Chris Austin Martinez
Freelance writer for several Texas newspapers
I recently sat
down with singer/songwriter Chris Austin Martinez at the Marriot in Houston,
Texas to discuss his life as an Independent artist. Chris was performing
that night and I thought it would be a good chance to interview an
Independent Texas artist on his own turf. I found Chris to be exceptionally
engaging with a sharp sense of humor. His outlook on life is extremely
positive and it was a real joy spending some time with him. I left feeling
as though I had just met one of the happiest guys in Houston. Here is some
of what Chris and I discussed that evening.
Q. So Chris, are
you originally from the Houston area?
Chris- Well, I
was born here in Houston but raised just up the street from here in good oleí College
Station, Texas. I moved there in the second grade and stayed until I left
Q. Where did you
Chris- I started
at a Dallas community college then transferred to Abilene Christian
University. I was there 3 years before I realized that you had to study to get
good grades so I took a real job and never looked back.
Q. I couldnít
help but notice your baseball cap. Did you serve in the Navy?
Chris- Yes I
did. In the late 80ís I decided that I wanted to see the world so I signed
up and jumped right into the Gulf war. I remember is that it was hot
and I pretty much got in every bodyís way. I did get to entertain for
the guys every now and then and that was a lot of fun. It was a good experience and I made some great friends.
Q. When did you
know that you wanted to pursue a career in the music business?
Chris- Well, I
was told that I began to display a real love for music at an early age. My
late father would tell me that I would bang my fork and spoon on the high
chair to the music playing on the radio. He noticed that I was actually
banging to the beat. Of course, thatís how I lost an eye. Just kidding,
anyway, I won my first talent show by the age of 5 and music was never far
from my heart from then on. But to honestly answer that question, I really
didnít KNOW that music would be my life until I was in my mid 30ís. Until
then it was just a small part.
Q. So why did
you get started so late in life?
thatís really a three part answer. First of all, I didnít think that I was
good enough to be in this business. Second, I didnít really have the
support from the right person. You know that significant other who helps
you believe in yourself. And third, I just wasnít ready to jump in with
both feet because in this business, or any other for that matter, youíd
better be ready to give it your all or you donít have a chance. A smart man
once told me that success is right around the corner from total failure. I
had to be willing to fail at the one thing that I had always loved. So in
2001, right after 9-11, I quit doing everything else that I was doing,
grabbed my guitar, married my high school sweet heart and started playing
for anyone who would listen.
Q. So did you
start playing guitar at a young age?
Chris- No, not
at all. I was a drummer first and foremost. But I noticed while in high
school that I also really loved to sing. One of the bands that I was playing
drums for asked me to take over lead vocals and the rest was history. I
started messing around with the piano and acoustic guitar in my twenties and
twenty years later I finally know how to play 5 chords. Itís a good thing
that you only have to know 3 chords to play most country songs.
Q. What was
your plan when you first started?
Well, I was looking at it like this. My new wife told me to just start
playing for anyone who would listen and then maybe, just maybe, someone
would actually pay me to play for them. And to my surprise, she was right.
It started slowly at first. But little by little word began to spread about
this guy who could play and sing all the cool 70ís songs and sound pretty
good doing it. It was never my intention to be on the radio or try to sign
a big record deal.
It seems like
everybody is trying to get famous now a days. I have a few buddies who
signed on the dotted line and now they wish that they hadnít. With todayís
technologies, itís so much easier to get the word out. All I ever really
wanted to do is sing to others who enjoy the sound and feel of live music.
Anybody can hire a DJ and most people do but lucky for me thereís a group of
people around my age who love to listen to live music. Good live music has
a way of really touching your soul. If I can get them to forget about their
problems for just a few hours then Iíve done my job.
Q. You really do
sound a lot like several of those 70ís artist when you perform. Who do your
fans compare you to most?
Chris- Oh, I
donít know. I really donít try to sound like anyone in particular but
sometimes it just comes out that way. I guess most people tell me that I
kind of sound like Cat Stevens, which of course is a great compliment.
Q. When did you
start writing and performing your own songs?
actually started writing my first few songs while playing drums for an all
original group in Austin, Texas. It was the late nineties and I was just
buying time back then. All the guys in the group were very talented and
wrote and they started asking me to write something so I did. Of course, no
one really wanted to play the ďdrummerísĒ songs but we finally did and I got
a good response from that. That experience gave me the confidence to keep
writing my own stuff. My first CD ďGuardian AngelĒ is a recording of me
jamming on all the instruments. I liked what I recorded but my wife quickly
pointed out that those who listen to me live want to hear what I sound like
live on my CDís. So the rest of my CDís are mostly of me and my guitar.
