The transformation of Matt Martino’s life and musical career is steadily becoming a great success story. While all dedicated musicians will inevitably encounter struggles and trying times on their journeys, there are qualities about Martino’s story that make his tale of comeback and success particularly uplifting.
At the turn of the century Matt Martino was turning heads with his up and coming urban pop band “The Stank”, in college towns throughout the Midwest. Based in Carbondale, Illinois, The Stank's popularity spread quickly and Martino and his band found themselves traveling in all directions to spread the word. Tracks from their first and only studio album “History” began popping up on college radio stations across the country and while Martino and The Stank were basking in their hard earned popularity and success, they knew they would have to conquer markets larger than the college towns they had been playing. So after two years of writing music, fine-tuning his playing skills and developing as a musician, Matt Martino took his band north to Chicago.
The next three years proved to be more challenging than anyone could have predicted. The challenges of moving to a new city and breaking into a large market were daunting. When each of the original band members left one by one to pursue other goals, The Stank became a revolving door of musicians, some of whom stayed a while, some of whom came and went quickly. But the band endured and Martino became the rock on which other musicians honed their skills. He was struggling to gain Chicago’s acceptance and desperately searching for a sense of belonging, as well as a future for himself as a musician.
It was around that time, while living in a friend’s extra bedroom, in an effort to be heard, Matt Martino began playing saxophone on the streets of Chicago.
Martino could regularly be heard on the benches in front of the 17th Church of Jesus Christ Scientist on the three way corner of Wacker Drive, Wabash Ave and Water Street. In later years, although admittedly humbling and solitary, Martino described those times as the most rewarding of his three years in Chicago and his new perspective became clear in his writing. It was at this time that Martino perfected the quality that makes his writing stand out so dramatically; the ability to speak thoughtfully yet simply….to take big ideas and make them small. His writing also developed a much more “human” and mature point of view, as is evidenced in works from this time such as “View From a Barstool”, “Moving On” and the simple yet well-crafted “Naturally”.
“I had set out to be a professional musician, and I was.” Martino said in an interview years later. “Maybe not in the capacity I had originally intended, but I was playing music every day. It was tough; I burned through a lot of life during that time. But it reminded me why I had started playing music in the first place.”
It was on the busy streets of Chicago that Matt Martino found his true voice. He was a poor, struggling musician trying desperately to be heard; a starving artist in the truest sense of the phrase. After three years of trying to gain favor in the city of Chicago, Matt Martino left the Windy City in search of more hospitable surroundings. He migrated south to Nashville, Tennessee.
The turnaround began immediately upon Martino’s arrival in Nashville and he fell in love with the city right away. After cutting his teeth in writer’s nights throughout the city, meeting other musicians and learning his way around Nashville’s intricate music circles, Martino made a name for himself among Nashville’s up-and-coming artists with a stand-out performance at Nashville’s legendary Bluebird Cafe. The buzz surrounding him has continued to grow ever since.
Matt Martino’s writing is a style
completely unique and rich with the influences of his past.
His voice and his playing are sounds distinctly his own and he
regularly surrounds himself with some of Nashville’s heavy
hitters to create a style that fluently meshes his own “urban
pop” sound with Nashville’s interest in acoustic, layered music.
The best is yet to come for Matt Martino and you can catch him
solo, with old friend and fellow Chicago defector Dennis Lee, or with his full band as he continually develops as a musician and as a person. In his quest to be heard, Matt Martino is well on his way to reaching his goal.