Photo | Courtesy of Galen Martin.
Band: Galen Martin & the Crutches
Date: Thursday, June 3 at 8 p.m.
Venue: The Peoples Room of Mobile, 78 St. Francis St., thepeoplesroommobile.com
Tickets: $25, available through Eventbrite
For 20 years, Mississippi-based musician Galen Martin has been a part of the Pine Belt music scene around Hattiesburg. After being a member of several music projects, Martin and his backing band, the Crutches (featuring The Royal Horses and Katrina Miller), are stepping to the forefront with their debut album, “Unknowing Villain.” This collection of sonic stories from Martin’s perception of Mississippi is a mix of Americana styles that shines with eclectic forms of modern folk and bluegrass. Martin will be giving the Azalea City an intimate performance of “Unknowing Villain” at The Peoples Room of Mobile. Lagniappe Music Editor Steve Centanni spoke with Martin about his corner of the Mississippi music scene as well as transforming the world around him into unforgettable songs.
Steve Centanni: You hail from Hattiesburg; the Piney Woods has such a rich music scene filled with a lot of singer-songwriters doing everything from folk to bluegrass. How would you describe the music scene around there?
Galen Martin: Thankfully, I am from here and I’ve got to witness so many great acts come from the Hattiesburg and the Pine Belt, such as Cary Hudson and several others who have done so much for this small corner of the world that we call home. I think it has a really unique sound that I’m happy to be a tiny little part of. It’s definitely a special thing.
Centanni: You’ve been doing music in different projects for two decades, but this album is the first album that is all your own. What led you to finally concentrate on your own stuff?
Martin: It’s been a long time coming, for sure. It’s been years of writing something like 50 songs, just to come up with one good one that you like enough to release. The timing just lined up where I didn’t have any other band with a major project going on, and it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. It just lined up perfectly where I had the material and had the time. I just really wanted to make it happen and went out there and did it. Hopefully, it’ll turn out to be everything that I wanted it to be. God knows that I’ve put in the blood, sweat and tears to make it happen.
Centanni: As far as your songwriting, you consider yourself a storyteller. For you, what kind of story makes for a good song?
Martin: Well, you look back at the amazing storyteller songwriters like Jim Croce or John Prine, and to me, there has to be a story worth telling. Then, once you have a story worth telling, the process becomes a challenge. You could write a short story, but you have three to five minutes to narrow a story down into a song format. It’s all about having a story worth telling and telling it concisely enough where people will be entertained by it for four minutes or so.
Centanni: This project has to be special since it’s your first. With that being said, I know you had to be selective when it came to who joined you in the studio. Tell me about the Crutches.
Martin: I’m a member of the Pine Belt Pickers, which is a band that has been around Hattiesburg for ages. We’ve had several members come and go over the years. Through that, I started this little pet project on the side, and I’ve had a few members come and go through that. They’ve been channeled through the Pine Belt Pickers. The guys who helped me start the Crutches have gone on. I’ve been fortunate enough to find Kenny [Paul Mann], Shelby [Kemp] and Daniel [Firth] from The Royal Horses, who are just phenomenal musicians on their own.
The Royal Horses are such an amazing band. They’re all part of this outfit. I’m beside myself to have them be part of what I’m doing musically. Kenny used to be the full-time bass player with the Pine Belt Pickers. Through him, the rest of the guys came on board. Then, Katrina Miller, who is just phenomenal, has played music with Cary Hudson. We met in a random cover band years ago, and we’ve always kept in touch and played a little music together here and there. I could just gush for ages about how fortunate I am to have those four individuals make this album with me.
Centanni: As far as going into the studio, what was it like recording your first album?
Martin: It was fantastic. We went to a studio in New Orleans called Downman Sounds Studio. John Michael Early and Scott Sibley of Flow Tribe run that studio down there. It’s a straight-up professional environment. They’ve got the place decked out with double reinforced walls and a sound booth and top-notch equipment. They’re so hands-on with the music and care about the product coming through the studio. I couldn’t have asked for more. I could rave about those guys forever.
Centanni: Tell me about some of the stories that you’re telling on “Unknowing Villain.”
Martin: I live in Hattiesburg. Before that, I was born and raised in Yazoo County. I don’t know why it matters, but geography plays such a big part in what people have to say and the stories they tell. I’ve got songs that go back to the flatlands of the Delta that makes you think about working and sweating in the heat and grinding just to make a dollar. I want to tell that story. I want people to visualize what I’ve witnessed and been a part of. Now that I’m in the Pine Belt, I want to tell that story. I want people to feel like they’re taking a little passenger seat drive with me.
Centanni: As far as the show in Mobile, what will it be like?
Martin: Hopefully, it’ll be a packed house. It should be fun, but my buddies in the band have played there before and talked about how great it was. It’ll be an intimate, storyteller-type thing. It’ll be low-key, intimate and a personal type of show.
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