Martyn Bailey first came to the attention of Revival Synth back in 2013 with his beautiful track 'Little Lie'.
His love of all things a-ha and their vocalist Morten Harket, is evident in Martyn's approach to his music, very similar vocal in my opinion.
Although he's heavily influenced by their sound, he takes his music to another level, not afraid to experiment into different genres in search of his unique sound.
Martyn took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his previous projects and his forthcoming album.
Q. Hi, Martyn. It’s been a few years since the last Q&A. How have you been keeping?
I’ve been very well thanks Andy. It has been a long time! I have been dipping in and out of the music scene in terms of trying to keep up with all the new music coming out having not released anything myself… and what a pleasure it’s been! So many great tracks coming out and such a high standard, better than most of the dross we hear on mainstream radio in my opinion. I’ve got into artists I’m not familiar with thanks to Revival Synth, Rob Harvey’s Synth City show and Jimm Kjelgaard’s The Sol of Synth Pop shows. The artists I am particularly loving right now are Empathy Test, EMT, Shelter, and anything Mark R Bebb does. I have become good friends with Mark over the last couple of years having gone to see Shelter play when they released their Soar album.
Q. Your last album, ‘Dolls’ was released 5 years ago and then you seemed to go off the radar, any particular reason for that?
It was never my intention to do that. It kind of just happened and then before I knew it 5 years had passed! It was a mixture of things really, I had a young family so I wanted to spend time with them and also my work life changed. I became a contractor and some of the roles I had were very time consuming. Also, my close friend and producer moved away for a big opportunity. I had worked on my first 2 albums with him and the Apt album that I worked on with Jonteknik. I was very reluctant to work with someone else as they just got me and my style of music and what I was trying to deliver musically. So, it was never my intention to have such a long break. I tried to do something a couple of years back but it didn’t happen. I had a load of tracks still in the bank (so to speak) that did not make the first 2 albums to record if the opportunity arose…
Q. Did lockdown give you the opportunity to dust off the cobwebs and return to the recording studio ?
Ha ha! Well I didn’t think it would! I wanted it to but was not sure how to do it. At a stab in the dark I emailed my old producer late summer last year to see how he was in the new Covid world we live in and to see if he knew anyone that could help me record some demos. To my delight and surprise, he came back and said because of Covid he was back in the UK and had time to work on some new music with me! I was ecstatic! So we did some video calls and talked about the kind of direction I wanted to take these new songs on and see if we can get an album done. We spoke for hours and I played tracks to help determine the style I wanted to go for with the songs I’d written, some old and some new! Over the next few weeks I was sending him vocal melodies and lyrics over the phone and references to songs I wanted it to be in the style of. Within a week I was getting 30 second sound clips from him for 2 or 3 ideas I had sent and they blew me away. We now have about 6 or 7 songs done currently so it is extremely exciting!
Q. Your first album, ‘Red Sky Supernova’ started out as a project with your band, what took it on the solo route?
Indeed it did. I started up a covers band called ‘The Channel’ with some friends and it was always the long term aim to try and write our own album and release it. I had some lyrics written down still from years back so we could make a start with some of those I thought. I had a bee in my bonnet that we should do a space themed album as thought it was a good time to do it and had always wanted to do one… Plus I had thought of the perfect title for it…’Red Sky Supernova’ and the guys seemed to like it. Result! Guitarist Stephen Dibble had started doing some experimentation with this title in mind, to try and make some weird and wonderful sounds through his guitar that were other worldly should we say. He came up with the genius idea of playing his guitar with a bow from a violin going through an effects pedal and the tune he came up with doing this just hit me. I said to the guys that’s it! This is Red Sky Supernova! The opening intro tune and 1st verse you hear in the Red Sky Supernova track is what Stephen played that day on his guitar with the violin bow. Stephen went away and wrote the lyrics to the verse and then I wrote a chorus and another verse and the rest is history! I had written some other songs with vocal melodies that I wanted to sing to the guys and try and shape in to some form of song. One was called ‘Farewell Planet Earth’ and the other ‘Panic in the Skies’ so started to work on these with the guys. Stuart Spicer who played keyboards and bass had written a brilliant piece of music in these sessions that went on to become ‘Jupiters Tale’ on the Red Sky Supernova album. With the stresses and flurries of life, family and work, it was getting harder and harder for us all to find the time we were all available to go in to the studio and record some demos. I asked the guys if I could make a head start for us and go and record some demos in a real studio, as my brother had introduced me to a music producer friend of his that was ultra talented and as a birthday gift paid for me to have a day session with him to record some demos. The guys agreed and off I went. I took 3 songs lyrics and vocal melodies with me to try and get them all down as demos in the one day if I could… These were a song called ‘Brink’ (never made it to the Red Sky Supernova’ album cut… but could it return one day…) ‘Panic in the Skies’ and the now fans favourite - and Andy’s - ‘Little Lie’. I went to the studio and managed to get all 3 done and was absolutely blown away by the results. I took them back to the guys and they loved it, they were so pleased with the results. In the end as much as we tried we just couldn’t find the time to continue with the album as a band, as unit. This was such a shame and even now miss the idea of writing and playing songs live with the guys. I asked them if they minded if I went away and tried to finish recording the album and they were very supportive and said yes go for it. These guys are very good friends of mine and extremely talented, if only we had started earlier in life who knows what might have been. They are still involved with me now though and collaborate with me from time to time, Stephen Dibble plays guitars on a few tracks from the ‘Red Sky Supernova’ album. So here’s to them… Stuart Spicer and Stephen ‘Dibbs’ Dibble cheers lads! I was so pleased with the debut album that I wanted to some how take it to the stage in like a sci-fi musical. I worked out this whole story to tell of this pilot becoming an astronaut and his first journey in space with his co-pilot robot ‘Monty’ and how it goes on to go horribly wrong heading in to a supernova…not just any supernova but a Red Sky Supernova! All the songs on the album would appear in the show in album order and you would be taken on this pilots journey through his life in flashbacks taking you up to the present when he is floating around in space having survived the supernova. The co-pilot robot ‘Monty’ character is taken from the original ‘Little Lie’ video that was edits of an animation video called ‘Love’ by the very talented Gina ‘Nanogirl’ Miller who I met on YouTube and Facebook. I wanted to re-create that robot costume and have someone play Monty in the show. Maybe this show will happen and see the light of day one day… who knows!? I would love it if it did that’s for sure!
Q. Why was the album title changed from Red Sky Supernova to Gravity Zero?
Good question. After releasing Red Sky Supernova in September 2013 it was starting to get a lot of attention on social media and a big thanks to yourself Andy for discovering Little Lie and putting it on here and to people like Rob Harvey from his Synth City radio show and Jimm Kjelgaard from Eminent Sol for them plugging me on their shows over the years and Jimm naming my album in his top 10 albums for that year. All this gained me a lot of attention and it was crazy. I thought I’m just a normal lad from West Sussex that sung in his bedroom through his teens dreaming of being a pop start one day and singing live in front of thousands of people lol, a dream that so many of us share. I then got contacted through Facebook by a great guy called Gary Taylor and said he loved my music and was going to plug it for me. The next thing I know he is contacting me saying Carlos Peron of Yello fame wanted to talk to me and sign me on his label. It all happened so fast and I signed up to Carlos’s label and Warner Chappell publishing deal and re-released the album in 2014 but it had to have a different title as it had to exist in it’s own right now that I was signed. So, I chose another title from the album to be the new title ‘Gravity Zero’ which is also my favorite track from the Red Sky Supernova album that I had written for my wife. So the album was re-released under the new title ‘Gravity Zero’.
Q. You have a new album coming out this year, please tell us more about it...
Well, what a year it’s been! Whoever knew that in our lifetime we would see a global pandemic that we experienced in Covid-19? It was like being in a movie, a sci-fi movie where we were all locked down, the streets empty, the motorways empty, everything stopped. Apocalyptic almost. It reminded me of when Tom Cruise ran down an empty street in New York in the movie Vanilla Sky, when normally it would be filled with thousands of people. So, so surreal, with people in serious trouble and losing their lives to a terrible virus. So, after all this I wanted to make an album that is pop-tastic! That was nearly the album title by the way but then I didn’t think that it was very Martyn Bailey so went against it lol. I wanted to make something that people will turn to, to forget everything and feel good when they hear it. In that I mean something that it is really poppy and catchy and all the things you want from your favourite 80’s albums but with today’s twist on it. Of course, there has to be a bit of melancholy in there or it just wouldn’t be me would it…?! Lol. I’ve been listening to a whole range of stuff this last year and new artists I’ve not heard of before that has helped influence this next chapter of life in my music, as well as my all time favourites in A-ha, Depeche Mode, Kate Bush, David Bowie, and Simple Minds. Current main stream artists like The Weeknd, Harry Styles, Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, Miley Cyrus, have all got my groove on. I also saw a film recently that I’d never seen called ‘The Guest’ with that bloke out of Downton Abbey errr what’s his name… Ah yes Dan Stevens! and it had a real cool 80’s vibe and a killer 80’s vibe soundtrack to match and this has had a big part to play on this new album. Then we have artists I’ve been hearing on the radio shows I mentioned earlier like my good friends EMT - that ‘Diva’ track is killer BTW! – Shelter with my buddy Mark R Bebb – their ‘1984’ track they did was on repeat for 2 years I think… and my kids love it lol! Also, Empathy Test’s ‘Love Moves’ track knocked me for six on an emotional level so that was good. ‘Goodbye Europa’ by Jeff McCall was another great track I loved. Ahh, so many to mention, but yes a whole bunch of stuff that blew up my electronic skirt as Mr Harvey would say…and help me shape and style this new album. The title being ‘Melodies of a Dream Thief’ there’s an exclusive for you! But then maybe not, as it is on my Facebook page lol.
