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Norma Jean Martine
The last six months have been a complete whirlwind for Norma Jean Martine. Since the release of her first EP, “Animals”, her small world has changed beyond recognition. At the start of the year, Martine became the face of the new marketing campaign, the largest to date, of designer outlet McArthur Glen. With her cover of George Michael’s “Freedom”, she took the practical step of providing the soundtrack to the campaign herself. The highly respected Wonderland magazine quickly noticed her and devoted a major feature to Martine. And while all this was happening, the 25-year-old managed to compose and work with artists such as Ronan Keating, Pablo Nouvelle and Burt Bacharach. And all this before her debut album “Only In My Mind” had even appeared. So who is this young woman who attracts success so easily?
You can’t help but warm to Norma Jean Martine straight away. People who talk to her quickly feel that they have known her for ever. Not only because Martine is so open and friendly, but also because she gets straight to the point and shares her life story right from the start. “My father’s forebears were Italian immigrants and he grew up in a very poor environment,” she explains. “It’s from him that I have my values. He taught me that I have to work hard if I want to achieve anything. I’ve never expected anything to be handed to me on a plate.”
Norma Jean Martine grew up in Middletown, about an hour’s drive north of New York City. With Broadway on her doorstep, singing already became her great passion when she was a child. “We didn’t have any neighbors because our house stood right on the highway, and when my parents weren’t home, it was just my dog and the maize fields behind the house,” she laughs. “I think that’s why I became so creative. It was my way of dealing with being alone.” Yet it was not just that – it also shaped her personality. It might be hard to believe today, but as a child, Martine was not particularly self-assured. “My parents were very old school, and I didn’t have any cool designer clothes like the other kids. When I realised that I could sing really well, my life changed. Suddenly, I had a purpose.”
And Martine sure can sing! Her voice has this powerful, bluesy sound that reminds you of great singers like Nina Simone and Janis Joplin. No wonder she quickly gained fans at the blues jams that her mother took her to one day. After a short stop in Nashville, where she studied music at Belmont University, Martine then took the advice of her professor and moved to London in 2011. He felt that her music would suit the city well – and it appears he was right, since that is where it all took off. Martine met her manager, and was soon the supporting act for artists such as Stevie Wonder, Tom Odell and Gaz Coombes. She has also been the opening act for the legendary Montreux Jazz Festival on two occasions.
And now, her debut album, “Only In My Mind”, a wonderful mix of singer/songwriter, pop, rock, blues and folk, will finally be released. It ranges from gentle ballads like “I Will Never Love Again” through the retro-soul-pop number “Still In Love With You”, which is accompanied by brass and string instruments, to the rock-style track “Animals”, which was inspired by a Rolling Stones concert. “For me,” says Martine, “this album is like a lost rock/pop record from the sixties and seventies.”
On it, she gives it her all. She suffers and loves, grieves and forgives. She can be warm and tender, and at the same time secretive and raunchy. Many of the songs are about a past relationship. “That was the first time that I thought I could grow old with someone,” she says. As you can already guess, there was no happy end. The story of the relationship is retold in many of the songs. However, the album deals with more issues than just that. “I Will Never Love Again” is dedicated to Martine’s father, with whom she is very close. The title track “Only In My Mind” is inspired by the novel “Wuthering Heights” and deals with forbidden love, while Martine wrote the first single, “No Gold”, after reading the autobiography of Janis Joplin. “Joplin seems to have been a sleepwalker, and one day, she walked out onto the street. Her mother asked her where she was going, and Janis sang as loud as she could ‘I’m going home’. Somehow, I found that incredibly beautiful. I have left my home myself, and sometimes it’s really hard being so far away. But I know that I did it for a good reason. I’m following my dream.”
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