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Meet Tony Martin

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tony Martin.

Tony, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve been surrounded by music all my life. My father is a gospel soloist, so church music was a big influence on my musical development. Every Sunday was filled with shouts, improvisations, and soulful expressions of the divine. These high energy performances, especially from my father who often lead these excursions, have had a big impact on how I personally perform music to this day. Naturally, I was also exposed to oldies, soul, funk, and R&B music by my father as well. I also feel pretty lucky to have heard his shower performances. If only you could have been there…

Another important influence on me growing up was my Grandpa Juan, who played his saxophone and clarinet almost everyday of his life (while working full-time in an airplane parts factory). He showed me the ways of Jazz and Blues, particularly Swing and early Rhythm and Blues styles which would eventually impact me later on. Sometimes I would sit as he played for hours. Soon I discovered music of my own and began listening to Punk Rock nearly everyday after school. My little brother Kevin and I started a little hardcore duo of our own as well as playing with other punk-influenced bands, and thus began my journey of playing music with him (which continues to this day).

Through my love of the group Bad Brains, I rediscovered Jazz, particularly bebop. The fast, high energy, aggressive playing of that style of modern jazz felt similar to the punk music I was listening to. This was the spark that made me take up the upright bass instead of buying a car (also instigated by my dad). I studied jazz in college and majored in music, eventually moving to the Bay Area to play and perform the music I loved. I returned to SoCal to start my main project, Brainstory, with my brother. The goal was to finally unite all the influences and music we liked. After playing what seemed like a million gigs in the LA and larger SoCal area, we paid our dues and eventually signed with the Big Crown Label out of NYC. This resulted in the full-length album BUCK, recorded at the Diamond Mine studio in Brooklyn and produced by legend Leon Michels. Tours happened and I started traveling more for performances. The rest is history. I’ve also had the pleasure of playing and/or recording with the Afro-Colombian group YANGA, E Arenas, Chicano Batman, Daptone Records, the Salas Brothers, Van Dyke Parks, and many more in the LA area. I also want to give a shout out to the many mentors I’ve had over the years. Without their inspiration and guidance, I wouldn’t be where I am today. You know who you are, I love you and THANK YOU.

Has it been a smooth road?
The phrase “nothing worthwhile is easy” comes to mind. I like to think that sacrifice is an integral part of love. I love what I do and I’ve sacrificed a lot. The beginning of my career was filled with endless gigs at night (with work early in the morning), long drives, rehearsals, personal practice on instruments, and time taken to write music. And if you want to really pursue a music career you gotta do it everyday for a long time until you actually see any results. The bags under your eyes can get pretty big. It sure wasn’t easy and it still isn’t. Negotiating money, fighting for what you are worth, talking to promoters, labels, and signing contracts isn’t fun. Proving your value through your art at the same time is definitely challenging. I didn’t set out to own a business, I originally just wanted to play. But the reward is all worth it. Music is my purpose in this world. It fulfills my soul to write and perform for an audience. Without a formal religious practice, it’s my vessel to the connecting to that mysterious higher power. It gives me so many things in my life. So the sacrifice and struggle is a necessary thing to deal with. You gotta do what you gotta do. The struggles are always there but my love for the craft carries me on.

Can you give our readers some background on your music?
As a professional musician, I do much more than playing the electric and upright bass, the skill which I am most know for. As far as instruments, I also play the keyboard, guitar and sing. And although playing, recording and performing on these instruments gives me great joy, I also have a love for writing songs and composing music of all kinds. I love to write instrumental music as well as songs with lyrics and vocals. It is hard to pinpoint what I’m proud of, I’m both equally proud of the music I’ve recorded and the energy I bring when I perform live. I think it’s that same energy that sets me apart from the others. I’m always striving for the raw spiritual abandon to translate in my music and I think people can hear it in what I do.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I think the entertainment industry as a whole is severely affected by the global Covid-19 pandemic. Performance Venues are going to be the last business’ to be opened up and with no ending of the coronavirus in sight it’s hard to say what is going to happen. So far, livestreams have for the most part, haven’t been an equal replacement to live shows and with lots of venues going into bankruptcy, it’s also hard to tell what will be left once this is all over. Things will have to be definitely different, I’m sure people will find new ways to promote and perform their music. The impact this time will have on the trends of music will also be revealed in the coming 5-10 years. The various jobs and roles of the music industry will also have to adapt to this new world. How? We’ll just have to wait and see. If only I had a crystal ball….that or a cold Topo Chico. Sometimes you just have to give it up to the universe. I know I’ll most likely will still be here creating.


  • Recording Bass: 100$ a track
  • Brainstory Performance: 1,000$ min

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All photos by Carlos Garcia

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