Q. Do you plan to release any singles from it?
Yes that’s the plan! I have the first single planned and the second one… I can’t wait for people to hear it. My wife said it is such a comeback song, lol because I’ve been away from making music so long she agreed with me that this is the one to release first. I think it is a great track that you possibly wouldn’t expect from me, so really can’t wait to put it out there and see what the reaction is. I expect it will be released in June sometime! The second track I plan to release is very personal to me. I wanted to try and wrap up in one song how I got into music and wanted to be a singer/songwriter. From being teased and bullied at school and how I would deal with that and turn it in to a safe place of music and singing and dreams… so a very personal track with a positive vibe from the negativity it was created from.
Q. How will the new album differ from its predecessors ‘Gravity Zero’ & ‘Dolls’?
‘Dolls’ my follow up album to ‘Gravity Zero’ was a very experimental album for me and I didn’t get to promote it as much as I would have liked. It has darker tracks on it in ‘Dolls’ and ‘Hunter Becomes the Hunted’, ‘These Skies’ and ‘Sky Walker’, but then it also had poppy tracks like ‘Ten’ and ‘Put Your Sex On Me’ and the Pink Floyd influenced track ‘I Still Dream of Antarctica’. I still can’t wait to play these tracks in a live band set-up which will be done at some point I promise you! Along with some Gravity Zero album tracks and tracks from this new album! It’s a good excuse to go out and play and join the family synth circuit! I need to recruit the musicians once the Covid rules have all lifted and get rehearsing for live shows and get out there!
This new album ‘Melodies of a Dream Thief’ will just have a good feel vibe is all I can say, and doing what gave the word POP to pop music, POPULAR! But it will still have that dreamy atmospheric feel that I love and has been present on my previous albums.
Q.What kind of 'sound', production wise, did you have in the back of your mind, prior to entering the studio?
I always want the production from a sound perspective to be BIG in my music. Extravagant lol. But not too over produced if that makes sense. This one is no different but it’s the vibe you are creating that is important and on this record I want it to be an album you go to on a hot summers day or evening and blow your worries and cobwebs away. Go for that summer evening’s drive with ‘Melodies of a Dream Thief’ banging out your speakers lol. That is what I went into the studio wanting with this album. I want to take you back to the best tracks and vibes of the 80’s with this album, bring back everything that was cool about the 80’s, bring back that longing cool 80’s nostalgia in everyone. And not to forget get new listeners too. I’m hoping that kids of today that love music like The Weeknd will also dig my new album as this artist has also been a big reference for me on this album.
Q. What are your favourite tracks from the new album and why?
Ahhh, sorry guys and gals I can’t give you titles. I can’t disclose that information yet. I’m building up to releases and don’t want to give anything away at this point. It’s all part of the fun and hope it will be the less said the better.
Q. Did you call on any other musicians to play or guest on the album?
I do want to do this. I have spoken to Peter Steer from the tip top Tenek – lovely bloke BTW – about playing guitar on a track and if we can do it we will. I need to work out the logistics of it and see if it’s possible as I know Pete is a very busy man. I’ve also been in touch with the brilliant Mark R Bebb about collaborating at some point on a future album I hope.
Q. What formats are you planning to release it on?
I’d loved to release a vinyl album at some point, may be for this album… I don’t know, but it is a possibility. It will be on download platforms and a CD release for sure!
Q. Are you planning any videos for the album?
Yes I hope so. There are plans but I need to ask some very nice people for some favours…
Q. You signed to Subculture Records label 2014/15, are you still involved with the label?
Not currently as was for a set time period. I am very thankful to the label and Carlos for what they did and releasing my first two albums, it was a very memorable time and felt very humbled.
Q. Do you plan to take the album on the road, if so, will The Channel be joining you?
Yes for sure, this is the plan… to play live! I don’t think The Channel guys will be joining me unfortunately, but you never know! I want to promote ‘Melodies of a Dream Thief’ by playing it live and including all favourite tracks from my other two albums… ‘Red Sky Supernova’ – I prefer the original release title - and ‘Dolls’.
