At my very first ETA show, “Return to Grace” at the Avalon Theatre in Niagara Falls, in 2015, Steve Michaels shared the stage with some amazingly talented backup singers and dancers. One of those amazingly talented backup singers was Andrew Martin. In Steve’s show in Guelph in late fall of the same year, Andrew was part of a quartet that entertained with Elvis gospel songs while Steve exited the stage for a costume change. Andrew’s solo with the quartet was jaw-dropping!
Usually only Steve makes an appearance at the end of his shows for photo opts, but on one special occasion, I had an opportunity to meet Andrew and snap a photo between a double billing of shows. One of Andrew’s loyal fans, Gail, whom I would often chat with while waiting in line, told me about Andrew’s singing career outside his work as Steve’s backup singer. Before and since his time on stage with Steve, Andrew has had a stunning singing career befitting someone who is so vocally gifted.
I have enjoyed communicating with Andrew over the weeks that we have been running the “Crooner’s Christmas” contest, and want to thank him very much for generously offering eight tickets to his shows as prizes to celebrate SIDEBURNS Magazine’s first anniversary. Our four winners, Linda, Dawn, Tracy-Lynn, Jeannine and their guests can look forward to an evening of wonderful holiday entertainment.
Andrew, with his band, is also performing music from the ‘70s in a great show in November which also includes the Rev-Tones, an eight piece band that covers the music from the ‘50s and ‘60s. Special guest, renowned photographer John Rowlands will be presenting a slide show and talk on his spectacular body of work that includes photographs of legends in music history, such as David Bowie, Janis Joplin, Michael Jackson, Little Richard, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Sir Elton John--and countless others. I was very fortunate in seeing John’s photographs at ETA Thane’s Dunn show, and I can attest that it is a not-to-be-missed presentation. His photographs of Elvis on tour will give you chills.
On the same evening that I met John Rowlands, I had the pleasure of meeting George Sicker, and Cliff Walsh, singers with the Rev-Tones. George, who is, in his words, an Elvis ‘nut’ who knows a lot of useless Elvis stuff, and who is also, I learned recently, friends with Andrew Martin, had some very nice to things to say when I asked about their friendship:
“I met Andrew on Facebook through Steve Michaels. Somehow, we hit it right off. I had no idea how good he was, or that he had won all these awards. By the time I found out, he was just ‘Andrew’ to me. He sure is one talented individual. Just an incredible voice!! He’s a humble kind of guy, so I was surprised to find out about his accomplishments. The first time I will be working with him will be the 23rd of November, but I’m certainly a fan. He’s a terrific person. We did a “meet the Press” about a month ago.” (The Peterborough Examiner, October 8th, 2018: Take a Trip Through Rock ‘N’ Rock History at Peterborough Show by Ed Arnold).
Thank you for contributing to the intro, George. C.M.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce the extraordinarily talented Andrew Martin to SIDEBURNS Magazine readers. Thank you, Andrew, for your insightful answers to my questions, and for the terrific photos. Best regards, Carolyn.
Q. In what city were you born? Where do you now reside?
A. I was born in Napanee, ON, April 19, 1971. I reside at our family estate in Napanee. I grew up living next to my grandparents and aunt and uncle, and I now live in my aunt and uncle’s house. I’m the only one in my family still here on the 500 acre family farm. We converted my grandmother’s home into our rehearsal studio for my band.
Q. Tell us five interesting things about your childhood.
A. I grew up on a farm doing hay in the summer and feeding cattle during the winter. My family went to the all night gospel sings at Massey Hall where I learned to love quartet singing and. of course. tight harmonies. I had a passion for music which developed into me being a drummer at the age of 13, and at age 15 I was travelling with different groups around Ontario as a drummer. My family operated a school bus company which is now owned and operated by my sister and her husband. Martin’s Bus Service is the largest independent school bus operator in Ontario. I was driving school buses around our families garage and farm when I was 13.
Q. Describe your life as a teenager. (Who were your friends? What subjects did you like at school? Did you belong to any clubs? What did you do for fun? What were your struggles?)
A. Life was spent here on the farm. With the bus company operating out of my grandparent’s home, the garage to fix the buses out behind their home, and of course having the farm and cattle, too, it didn’t leave too much time for friends or other activities. It was come home from school, help out with the chores; and when any bus emergency came up you just went out and hopped in the car with mom and dad or Papa & Gram and headed out to fix a bus, drop off a new one, take kids home that were stuck because of weather or mechanical bus breakdown etc. I loved the fact of being able to constantly be out and going with my grandparents and parents.
