It seems that Seattle has delivered yet another gem to the Montreal music scene.
Up-and-coming singer-songwriter and McGill music student Antoine Martel, who hails from the rainy city, recognizes the long line of talent that has arisen from his hometown. Leading a self-named band, Martel laughs as he lists the great number of his musical influences that happen to be from his hometown—Fleet Foxes, Eddie Vedder, and The Head & the Heart, to name just a few.
Martel’s folk rock album, Cough Drops in Autumn, has a calming acoustic sound, with complementing elements of classical and jazz. It is clear that Martel’s extensive musical training has had an impact on his songwriting. His compositions are far from ordinary. They are detail oriented, and clearly musically complex, replete with intricate melodies, woodwind, and fiddle solos, and topped off with his powerful lyricism.
As a child, Martel’s parents always encouraged him to get involved in the arts. He began classical piano training at age five, and continued for 11 years. Although these lessons gave him an unmatchable musical foundation, his motivation was low at the time.
“I didn’t actually like [piano], which is strange to think back upon now,” he chuckles.
After years of arguments over practicing, his parents made him a deal: he could quit, as long as he promised to pick up another instrument. So Martel finished learning one last piano piece, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and made a quick switch to guitar.
Now, five years later, Martel is studying music composition at McGill’s prestigious Schulich School of Music, where he finds himself surrounded by an immense amount of talent.
“My band members are all way better musicians than me,” he humbly admits, saying that he only needs to bring his songs to them once before they are ready to perform. He raves over his band, which consists entirely of McGill musicians: Guillaume Pilote on drums, Alan Mackie on bass, Neil Heaton on piano, Alex Cherney on guitar, Devin LaCasce on flute, and Gareth Dicker on violin. Martel himself leads on guitar and vocals.
Martel draws inspiration from the city of Montreal, and his experiences as a student.
“Montreal has shaped this album in a lot of ways,” he says. Two tracks on his new album, “The Fire” and “How Things Change” were actually inspired by a funny experience he had as a first year student. In March 2011, a fire broke out in New Residence Hall, only a few floors directly above Martel’s dorm room. As a result of the damage, he and 17 other inhabitants were relocated out of residence for a month, and given temporary rooms at the downtown Delta hotel.
“I had this great balcony [at the Delta],” Martel says. “I sat on that balcony, and wrote a lot of tunes.”
He is similarly sanguine when discussing his music writing process.
“It changes … but it usually involves me with my acoustic guitar, around four in the morning, not being able sleep,” Martel says. “That’s where most of the things start happening.” He confesses that writing lyrics is the most difficult step for him, crediting Ben Harper and Alexi Murdoch as two artists he looks to for inspiration.
Though Martel is continuing to write and record, he’s mainly looking to get his music out there.
“You can have it for free, I really don’t care,” he jokes as he talks about his new album.
What’s next for Martel? He continues to enjoy all that Montreal has to offer, including places to perform. It’s evident that his future is bright, as he works to join the ranks of the other brilliant Seattle born musicians before him.
Coughdrops in Autumn is available online, pay what you can. Album release show on Mar. 28, 8 p.m., at L’Alize (900 Ontario est). Tickets $5.
Love your Album, love your music, go Antoine!