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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Martin Sexton looks back at music that moves him and his favorite Spokane memory

By Ed Condran The Spokesman-Review

It’ll be an adjustment for Martin Sexton performing Monday at the District Bar since his last few local performances have been at the late, lamented Lucky You Lounge. But Sexton has no problem moving on. After crafting eight albums and two EPs of original material, the veteran singer-songwriter is heading into another direction.

“I’ve got a notebook full of baby songs (tunes in their embryonic state),” Sexton said while calling from Minneapolis. “But I’m thinking that it might be time for some kind of covers album, as I’ve never really done that and have always wanted to make a covers album.”

Sexton, 57, is aiming high since he would like to deliver versions of tunes from what is arguably the Beatles’ finest album. “What’s been inspiring me lately, besides family and beautiful places and people that I meet, is learning the songs from ‘Abbey Road’ in their entirety. The songs are so simple and sophisticated at the same time. I’d like to incorporate that into my live performance.”

Sexton hasn’t recorded covers but they’ve been part of his set from time to time. The veteran folkie has fond memories of delivering an epic version of one of his favorite songs in Spokane.

Just prior to taking the stage at the Knitting Factory in May 2010, Sexton learned that legendary vocalist Ronnie James Dio had died of cancer.

“My favorite Spokane memory would be singing ‘Rainbow in the Dark’ the night Ronnie James Dio passed,” Sexton said. “We opened the show with (Dio’s) ‘Rainbow in the Dark’ and the crowd sang along. It was such a powerful moment that I’ll never forget. It was magical.”

A decade after that show the pandemic arrived and magic was in short supply.

Sexton created “2020 Vision,” which is his first release since 2015’s “Mixtape of the Open Road.” “2020 Vision” features Sexton’s take on America. It’s a nice bookend to his 1998 album, “The American.”

“America is a unique and amazing place,” Sexton said. “There really is no country like it.”

Sexton had an opportunity to reflect during the pandemic and he was inspired. “It was a scary time but at home I enjoyed the rare opportunity to be with my family nonstop,” Sexton said. “So the songs were written almost like a scrapbook of that time trying to keep an optimistic view during an otherwise dark time.”

Unity is what Sexton hopes he and other recording artists can bring during a divisive time.

“There’s too much division, and despair right now,” Sexton said. “But I believe we will heal and learn to love each other and be inspired once again.”

The Syracuse native, who started his career busking in the streets of Boston, remembers how different the world was when he was emerging during the ’90s. “It’s great looking back at how together we were then,” Sexton said. “It was a great time for me since my career was taking off.”

Just before signing with Atlantic Records in 1996, Sexton opened for such icons as Jackson Browne, Art Garfunkel and John Hiatt. “I’m so grateful for the dreams of meeting and collaborating with heroes coming true,” Sexton said. “I’ve learned so much as we all do from our influences. I learned how to write a three minute cohesive pop song that doesn’t completely suck is probably my best take away.”

Sexton is an engaging and chill entertainer live. His approach to performing is as laid back as his personality since he never writes a set list. “Every night I go out, not knowing what I will be singing. I find the show takes on a new life every night with the spontaneity that comes from not knowing,” Sexton said. “It helps when the crowd becomes part of the show as they shout out requests and sing along. Each set is like monkey bars that I can play differently on every night.”