A chat with Jodi Martin, one of South Australia’s hardest-working folk musicians
28.08.2019

A chat with Jodi Martin, one of South Australia’s hardest-working folk musicians

She spills the beans on her upcoming show in Melbourne.

Music has always been in your blood, having penned your first song at the age of three and having a song recorded by none other than Kasey Chambers by the time you were sixteen. How did this come about in the first place?

At 15, I met Kasey and her brother Nash at a country music festival and I was so excited to find other musicians with a connection to the Nullarbor Plain where I was from. When Nash found out I was a songwriter, he asked me to post him some songs. From that home-made cassette demo I sent, Kasey and the Dead Ringer Band recorded my song ‘Why’.

Your new single ‘Did Mother Nature Become a Criminal’ was spurred from a three-week songwriting trip through the US with seminal folk artist Arlo Guthrie. Tell us a bit about the song and the journey you shared with Guthrie.

The song ultimately asks, “Are we doing something stupid or are we doing something smart?” and our survival on this planet rests on the answer. It’s a serious topic delivered with Arlo’s trademark humour. It was exciting and scary writing with one of my heroes. From New Orleans to New York State on the tour bus, every day we had to show up to a blank page and create together.

How would you describe the music you create, both in sound and in narrative?

To speak broadly, my music is indie-folk with country roots. A bit like me, really. I’m independent, I’m a folkie, and I’m originally from the country. Sometimes certain songs need to draw on diverse influences such as reggae or blues. Ultimately all of my music is about stories, told through words and sound.

Hailing from the remote South Australian town of Ceduna, what obstacles, if any, has geographical isolation posed to your music career?

Distance from my Tribe is the biggest obstacle now I’m back in my hometown. I left Ceduna when I was nineteen and lived near Byron Bay, then Sydney and Montreal, Canada. It was easy to access a lot of gigs from those places. But this coastal desert region is my spiritual home, so, for now, it’s worth the extra cost and travel.

Having to travel long distances when you go on tour, the road has been a big part of your career. Tell us a bit about your relationship with going on tour and spending extended periods on the road.

Growing up in Ceduna means that I look at an eight-hour road trip as a short ‘trip to the shops’, just like the 800km drive from Ceduna to Adelaide. I actually feel at home jumping in my van and heading to the next gig. I can stay on the road for months and be happy because I’m connecting with my community wherever I go.

Do you have any memorable tour tales to share?

I have just bought a new tour van after my 1993 Hiace bit the dust. I really bonded with my old van. It was almost alive like ‘Herbie’, that famous VW beetle, in the way it knew when it was okay to break down. For example, it completed our four-month national tour in 2016, and only blew the gearbox after it got us to the final gig in Albury.

You’re about to make your way to Melbourne for a show at Merri Creek Tavern. What can we expect from this show?

I will be playing a bunch of songs from my latest album Saltwater as well as some crowd favourites from my early releases. And my favourite Paul Kelly cover of course. I will be unveiling some new songs, and sharing some very personal stories as well as funny ones. And songwriter/double bass player extraordinaire Liz Frencham is opening the show.

What’s next for Jodi Martin? Any new music or upcoming shows on the horizon that we should be keeping an eye out for?

I’m recording a new EP with Shane Nicholson – and ‘Did Mother Nature Become a Criminal’ is the lead single. And in 2020 I’m heading to Nashville with the support of Country Arts SA, to work with Nash Chambers on my latest songs which have been birthed in the Ceduna/Nullarbor region that we both know so well. As well as that, I’m back in Victoria for Maldon Folk Festival in November.

Jodi Martin comes to Northcote’s Merri Creek Tavern on Saturday August 31 with support from double bass extraordinaire Liz Frencham. Tickets are $20 via the Facebook event. Keep up to date with Jodi Martin via her Facebook page or website.