearing more from.
To find out more about this up-and-coming act, check out his site at martinharley.com.