Christina Martin’s 10 tips on songwriting, music and life!

22 Mar, 2018 in Features, Tips & Techniques

Christina Martin

Christina Martin: “Keep calm, be kind to others, and realise your intent.” Pic: Scott Munn

The Canadian singer-songwriter extols the virtues of daily routine, following your heart, journaling, wearing blinders, hiring musicians and saying ‘no’

Multi award-winning musician Christina Martin has a talent for synthesising Americana and pop-rock sounds into sleek and engaging music with standout messages. She continues her evolution as one of Canada’s top exporting artists, preparing to release her sixth studio album that sees a further develop lyrically, emotionally and sonically since 2016’s It’ll Be Alright.

As Christina explains: “There was little concern for following any style or trend in writing and recording these new songs. My commitment was to honour the direction the songs were leading me in. There were dark moments in the process, but I showed up each day to work, and hoped it would all come together.”

With this disciplined approach and considerable experience under her belt, we asked the Canadian to offer some advice on how she manages to handle the challenges of everyday life, songwriting and the business of making music…


1. Listen to your heart

“I try to follow the path with heart. This doesn’t necessarily mean the path of least resistance. If you make decisions based on what you know to be true in your heart, then you will have very few regrets in your life. I apply this to everything in my life: songwriting, recording, business decisions and relationship matters.”

2. Know your intentions

“Why do you write songs? Is it for yourself, to make money, do you have a message to share? Why do you record and release music? I am coming to realise the importance of knowing my intentions and reminding myself of them daily. When things get dark, I remember why I love writing and singing. I remember that I have something to share and hope that it will help others. It’s so easy to get caught up in what other people want you to do, or feeling pressure to be great at so many different roles. Keep calm, be kind to others, and realise your intent.”

3. Put your blinders on

“When you know your intentions, remind yourself of them daily (and yes, they can change!), then put on your blinders and block out the noise. Full steam ahead!”

4. Surround yourself with love

“It’s great to work with people who have different skill sets, but for me, it’s also important that the people I hire are willing to support 100 percent the vision I am trying to realise, and not fight against me, or realise their version of what I should be. Working with people in the later way, will only slow you down and drain your resources. It’s tough to know sometimes, but deep down you know, and conversations can further clarify for you. Be very selective about who you write, live and work with. Nobody else can look after you better than you!”

5. Create the vision, then find the resources

“Writing a song is cheap. You just need time, a pencil and paper, and perhaps an instrument. It’s everything else that comes at a cost. Finding resources is always a challenge for artists. I try to put down on paper the ‘vision’ for an album, talk about it with my producer and musicians in advance, and then use that plan to apply for funding support from Canadian resources (FACTOR and Music Nova Scotia, for example). Most musicians in other countries do not have the same access to funding, and even within Canada, thousands of musicians are vying for the same funds. Even with funding support, the independent artist still needs to invest a significant amount of their own resources to realise any recording, marketing or tour plans. My advice is to first have as clear a vision for a recording or tour or business strategy, and then start hunting for resources. Resources aside, if you are willing to put the time in, you can do a lot organically by performing live, and self-promoting online.”

Christina Martin

Christina Martin: “If I get sick and can’t sing, I can’t earn a living.”

6. Be okay with asking for help, and be ready to pay for it

“Your time is precious. My time is precious. Successful people are usually very busy, AND they have spent thousands of hours getting great at what they do. I personally think that if you want to be taken seriously, and if you respect yourself, you should show the same respect for any other professional working in the business. Personally, if you are struggling, you have friends and family you should not be afraid to ask for help. Professionally, you should do the same, BUT be willing to pay someone, or offer a gesture for their time (lunch in exchange for advise, a donation to their favorite charity, or an hourly or project-based fee). If the person you are asking for help is not an expert in the field, then that’s fine, you can come to another arrangement, but always show respect for their time by having the conversation about compensation before you begin a project. This applies to songwriting, recording, performing, rehearsing, and everything else.”

7. Learn how to say, “no”

“You have to be selective. Remember your intent, and remember you only have so much time in a day. Saying ‘no’ is still very difficult for me, but I need to, in order to have any time to write, care for myself, be helpful to others, and to realise my own intentions and purpose related to my personal and professional life. If you want time to write, then either get up earlier in the morning, or learn how to say ‘no’ and carve out time in your day to only write.”

8. Work with musicians who are better than you

“I can’t stress this enough. It’s so smart to surround yourself with people who have different skill sets and who are stronger than you in some ways. All the musicians I work with are naturally brilliant when it comes to music, and most of them are also trained musicians and music teachers. My training is minimal, but I have other strengths (I hope!). Same goes for your business team. They should be eager to support your vision, but also far more capable of networking and realising your goals that you are.”

9. Journal daily

“Coming back to what got me started in songwriting, before I was a songwriter, I wrote in my journal. Writing allowed me privately to make sense of difficult things that had happened in my life. Writing helps keep me calm. I believe it is a critical part of my daily routine. I found my voice through writing, and then I learned how to use my voice to realise my intent. My intention is to use my music and voice to share stories from my journey of discovery and healing, and to connect with others through performing.”

10. Routine

“In order to stay healthy, and to create, I need routine. My routine involves getting enough sleep every night, waking up early to meditate and then write. I also need to exercise at some point in my day, and spend a large amount of time handling my music business-related stuff. Did I mention fitting in healthy snacks and meals, and making time to stay connected to my family and friends? What I just described, is a perfect non-performance day for me. When I skip parts, sometimes I can get by for a while, but if I don’t stick to a routine, mentally and physically it’s bad news for me. Routine has been my way since I was very young. And it’s simple to me really. If I don’t stay healthy, I can’t run my business and earn a living doing what I love. If I get sick and can’t sing, I can’t earn a living. I don’t write every single day, but I aim to, and when I do it changes my day for the better, always.”


Christina Martin’s new album Impossible To Hold is out 23 MarchFor more information, head to christinamartin.net



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