Q. What did you do with your time after your high school years ended?
A. Well before High School had ended I was already a business man. In my last year of school my sister and I opened a clothing store in downtown Napanee. We sold Tommy Hilfiger, Polo Ralph Laruen, Izod Lacoste, Guess Jeans and many other top designers.
Q. What career path did you decide to take after high school?
A. Well seeing that I had already had the store running I went into operating the store on my own as my sister was moving over to help out with Martin’s Bus Service in the office. On weekends, once we had hired staff, I was out on the road as a drummer with different groups.
Q. At what age did you, or someone else, realize you could sing so beautifully?
A. It was the age of 4 actually. My grandfather was in charge of our churches Christmas pageant and he asked me if I would sing a song. I stepped to the front of the stage, toes hanging over the edge of the stage and belted out my song (I don’t remember what I sang). When I was done, the audience started to applaud and I just stood there bowing and bowing and bowing until my grandfather had to come pick me up and take me off the stage. I guess you could say I was hooked right there.
Q. Did you take any lessons related to the performing arts? Please explain.
A. I have never taken any formal singing lessons. Singing was just a natural God given gift and it was easy for me to do. Even finding harmonies when singing with others is something that is just a natural gift.
Q. What is your vocal range?
A. I once had a vocal coach come up to me after a show and ask that question. I went with her to the piano and 4 ½ octaves later she said, “Wow, what a range!”
Q. What music was most often heard in your home?
A. If it was not gospel music it was Elvis. We had an old record player in the house (which I still have) and it had all the gospel groups in there from the Blackwood Brothers (they sang with Elvis), The Stamps Quartet (also sang with Elvis), The Goodmans and others. We also had Elvis “Aloha from Hawaii” and, of course, his gospel album as well. I would go in and turn on the record player and put on Elvis and sit on the floor waiting for “C C Rider” to start and I would start to pound the floor with Ronnie Tutt, and of course sing along with Elvis.
Q. What is your association with ETA Steve Michaels?
A. Steve is one of my best friends. I was the best man at his wedding and he at mine. I’m blessed to be a God father of Steve and Ashley’s son. What is funny is that Steve and I met in 2011 with “Return to Grace” at Fallsview Casino. He came into the room where the singers were rehearsing and Steve and I hit it off right away. We were pretty much always getting together and laughing and having fun throughout that run of shows. I always say we are like two brothers form different mothers.
Q. What made you decide to embark on a solo career rather than continue as one of Steve’s backup singers?
A. Actually it was not embarking on a solo career, but rather leaving a solo career to join with Steve. I had already been touring 190+ shows a year across this country in my tour bus since 1999 and had pulled back my touring to 100 shows a year in 2010. While on break in January 2011 I received a call to join “Return to Grace” and because I had the time off I joined that show. Then in the fall of 2012 I stopped singing because I was going through a divorce and that’s when Steve & Ashley called and asked if I would join their cast for “If I Can Dream”—a brand new show Steve & Ashley had written about the life of Elvis. At the end of that spring 2013 run I just ended up staying on with my best friends to continue doing Steve’s show until the fall of 2015. On a trip to Montreal for one of Steve’s shows, he and my fiance were in the car and both of them said that I shouldn’t be wasting my voice and to get back out there singing. So at their urging I went back out on the road in 2016. I would still sing with Steve as it’s fun hanging out with my best friend and of course singing Elvis music, but it’s too hard to juggle two different touring schedules.
Q. What did you learn during your time performing with Steve, his band, and other singers?
A. I think during my time with Steve I learned more about myself to be honest. It was a raw time of my life personally and I believe it helped me to become a better man and essentially a better performer.
Q. Do you perform Elvis songs in all, or any, of your own shows?
A. I do perform some Elvis songs in my shows. I’m not an ETA, I want to state that clearly, although I always hear, “You look just like Elvis”, and “You sound so much like Elvis”. I honour Elvis’s music, but I do perform it as Andrew.
Q. What are your two favourite Elvis songs to listen to, and what are your two favourite Elvis songs to sing?
A. My two favourite Elvis songs to listen to are “In The Ghetto” and “Something in the Way She Moves”. The two songs I love to perform are “Can’t Help Falling In Love” and “American Trilogy”. The only time I sing “American Trilogy” is with Steve and his shows, but it’s one of my favourite songs. You will hear “Can’t Help Falling in Love” in one of my shows, and I have recorded it along with a few others.
Q. What three words best describes your own musical style?
A. I’m a Crooner. Elvis was a Crooner, as was Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and others. So crooner, love Songs, ballads…and Andrew. You can never nail down Elvis to just one musical style and I will keep that tradition alive.
