Martin Sexton is one of those guys who has been slugging it out on the singer/songwriter circuit for 25 years. Though he dangled his toe in the major label waters in the late 1990s, Sexton has been, by and large, a fiercely independent artist. Defying anyone and everyone’s attempts to pin him down — and confounding those who might expect him to be a typical folkie — Sexton has long-asserted his artistic independence by being one of the most soulful cats to ever sling an acoustic guitar. And, on his new Mixtape of the Open Road, he takes that dismissal of genres to a whole new level.
There’s a lot of talk lately about middle-class creatives — musicians who can make a decent living without ever “breaking.” Seems like you fit in there. Has that always/ever been enough? Or would you have preferred to go big?
I don’t think I quite fit that category. I am blessed with, and continue to be amazed by, the fans who keep coming and growing in number… and, yes, what a wonderful time it is to be an independent artist. To call it a “decent” living is not only inaccurate, but does not honor the gift I’m so grateful to have.
You’ve been a pretty consistent road dog for the past 20 years. Does it get to a point, somewhere in there, that the road feels more like home than home does?
As a recording artist and a touring artist, I feel very at home on the road, naturally, but nothing could compare with being with my family on the Upper Saranac Lake in the Adirondack Mountains. That’s where my heart lives. And although our house recently burned down, it’s like church — the hallowed ground remains and we will rebuild our beloved camp.
The varied conceit for your Mixtape record… did it come before or after you had the songs?
It came after I had the songs. The songs dictated to me that the concept of this record would be that of a mixtape as they were pulling me in 12 different directions. There are some throwback-feeling tunes on Mixtape that recall a simpler, seemingly more joyful time in the world.
Do you feel like we, collectively, need to be reminded to just slow down and enjoy life? Music is certainly a great way to communicate things like that, even subliminally.
Yes. I made this record in a joyful space and, if that reminds people to stop and smell the roses, then that’s a beautiful thing. While I kept some of the subject matter light or simple, I also wanted to retain the message — unity, hope, and dream chasing — what I’ve always strived to convey through my music.
People describe you and your music in all sorts of ways. How do you describe what you do?
To describe myself… hmm… I’d have to say soul music, as the music is coming from my heart and soul. It comes from an honest place, and I genuinely mean it.
This article originally appeared on Folk Alley.