The way I sound live.
Q. How many
songs have you written and which is your favorite?
Chris- Wow, I
really havenít counted lately but I would guess that Iíve written around a
hundred songs so far. As far as which is my favorite song, thatís kind of
like asking a parent which kid do you love the most. They all have a place
in my heart. But I will say that my fans, all 4 of them, like for me to
perform ďI Was ThereĒ and ď79 Yellow CameroĒ an awful lot. My song ďLoveĒ
is probably my wifeís favorite.
Q. ďI Was ThereĒ
has had some success on the air waves. When did you write that song?
Chris- I was
sitting on the coach back in 2009 watching TV when this program came on
about JFK. It got me thinking about all that has happened sense his death
and that I was here on earth to experience so many crazy events. I picked
up my guitar and the song just kind of wrote itself into existence. I get
told a lot by the over 45 crowd that they were there too. I think the
song helps us to remember a simpler time in our lives.
Q. What would
you say to a young artist that is just trying to get into the business?
Chris- I would
say to them...just donít do it. I donít need the competition. No, what I really tell
my younger compadras is to just do what you love to do. Write what you love
to write and whatever happens will happen. Play to whoever and where ever
you can as often as you can. You want to be showered, shaved, dressed and
packed when and if opportunity knocks. And if youíre wondering if youíre
good enough to be in this business like I did then ask yourself this
question. Has a complete stranger asked you to entertain for them and, this
is the important part, asked how much do you charge? If the answer is yes
then run baby run! If not, then maybe your friends and family just donít
want to hurt your feelings so I wouldnít quit my day job just yet. Itís like
I always say to strangers who ask me if Iím any good after they find out
what I do for a living. I tell them that my mother thinks so.
Q. All right, I
have one more question. Have you always been such a positive guy?
not to be positive about? The world has enough negativity in it. Why
should I add to that? All I really have is today so I might as well enjoy
it. Whenever I would say the word tomorrow around my grandmother she would
snap right back, ďLord willingĒ. Donít get me wrong, Iíve had my share of
tough times. I mean some real low moments in my life. But its times like
that that make you really appreciate what youíve got. So whatís not to be happy
about? Iíve got so much to be thankful for. Heck, if we stop and think
about it, we all do. But hey, I get to play and sing for a living. My
father use to say. ďWhen you start feeling sorry for yourself remember the
man with no feet. Then get back on yours and start walkingĒ.
Chris Austin Martinez
For the true musician, music is a part of their soul, it's in their
blood, in their heart, and always on their minds.
Music is your life and this is true for Chris!
Music has always
been and always will be who Chris is. A friend who has known him
since they were young boys once said of him, ďChris could dance before
he could walk, sing before he could talk and was born with a pair of
drum sticks in his hands!Ē He found himself playing
drums before the age of five and even won his first of many talent shows
starting at this time.
Chris didn't think much
about singing till the age of ten when he was singing out loud to the radio
in his uncle's pick-up when his uncle turned to him and said, "Hey kid, you got a
pretty good voice!"
Playing drums and
singing with bands took him through high school and college and he
eventually settled on what was expected...a real job. However the
music was never far from his heart and always on his mind.
After a life changing event,
Chris made a decision to commit his life to music.
As a child of
the 70s, Chris grew up listening to the great singer/songwriters of the
time...like James Taylor, Cat Stevens, John Denver, Simon &
Garfunkel...to just name a few.
love that he can go from John Mayer to Jimmy Buffet, U2 to Garth Brooks,
Matchbox Twenty to the Eagles, and James Blunt to Hootie and the
Blowfish! That's only the beginning...
more than 125 artists and can sing more than 14 hours of music without
repeating a song...which is how he's become known as the "Human Juke
He has shared the
stage with such acts as Clint Black, Roger Creager, Johnny Rodriquez, Hank Williams III, and
country music legend
Ray Price just to name a few.
Chris can be
found playing and singing all over this great state of Texas and from coast
to coast...and even
Mexico on many occasions!
recorded eight CDís to date and has entertained for events as small as
intimate weddings to some of our state's largest festivals.
Music = Memories
them back to you!