Q. Describe the backstage atmosphere before you perform.
A. Backstage atmosphere is always very light and fun at my shows. Most times you will find all us hanging out laughing, joking and sharing stories.
Q. Are there special vocal exercises do you do regularly?
A. I shouldn’t give this secret away; but, no I don’t do any special vocal exercise. I know I should and so hopefully I will start…lol.
Q. For those of us not in the business, what goes on during rehearsals?
A. It depends on the artist to be honest. For some, they run songs the band has had problems with, anything that is synced up to video or multi media etc. For me it’s just making sure that everyone on stage can hear what they need to hear without being too loud for the sound man out front to do his job. Too many times I have seen bands have their monitor mixes or guitar amps so loud that the person controlling the house mix can’t create a great listening experience for the audience. Yes the band needs to hear each other but not at the expense of the audience.
Q. What advice can you give to someone wanting to have a career as a singer?
A. Singing is just one little small part of the equation. There is marketing, posters, interviews, booking of the shows etc., so you have to wear many hats and sometimes you wear them all at the same time. So learn to multi task and be able to be cool under pressure.
Q. What valuable life lessons did you learn from your parents, or mentor, that you still use today?
A. To always do everything to the very best of your ability. Put others first and foremost and everything else will fall into place.
Q. Describe the highlights of your singing career.
A. Well there have been a few from 1999 – 2008 I was honoured with many awards. I have garnered over 15 nominations from different musical organizations in both Canada and the United States. I have been awarded 2 Albums of the Year, 2 Songs of the Year, 1 Inspirational album of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, International Artist of the Year as well as being in the top 5 artists for World Vision Canada and having 3 songs in the Billboard top 10 with one of them reaching #1. From touring each year with over 190 shows, from churches to theatres to 5 different arena shows (all of them in the same year too) it’s been an absolute highlight. And of course being able to do all of that with my family on the road and my 2 daughters joining me on stage every night back then was also the icing on the cake.
Q. What is the best part of being on stage?
A. Watching the reactions from the audience. When you sing that song that sparks a smile when you can tell they have had a hard day, to the tear when that love song comes on when you know someone has a memory of someone they have lost, to having them dancing and clapping to their favourite tune. Now that is the best part of being on stage and what I live for.
Q. Who are the important women in your life? Why are these women important to you?
A. My Grandmother Martin, my Mom, sister, my two daughters and, of course, my wife. My grandmother and mom have both passed, but the strength they taught me was invaluable. My sister has always had my back and my daughters are my world. My wife….. there is not enough time to discuss how special she is to me. From her love and support, to all the help she does running the fan pages, designing and running my web site to even running sound on a couple shows when we did not have a sound tech. She does it all and always keeps me smiling and laughing. I can’t say enough about her and her love.
Q. What men have had a positive influence on your life? How?
A. My Papa Martin and my dad of course—two men that showed strength, yet knew how to properly treat a lady and recognize how strong women are.
Q. How are you different on stage compared to off stage?
A. On stage and off stage are pretty close to being the same. I like to have fun and laugh.
Q. Would you want to judge a singing competition? What do you think are the challenges of being a competition judge?
A. I would love to judge a singing competition; however, the contestants would not want that, as I am very much a Simon Cowell. I think the hardest part would be trying to be constructive without sounding mean to those who are sharing in the competition.
Q. What makes you sad? How do you cope with sadness?
A. This is a hard question. There is not just one thing that makes me sad to be honest. Life is about the ups and downs. When the downs happen I have to find the places within to embrace and heal before moving forward. Each situation will present it’s own challenge and healing.
Q. In what international cities have you performed? How are audiences different in different countries?
A. I have focused on performing in Canada since 1999. Since Canada was my home and since we have such a large country going coast to coast every year didn’t leave much room for going anywhere else to be honest.
Q. Is there a country where you really want to perform?
A. I would love to do a tour in Europe. I have had some opportunities present themselves over the years for England and Italy, but the timing was just not right. But I know one day very soon it will be.
Q. What are your strengths as a performer?
A. That’s a tough question to answer. I would say the ability to connect with the audience. If you can’t connect with the people you are singing too then why are you singing. I have only ever sang at one dinner show and one corporate event where I was the background music, so to speak, and I walked off the stage both times and said, “Never again”. When I can’t connect with the audience, and what you are sharing is just background music, that’s not for me. I need and want to connect with my audience.
