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Talk Music: Jennifer Martinez enjoys the simple things

By BY MELISSA CROWE
June 26, 2013 at 1:26 a.m.
Updated June 27, 2013 at 1:27 a.m.


If you go

WHAT: Jennifer Martinez album release party

WHEN: 10 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Greek's 205, 205 E. Constitution St.

COST: Free

Before laying down tracks on her first solo album, Jennifer Martinez made sure she knew all the ins-and-outs of the music business - running bars and venues, sound engineering and stage performance.

After growing up in the Texas Panhandle, Martinez graduated high school in Victoria and moved off to central Texas to write her songs.

With her freshman album due out Friday, she caught up with Get Out to reflect on the process, her hang-ups and finding support to make the dream come true.

Who is the album's title track, 'Simple Things,' about?

If you want to know who I am, that's it all right there laid out. It doesn't get much easier than that.

Maybe it all went back to just getting myself out there and to finally doing it. Simple things affect me - then maybe that's just subliminally what that CD had to be.

What inspired you to become a musician?

I left a Steve Earle concert and decided right then that I wanted to be a songwriter. I got really hooked on Patty Griffin and Lucinda Williams - a lot of the older Texas songwriters - then it just went from there. I just wanted to play and write.

I was pretty much on my own when was 19, more than 10 years ago. I just started hitting open mic nights. ... I was trying to figure out if I really wanted to do it. I knew I loved it, but could I do it?

What were you hung up on?

I did really want it. It was a matter of am I good enough.

I was around music so much, and I made it such a part of my life. I started learning about sound engineering - what they like about musicians, what they don't, setting up crews and stages.

It came to the point where I loved to play, and I thought I was great, but there's a lot of people who think that.

Did anything push you over the edge?

There were a couple of years where I stopped playing music completely. It was the most miserable two years of my life. That was in 2004 and 2005. I was in New Braunfels at that point.

I just stopped.

I got a job managing a bar, and it was my baby. I could run a business, but it was horrible. I have never been sadder.

That's when I decided that it was something I had to do, and I couldn't live without it. Whether or not anybody else liked it, it was something I had to do.

After playing with Jarrod Birmingham's band for the past few years, how is being on your own?

They're both equally gratifying. He portrays a message I totally agree with. His writing is unbelievable.

It's just a very different feeling. I get to support him, but when I do my own, I get to share me and my thoughts.

You're putting yourself out there. When I sing with Jarrod, I'm in the background, and it's his voice and his thoughts.

With me, it's my turn to tell my story.

What's been your greatest inspiration to make this album?

Life.

Every day that you go through that, other people go through this. If it weren't for my family supporting me - not to say I wouldn't have done it, I would have still done it - they made it a whole lot easier. I don't know how I could have gotten luckier in having such a huge support group around me.

If you're going to do it, go for it, and they're behind you 100 percent. You just put everything you've got into it.

Jarrod, he's given me the opportunity to be on stage all the time. That's helped me tremendously, too. He believed in me, and that helped push me and get everything done that I felt I needed to get done. If I wasn't going to do this for myself, it was for them to say thank you for believing in me.

What's it like being a female in the industry in South Texas?

It's hard, but it's doable. It should be able to make you stronger and prove a point even more. The majority of people don't like to listen to female artists.

The biggest thing is you want to be respected. You want people to like your music.

People used to say, "Oh you're young and you're pretty, and you'll make it." Ten years later, now I'm like I wish I were young and pretty. Before, I got so angry with them, but perspectives change.

A lot of people think, "Well how did she get that? What did she have to do to get that?" Everyone has a preconceived notion, but I know the truth. I worked my way up, and I worked just as hard as everyone else did and I did not take any shortcuts. I've worked just as hard to earn it, and as long as I've earned it, I'll always be comfortable where I'm at.

Some of the tracks seem autobiographical. How much of the album comes from your personal stories?

For the most part, they're all my stories, except for the songs I didn't write. The songs I didn't write, they mean something to me at least.

They all came from mostly my life. There's a couple in there of lives that I imagined, things I overheard someone saying or thinking what would I feel like in this position. "Way Deep Within" is all heartfelt. If I couldn't express any more of my own feelings, I would put someone else's feelings in and draw from a different place.

What's been the most gratifying part of making this album?

Finishing it. Everything happened so quickly; I enjoyed every minute of it. I'm so proud for the finished product - it took about a year to finally get everything perfectly in order. But I believe everything happens when it's supposed to, no matter how long it takes. Now that it's finished, it's like what's next? I'm ready. It was a beautiful process and a beautiful thing, and I will never forget.

Were you trying to share a message with this album?

I'm thinking and hoping that each song is different enough and sounds unique enough, and hopefully, everyone will be able to hear one song that they can completely relate to.

If they are having a bad day and can listen to and sing along with it and it makes them feel better for three minutes, that's what I want to accomplish. If I can heal anybody, it's always nice to feel like someone else understands as well.

Which artists were there to pick you up?

Susan Gibson and Paty Griffin's songs were the soundtrack to my life.

We were going to record a Susan Gibson song, "Christmas in Houston," but I told them no because it wasn't nearly as good, and it doesn't have that meaning yet. I want to record it on the next album.

To me, I was living my life, and you don't always make the best choice, but you're living life, and you're going to figure that out. Sometimes, you just want to be left alone and believe or know that you're doing it right. No matter what anybody else says or thinks, even people who haven't seen you in so long, there's no right for them to pass judgment.

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