Ryan Martin isn’t afraid to face the dark.
Through his music, he boldly explores the stigmas of addiction and loss and delves into the pain attached to heartbreak and self-doubt. His subject matter is heavy, to be sure. It’s the stuff that has the potential to weigh upon the soul and cloud the mind indefinitely. It’s what Martin channels into his songs as a way to cope, reflect, and start anew.
“It’s hard to maintain having those feelings on a day-to-day basis,” the New York City songwriter observes. “Those things linger for me, so that’s why I keep writing about them.”
Perhaps the lingering is good. Without it, Martin might never have recorded Gimme Some Light. His sophomore album, which follows For All the Beautiful Losers, touches directly upon subjects which Martin himself has faced and ones to which society at large can relate.
Themes like love, death, and identity figure prominently in the tracks, which are solemn, moody, and unapologetically honest all at once.
Although Martin, who started crafting his own lyrics at 14, is based in the Big Apple, he chose to record his second album upstate at Artfarm Recording in Accord. In case the spot sounds vaguely familiar, it’s the same location used by Hudson Valley favorites The Felice Brothers and Nels Cline.
For Martin, however, the opportunity to record there was a stroke of fate.
“The guy who I made my first album with in Brooklyn moved to Accord and, coincidentally, next to Artfarm,” he says. “I went to check out the space and I loved it.”
Martin made the jaunt to the Hudson Valley for a year before he felt the album was complete. Moving beyond the typified Americana music of his first record, he made a point to explore new sounds and to let inspiration take him where it would. As a result, his melodies fluidly interweave genres, hopping from country twang and Appalachian folk to modern rock and sweet pop.
“I think it’s become much more dynamic,” he says of his sound. “It has to do with having such a wealth of pop music [available] and being inspired by it.”
If early praise of the album is any indication, then Martin’s unconstrained style is paying off. Already, he’s been compared to the likes of Neil Young and Bob Dylan by Right Cord Music and Rick Danko and The Band by Glide Magazine.
For the musician himself, the praise is humbling. Those artists, along with names like Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, and the Carter Family, are icons to him, and ones who inspire him time and time again.
Now that Gimme Some Light is out in the world, Martin looks forward to sharing his melodies across the United States. First up, he’s performing at The Colony in Woodstock on June 9. Leslie Mendelson, who recently opened for The Who at Madison Square Garden, will kick off the show for him that night.
“It’s one of my favorite venues I’ve ever played,” he enthuses of the Woodstock music mecca. Although this is his first time headlining a show at The Colony, it’s his second time performing there, since he opened for Jim Kweskin and Happy Traum in June 2018. After that show, he’ll do two more performances in New York City and Kingston, respectively, before departing on a west coast tour with his new band in mid-July.
As he works his way across the country and eventually back to New York, he plans to release a few outtakes from Gimme Some Light and maybe even write a few more melodies along the way. Of course, he’ll also perform all the tracks from the new record, including “Say You Love Me,” the video for which he shot in Beacon and Kingston, and “Death of Love,” which he filmed in Rosendale and Accord.
While Martin is excited to share his new album with an ever-expanding audience, he’s also happy to pass along his wisdom to the next generation. In fact, he’s doing just that with his three-year-old daughter, who’s already making up lyrics and tapping the ivories — so to speak — on her very own pink toy piano.
“She’s got some of me,” he jokes.
Ryan Martin & Leslie Mendelson
The Colony, Woodstock
June 9, 7-10 p.m.