Q. Describe your typical non-performance day.
A. Mostly it is getting ready for the next show. Even when I was doing the 190+ shows I would be sitting on the tour bus, sometimes driving it (ok most times, as I loved driving), doing phone interviews for radio and newspaper, booking shows and working on the paperwork and posters.
Q. What makes you laugh?
A. Artists that take themselves too seriously…lol. I have met people at festivals etc. that walk around back stage thinking way too highly of themselves and that the audience should be honoured that they are there to perform. Now that makes me laugh every time.
Q. If it were possible, with what singer, living or deceased, would you like to sing a duet?
A. Hmmmm; I have a few actually. Elvis, for sure, Dean Martin, and Vestal Goodman. Definitely Elvis, because he was electric on stage and always connected with the audience. Dean Martin because of his sense of humor, although I think Dean and I would have gotten into a lot of trouble, and Vestal Goodman was a gospel singer that just knew how to flat out sing. Doing a duet with her would have been magical.
Q. What do you treasure?
A. My wife and my girls and my dog Presley. I don’t know how to expand more on that to be honest. Words don’t do justice to how special these three remarkable women are. Presley came into my life after my ex-wife had left and we were the two bachelors sitting together on the couch watching TV.
Q. If you weren’t a singer, what career would you chose? Why?
A. I would still have my clothing store. I loved the retail side constantly having to be creative with store and window displays. There is a creative side of me that has to come out, so if it’s not singing and performing, it would be in my second love of working my clothing store.
Q. What has surprised you most about being a performer?
A. People that have followed me from concert to concert. I mean, yes I followed different groups around and even saw back to back shows when I was younger, but I guess I never expected that to happen to me.
Q. Describe your favourite audience.
A. Every audience is my favourite to be honest. I’ve sang to seven people and to over 7000 and sometimes on the same tour…lol. It’s just as hard to sing to seven as it is over 7000.
Q. What are sacrifices have you made for your singing career?
A. When I was touring so much I didn’t have holidays, or times with family for birthdays etc. as life was always on the road. Now I don’t regret any of those things, please understand. Just performing was first and foremost as I knew there would come a time (like I have now) where I would have a lighter schedule to enjoy spending time on holidays (like I do now in the Caribbean many times a year).
Q. In one of your posted photos, you are shown sewing your costumes. Do you make many of your own costumes?
A. No, I must admit I don’t. I think that’s why the picture was taken…lol. My wife has made a number of the different costumes I have needed for different shows. Generally we try and purchase what I need; however when something is just not quite right, we sometimes embellish those outfits and I think that’s what I was doing in the photo.
Q. Please describe some of your favourite costumes, and why they are your favourites.
A. I think my one of my favourite ones to wear is the 70’s Elvis style jacket I wear in the “70s Revolution” show. There is just something about the big high collar that I love and, of course, how it makes me look. I also loved my “Elton John” inspired jacket that we had in the 2017 shows as it was so over the top. At the same time I love wearing just the black suit / tuxedo and shirt and tie. The classics never go out of style.
Q. Does “dressing the part” help with your performances?
A. Sure, I believe it does. When you get the right outfit for the performance you are doing, it just works. When I’m singing “The Prayer” I would not be wearing the Elvis or Elton John jackets, nor would I want to be wearing jeans and a t-shirt. That song begs for the classic suit. So having the right outfit to the right songs is very important. Now in my “70s Revoution” show it’s hard to sometimes have the right outfit to the song as we cover so many different artists from Elvis, Elton John, Neil Diamond, The Bee Gees, Three Dog Night, The Eagles, Rod Stewart, KC & The Sunshine Band, The Doobie Brothers, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder and more.
Q. What annoys you?
A. People that drive at night without their headlights on. I know cars have automatic daytime running lights and at night the dash of your car lights up, but when I’m driving down the road and I come up on somebody from behind in a black vehicle, at night, in the rain, and I can’t see them because they didn’t take the two seconds to turn on their headlights……. Well that is annoying to me!
Q. What do you fear?
A. Besides snakes, big spiders and climbing ladders? I think that list is long enough…lol.
Q. Describe a future that is specifically design for you.
A. I’m living the future specifically designed for me. So I guess my answer would be tomorrow.
Q. How do you handle disappointment?
A. One step at a time. I can’t control the elements or the people around me, I can only control my reactions to it. At times I have been successful and at times I have found that I still have a lot of work to do. It’s in those times you recognize your mistake, take a deep breath, and start again.
Q. How will you know when it is time to retire from performing?
A. I don’t think you ever truly retire from performing. You just do less shows. If Elvis were alive today I truly believe you would hear or see him every now and then, at the right time in the right setting. Never truly retiring; just not actively touring.
