Country singer/songwriter Stephen Martines released his latest single “Sounds Like Whiskey” on May 7th.
Signed to Red Rose Records, Martines introduced his country sound in 2017 with the release of his debut single “Beach Ball”.
Written by Vinny Hickerson, Jay Brunswick and Josh Dunne and co-produced by Chuck Bonano, Johnny Scott and Stephen Martines, “Sounds Like Whiskey” tells the story of a breakup.
“It’s country fused with pop undertones and speaks to so many people’s experience where a breakup is concerned,” says Martines.
Currently wrapping up his EP, Martines recently released a new song “Like I’m Elvis”, a cover from the Dan Adams Band.
“Sounds Like Whiskey” is now available everywhere.
Hey guys…Thanks for the interest in talking to me! I’m Stephen Martines - born and raised in St. Louis, MO. I’m a single, full-time father to the greatest love I’ve ever known… my little girl, Presley. I’m also a singer. And I’m an actor. I’m an artist. I’m an athlete. I’m a dreamer.
What’s your story?
My story… Well, the semi-short version, anyway! Grew up in St. Louis, as I said, playing soccer from a young age, and later on added saxophone to the mix. Shortly after I started college I lost my father suddenly while he was visiting me at Missouri State University in Springfield, MO. Despondent, I dropped out of school and returned home to St. Louis. Searching for something - but not quite sure what - I ended up joining the Air Force after a knee injury marginalized a professional soccer career. After leaving the Air Force I found myself adrift again, and a couple of days after Christmas in 1998, while watching Jimmy Stewart’s moving performance in the bridge scene in “It’s A Wonderful Life,” I had some sort of revelation and made the decision right then-and-there to pursue a dream I’d always harbored: acting. Nine hours later my car was packed and I headed west, not knowing a soul at that end of the country - then ended up sleeping behind a dumpster after my car was taken (a not-unheard-of occurrence for those who pursue acting!). But providence shined on me a few weeks later when I met an agent and began auditioning. I booked my first two auditions out of the gate, and so began my acting career and eventually my pursuit towards many other dreams I’ve had and still have - most especially a career in country music.
Growing up, what were the things you were passionate about?
Soccer! It was my life. If it wasn’t soccer, it was anything sports related. Football in the rain, basketball, tennis, baseball, kick-the-can, you name it we played it. I needed to be active. But there were very few times you wouldn’t find me without a soccer ball at my feet.
At what point did you know music was something very special to you?
At a very early age. I had a fairly difficult childhood and, along with soccer, music was an escape for me – but I didn’t realize then just how important it would become in my life. Music was always a safe place where I could just crawl inside my soul and release wayward emotion. There was a connection there, a vibration, a sense of belonging and a sense of self.
What did you grow up listening to?
Multiple genres of music was the norm in our house: Sinatra, Ray Charles, Dean Martin, Motown, and Elvis (my daughter’s namesake) were always stacked on the turntable and were a significant influence during my formative years. We wore deep grooves in those records! But growing up in the 80s also exposed me to some great music outside of what my dad or mom had on - from old school hip-hop to rock to pop. You name it, the 80s had it… And then came this guy named Garth and my world changed.
When did you decide to become an artist?
I wouldn’t say I ever made a conscious decision to become an artist. The desire had always been there, sort of an unconscious, pulsing undercurrent. But becoming an actor and a singer was more an evolutionary process, a natural and obvious next step - a focusing and shaping of the various facets of my persona that brought me to that point and, ultimately, to the point where I am now.
Could you tell us about your early experiences in the industry?
I have been in the industry since 1999, beginning with television. Music came about in 2000 when Hollywood Records approached me with a record deal. For me, it just wasn’t the right time. The sound they were looking to create for me didn’t fit who I wanted to be as an artist; rock was more my desired pursuit at that moment. Shortly thereafter I had the privilege of working with drummer/producer Mark Schulman (Pink, Foreigner, Cher, Sheryl Crow) and began to pursue the rock avenue, but unfortunately mainstream rock music became a harder pitch to record labels due to the unfortunate descent in its popularity at that point. After several more failed attempts in the pop world I chose to hang it up until the right time presented itself. A move to Nashville in 2009 provided a great deal of insight as to what I needed to do and more so, wanted to do – as for years I’d been a significant fan of country music.
You recently released your single “Sounds Like Whiskey.” What’s the story behind this record? Who wrote/produced it?
Absolutely - I love this song!! I am honored to have had the opportunity to cut it and release it as a single. My dear friend Vinny Hickerson (Trailer Choir) presented it to me a little while back. Within the first thirty seconds of hearing it, I knew I had to at least have it on my EP - if not released as a single! The lyrical content alone spoke to me. Country music more often than not hits you right in the gut; “Sounds Like Whiskey” carries with it the vapors of a painful breakup I still think of today. The song was written by Vinny Hickerson, Jay Brunswick and Josh Dunne and co-produced by Chuck Bonano, Johnny Scott and myself.
How would you define country music?
Tradition, honesty… and populism. But populism in a good way! Yeah, sure, it’s made a move toward being more “trendy” in recent years, but when you look at the history of country music and hold it up against what we define as “today’s country” it still carries with it a solid tradition, that same yearning to reach into your soul and pull out truth. Country songs tend to get right to the heart of the matter. At its core, country’s pure nature still lends itself to a plethora of variations on a three-chord theme. And I love that. Right now is an exciting time to be in country music.
What makes a good country song?
Storytelling. Vulnerability. Bearing your soul, rendering it to its purest elements and pouring it into a lyric. I think that country music is better set up for this than virtually any other genre of music. But in the end a song can be “good” in any style of music as long as it remains dear to you and is a valid re-telling of a person’s experience.
What do you like the most about songwriting?
The evolution of the song! How a concept is pieced together, re-shaped to fit, brought to life and yet stays true to what was in your head when you wrote it. I’m a visual writer. I see the movie in my head, if you will, before I hear a lyric. Much of that stems from my acting background, I expect.
What do you think of today’s music industry?
I think it’s great! The crossover aspect of what’s going on today is particularly appealing. It’s opening up, allowing music and artists to follow a more natural path in many instances and not be forced into a box. And for country music, especially, it’s becoming more of what it really wants or claims to be: the music of the people. Although country music has been at the forefront of most genres for decades, we have seen the shift to multiple styles being included in the format. The traditional element of this incredibly solid genre has broadened. Now, if you ask me about the business of today’s music business…
What does it mean for you to be an artist?
The world! Being a singer/songwriter has been a dream of mine for quite some time, and I recognize it as a life long process, but also a gift. That said, it’s a long-awaited journey that I’m humbled to be on right now.
What advice would you give to young artists?
Simple: NEVER GIVE UP! Be persistent. Believe in yourself. Trust your craft and work your ass off - regardless of let-downs and rejections. All that happens for a reason – and goes into the makeup of who you are. There’s a lot to be said about experiencing the journey, being in the moment and at the same time keep one eye focused on the path ahead.
What message do you want to deliver to the world?
No matter what, “never say never.” Don’t ever give up on yourself. Think. Be. Do.
Are you working on an EP/album?
Yes! We are mostly finished with the EP but are putting much of the focus on single releases right now. I do expect Red Rose Records will announce an EP release date in the near future.
In your opinion, what would make the world a better place?
Ha Ha! Toning down our individual politics and focusing on faith, love and laughter! Remembering why we’re all here - and that everybody hurts, everybody cares, everybody loves, and everybody has a place in this world.
What’s your purpose?
Those that know me, REALLY know me, know that my greatest dream in life was to be a daddy… Well, dream fulfilled. And SHE is my purpose!
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