Q. What’s your opinion on Spotify?
I think it’s great for getting your music out there, especially as an artist trying to break through but the returns are not worthwhile unless you get put on an official Spotify playlist, if this is what you want then the aim for an artist has got to be to try and do that if you want to try and make money from your music. Otherwise, it is a great way to get your music out there as a hobby or whatever, and just enjoy it and get it heard.
Q. You and your good friend, Jon Russell, formed the duo ‘APT’. Do you plan to revisit that project in the future?
Who knows what the future holds! Jon is soooo talented and is always releasing great music, he’s a very busy man. There are no plans at the moment, but you can never say never.
Q. It’s no secret that you’re a huge fan of Morten Harket. I bet it was a dream come true for you to record an album of a-ha covers with Jon?
Indeed it was, it was a very special time that was had in making that album. Make no mistake, singing A-ha songs is a huge task and no one can compete with that voice of Mr Harket’s in his prime. Vocal olympics I heard a critic describe one A-ha album. There is just no voice like Morten Harket’s. I have always said that and many agree. It was Chris Martin from Coldplay I think that had said if it wasn’t for his love of A-ha there would have been no Coldplay, high praise indeed. Then U2, Oasis, Keane, and The Pet Shop Boys are other big artist fans of the Norwegian musical trio that are A-ha. Jon and I just tried to do our own spin on some of their songs, strip them down and have some fun. Having sung along to A-ha records since 14 years old some similarities have come across that can’t be helped lol. But seriously though what A-ha’s music gave me over the years I will always be thankful. They were like pop superhero film stars to me whilst growing up and their music is the soundtrack to my life in many respects. I hadn’t found who I was as a child and always felt like a very deep soul, idolising A-ha and their music helped me through school and gain confidence in myself. I thank them for that and that period in my life as it helped mold who I would become and find myself. A-ha’s second album Scoundrel Days was particularly special to me and still is now. The drama, the story telling, the images the music would paint in the mind. That is what I wanted to create, and hoped that someday a kid would be listening to my music like that with the same feelings and thoughts I had. Then help them get interested in music and go out and make music of their own. It’s an expression music, and so it is very personal on how every artist goes out and expresses themselves through it. That’s the magic!
Q. Were you surprised to see him revealed as The Viking on The Mask?
Yes, I was very surprised as it is not the type of thing that Morten Harket would normally do, and he said this himself. I didn’t know it was him on the first performance as just watching it in the background while the kids had it on and I didn’t take a lot of notice, but when I watched it on catch-up TV after someone said they thought it was him I watched it back up very loud and instantly knew that it was him lol. Good on him for doing it and was good to remind the UK public on how great A-ha were and still are. I think his videos had the most hits on the Masked Singer YouTube channel which says something about how popular A-ha still are, all credit to them considering the other artists involved this time.
Q. Do you feel the synth scene has changed since your last outing?
Absolutely, what I have noticed the most now is the standard. It just seems to get higher and higher and all credit to those budding artists out there. I said this to Rob Harvey and Jimm Kjelgaard. It’s so great hearing all these amazing artists as it inspires me! The last 10 or so years has really seen synths come back to fore in modern music I’m pleased to say. It’s like it’s never been away. Miley Cyrus is doing it, The Weeknd is smashing it with tracks like Blinding Lights and I’m absolutely loving it. The feeling and feel good factor that synths bring is a pleasure to uphold and hold dear. Those nostalgic 80’s vibes are coming back and are here to stay I think and it is EPIC! Lol… see what I did there. (Track 2 of my first album lol)
Q. Have any new artists caught your ear?
Yes indeed, loving the Empathy Test album ‘Monsters’ that they released recently. Anything Mark R Bebb does, especially the Shelter stuff like the ‘Soar’ album. EMT I love, and so many more that I can’t think of right now. Listening to Synth City every Tuesday always helps me discover new talent. Thanks Mr Harvey!
Q. Finally, Martyn. Little Lie, what a beautiful song! would you ever consider re-releasing it?
Yes maybe. I think if this happened it would be if I released a compilation album of my favourite tracks I’ve done so far but with new mixes. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.
Thanks again Martyn for taking time out of your busy schedule. Good luck with the album release.
Is there anything further you would like to add?
Yes, thanks for having me on here to start with. I’m trying to build up again and get a fan base going after the long hiatus and this will really help! It’s been so long. I love doing things like this so it’s been a pleasure to do. I thank you kindly sir and I can’t wait to share with you all what I’ve been working on for the last 6 months! Love and best wishes to all, stay well and stay safe! And keep those melodies and tunes coming fellow synth lovers. All the best! MB xxx