We sat down with Jeff as he swelters in his Byron Bay Studio for a chat about all of the above, and here is how it went down...
That’s mostly Sarah’s department but from what she tells me, she wrote this song quite a few years ago and it was meant to be presented to the Superjesus before they took their hiatus. I guess the rest of the band thought it was too dark for what they did so Sarah decided to keep it in the vault for a rainy day in the hope that somewhere down the line she would meet someone that she could collaborate with to bring it to life, and here I am (laughs).
Even the acoustic demo she brought to me me had everything I needed like lyrical content and chord structure for me to be able to put my production style around it. She came up to my studio here in Byron and we worked on it for a good 3 nights/4 days and we just really metamorphisized it into something that would now be the catalyst for what her and I are gonna do in the near future. We are planning on using Man The Life Boats as a spring board for hopefully coming up with enough material for perhaps 2015 to release a full length album.
How do you feel the shows with Sarah are going to come across to the crowd compared to ones with 777 or The Armada or Wayne P Sheehy for example?
Well now that I am back full force with The Tea Party, that’s like the biggest monster that I could possibly be a part of. So the thing with Sarah is it’s allowing me one more time to go into the smaller intimate rooms and get close with the audience and not have to put on the pop circumstance that comes with playing the Hordon Pavilion or the Palais and all that stuff – which I do love – but I also love this as well.
I do believe that because Sarah is so… what would be the word to describe her because there is a few words that come to mind (laughs)… one of them would be her veracity at wanting to keep on keeping on and her positivity about everything. I can be pretty pedantic when it comes to production and things because I do like to take my time, but she is just such a little spark plug, she really lights a fire under me and I find her very motivational and I look forward to working with her.
I know, I know that on this tour she is gonna be constantly badgering me with new ideas and new songs, and I am actually looking forward to it because I love her energy, and great things are gonna come out of this tour and it's gonna lead to bigger better things.
Especially for me with what I know is coming with The Tea Party’s new album out this year and the big tours and all that stuff, its gonna offer me as an artist, the perfect foil to all that so I don’t have to be Mr big rock star infront of the stage all the time. I can just sit back and watch her shine.
Well, one was that Jive wasn’t available (laughs). Plus once we discussed it all with the management and agents handling this, it was just really important that for the first time around with Sarah and I, everyone that was really really enthused about seeing this, got to be as close as possible to it. Another thing that I do believe in my heart of hearts is that once Man The Life Boats gets out there and subsequent songs from Sarah and I (it will be like a constant drip over the next year or two), the audience is just gonna get bigger and bigger so we might as well take advantage of the fact that we can keep it as intimate as possible right now.
One of the things that I love about your smaller shows is that you take the time to share your stories and experiences behind all of your songs, and I believe it allows the crowd to feel like they know you personally and really connect with you. Do you feel that connection with the crowd, and what do you take away from it?
Well I certainly do feel it! At the end of the show that’s what you want to happen. I get to debunk the myth, personally speaking. The general consensus out there, especially with me being the front man of The Tea Party is “oh theres a big man out there, big voice, big guy at the front of the stage, dark, broody, dangerous’ and all that, you know? Maybe I am all those things when I am the front man of The Tea Party but it’s not all I am. There is a very romantic side of me that I feel comes out a lot more, and certainly a very vulnerable side when I am doing the intimate shows. So it’s a very cathartic thing for me to do. If it was all just about the circumstance of The Tea Party, I might not be such a nice person (laughs).
Somehow someway maintaining my conviction and my integrity, and it also doesn’t hurt that I keep that painting up in the attic (laughs).
(For those that don’t get it, he is referring to the “Dorian Gray Painting”)
The Tea Party broke up for a little while, reunited and toured again… besides the new album, what’s in store for The Tea Party?
In a perfect world it will keep continuing. We had our little break, our little 7 year itch, and now we are back into it.
Over the course of the last 7 years since we’ve reformed, the friendship has grown stronger and stronger between the three of us, the issues have faded so far into the past that its not even an issue anymore and we are all very excited because its on such a big scale! We are with a worldwide record company and have promoters calling us from all parts of the world to get us on festivals etc. We are not having to solicit any of this, its all coming to us. So it’s very exciting for the band, if somewhat daunting. I have to be honest, I know a lot of musicians that would love to be in my position and I am not taking it for granted whatsoever. But I have to say that now, especially with my life here in Byron Bay and my studio, basically I am living in paradise, it’s kinda hard to leave. The Tea Party are gonna tour all over the world and I am like ‘oh damn it, really, I have to go?” but even my partner tells me I always say that, but once I get on the road I am just always happy as can be.
So its just a psychological thing, I’ve just gotta change gears. When I am here I am the father of my two year old son and live a pretty normal life, but when it switches gears into Tea Party land it’s a completely different situation. But I’ve done it before, I’ll do it again so its all good.
Well musically, I don’t really know if its influenced me as my musical influences come from other parts of the world and from a long time ago. So that doesn’t really change no matter where I live.
But how it's changed me personally is it’s really chilled me out! Im not so high strung anymore, and its allowed my defenses to come down. My friends tell me that I am a lot more personable now compared to when I didn’t live here, right? I guess that’s a positive thing.
Have you taken on surfing Byron’s waves yet?
I’m trying, I’m trying. I might be considered one of those great guitar players, but when it comes to co-ordination outside of playing guitar, kinda hard! Keeps me humble babe, keeps me humble!
What is an instrument you’d love to learn?
I’m pretty good with anything that has strings on it, but there are some instruments like a Koto from Japan, that would be so effin bad I would love to learn how to play it!
I have one sitting in my studio. It’s in pristine condition, it has new strings on it and it’s begging me to play it. It’s a pedal steel guitar – even though it has strings is nothing like playing a regular guitar. It’s like playing very complicated slide guitar and also using your feet like you’re playing a Hammond Organ. Again, something that takes a lot of co-ordination. I keep looking at it, it keeps looking at me, and I promise it that I’m going to attack it one day, but I am not quite there yet.
Well I think what the three of us in a perfect world would love is – well I know Jeff and Stewart would love this – they would love to stay in Australia longer.
I guess our mentality on things is ‘yes it is going to become bigger so why don’t we just do multiple shows in Adelaide so we can stay for a while, go to Gaucho’s for dinner, you know (laughs)?
With my solo tours I am spoiled. I can stay for a while and relax. But with the last Tea Party show, we were in and we were out, I know Jeff and Stewart don’t wanna do it like that. They wanna go to the wine regions and take their time here. So that’s basically the riot act that we’ve read to management, and with The Tea Party we usually get our way...
Well, I am gonna let you go, but I look forward to seeing your shows here on the 1st and 2nd of Feb, and know that your passion and drive for the music you create inspires me and so many people I know.
Oh well thankyou! I’ll see you there! Bye for now.
Jeff Martin and Sarah McLeod play two shows at the Grace Emily on saturday the 1st and Sunday the 2nd of February. Tickets are still available for the Sunday show here
Interview by Melissa Donato
Jeff Martin photos by Melissa Donato
Sarah McLeod photos by Supernova Photographics