Q. What will you do in retirement?
A. I say all the time that I retired when I was 25 (the year I closed my clothing store). I do what I love and I will never retire from that.
Q. Who are the people you would like to thank for being there throughout your career?
A. My family and of course my fans. Without either one of them I would not be where I am today.
Q. There is a video posted of you and your daughter singing together. Describe the experience.
A. The video that is posted is from Jamaica. Both of my daughters shared the stage with me all the time. It was always so special to see them walking towards the stage and watching the crowds reaction as they sang. One funny moment I remember while thinking of this happened when my youngest was about 8 or 9. We were singing at a church in Alberta and for whatever reason the crowd didn’t applaud. So when the song was over you had maybe a handful of people clap. When my daughters were done singing they walked off the stage heading to the back of the room with their mom. Savannah was about half way back the centre isle of the church, turned around and said, “Tough crowd huh Dad”. There was about a five second delay, which seemed like five minutes until the place burst out laughing. The church crowd just usually waited until the complete end of a total performance before they would clap. Let’s just say after Savannah’s astute observation the crowd clapped at the end of every song. I think we sold more CD’s that night per person than any other show…lol.
Q. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A. That if you throw me into a room where I do not know anyone I will be the quiet guy that stands in the corner and does not talk. My wife will go out and start talking and break the ice. Once the ice is broken I will laugh and joke with you all night long but to break the ice…I’m standing there like a shy little boy. Usually that makes people think that I am stuck up, but I’m just shy.
Q. What would you like to say to the backup singers and band members with whom you perform?
A. Always strive to do your best and constantly keep working on your craft. And also remember you are here for the audience not the other way around.
Q. Have you written any songs? Is writing and singing your own compositions something you would like to do?
A. Yes I have written and performed many of my own songs. I enjoy writing even though it does not come naturally for me. When the inspiration hits, and it’s hit in the weirdest places, I start to write. I had mentioned earlier that I had a song go #1 on the Billboard charts. I wrote that song in the back of my bus in a Walmart parking lot in Medicine Hat, Alberta. I woke up with lyrics in my head and rolled over in bed before the sun was up and started writing. By the time my wife woke up I had written the song that ended up doing very well for me.
Q. Do you have CDs for sale? Or are you planning on producing CDs?
A. I have 4 CD’s at this time. I have released 11 CD’s, 1 EP and 1 DVD over the last 19 years. The 4 CD’s that are currently for sale at my shows and on iTunes and my website are “Christmas Traditions” (Christmas CD with many seasonal favourites), “Departures” (has “The Prayer” and the Elvis song “Can’t Help Falling In Love” on it), “AMORE (a love songs CD with “Love Me Tender”) and “Roots” (a gospel album with such great Elvis gospel songs “How Great Thou Art”, “Stand By Me”, “I’ve Got Confidence” and many more).
Q. Is there a question you wished I had asked but didn’t?
A. I usually get asked about my watches and my shoes and of course my wedding ring. For whatever reason when someone who has come to my show, or during an interview, one of those three things are asked about.
Q. How would you answer your own question?
A. I love watches and I have a collection of great ones. I have my Hamilton Venture watch that Elvis wore in Blue Hawaii, my Movado which was my wedding present from my wife, which looks wonderful with the tuxedo, and an array of watches (a different one for each day for almost two weeks) that go with my mood or outfit.
As for the shoes…I think I have more shoes than my wife does. I love cool shoes, colourful designs, sparkly etc. I have some shoes that go with just that one pair of jeans, a certain shirt and jacket and the only time I wear those shoes is with that outfit. I know that sounds excessive however that comes from the time of having my own clothing store.
As for my wedding ring…I designed my ring. I have wanted black and white diamonds for a long time. When my wife and I decided to get married, I started to research companies on where to get one made. I found a company out of California that had the ring made in Italy—2 ½ carrots of black and white diamonds in a pave setting. I love my ring!!!!
Q. What would you like us to know about your upcoming show, “Crooner’s Christmas?
A. Crooner’s Christmas will be an evening with me and a three piece band (piano, upright bass, drums) singing all the favourite Christmas standards. It’s a evening to take a trip back in time to those old style Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra Christmas variety type shows. Christmas is my favourite time of the year and this show is my favourite show to perform. So come and join me and together we will sing, laugh, and transport ourselves into a ‘Wintry Wonderland’.
For more information about Andrew Martin, his upcoming shows, and ticket sales, please check out the following:
(Unless otherwise noted, all photos used in this article are credited to Janet and Andrew Martin).