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There is always time for exploring new soundscapes and interesting arrangements... but the song has to connect with people or there's not much point to it. I'm really trying to stay in that magic equilibrium now as I write, the union of intriguing artistry, combined with strong human connection.Read more...
"One of my earlier memories of music is my mom playing the piano late at night, playing us to sleep with Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata,'" Marc says. With a father who preached and led worship and a mother who led the church choir and played piano, he was raised in a music-intensive environment.
Marc Martel was born November 16th, 1976, in Montreal, Canada. His parents instilled a love for music in him that followed him throughout his childhood, through eight years of piano lessons, through Disney duets he would sing with friends, through hours he spent alone teaching himself guitar, all the way to a small college in Saskatchewan, where he formed the band Downhere with his roommate Jason Germain and a few close friends in 1999.
"Our friendship was always based around music," Marc says. "We really hit it off musically... we realized we shared a lot of the same taste in music, while also bringing different influences."
Downhere developed their sound while touring on behalf of the college, which would send them out on the road with production, lighting, sound, and even a vehicle and trailer. After four years of college, the band left their Canadian roots behind and relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, where they signed with Word Records. Downhere has since gone on to win multiple Juno Awards and a Dove Award. They have released 10 albums, including their latest release, On the Altar of Love, which reflects a different approach to songwriting than their previous releases.
"For me it used to be all about being musically complex and artsy," Marc says. "And then I had a real perspective-shifting experience. At one of our shows there was a little girl standing front-center with her mother. When I said the next song was "How Many Kings," her face lit up as she looked up at her mom and grabbed her hand. She sang along to every word. I thought to myself, 'I've got to write more songs like THAT.'"
In September 2011, Marc entered a competition to join Roger Taylor, original drummer for the legendary rock band Queen, on stage for the Queen Extravaganza Live Tour. Throughout his career with Downhere, concertgoers have often approached Marc insisting he sounds just like Freddie Mercury, legendary singer of the rock band Queen.
"I don't think I've done a show in the last five or six years where five to ten people haven't come up to me and said, 'Hey, anyone ever tell you that you sound like Queen?' or 'that guy from Queen' or 'Freddie Mercury,'" he says laughingly. "In the list of great rock signers, he is considered one of the best, if not the best, and it's always just a huge compliment when people tell that to me."
It seems that Downhere concertgoers aren't alone in their thinking, as Marc's entry for the Queen Extravaganza contest, a video of Marc singing along with the Queen classic "Somebody to Love," generated more than 3.5 million views on YouTube after being up for only a few days.
Whether it's onstage with Downhere or on a computer screen, Marc has a message and a voice that has captured millions for the past decade. Through music, Marc is after the one thing people are always looking for a connection.
"There is always time for exploring new soundscapes and interesting arrangements…but the song has to connect with people or there's not much point to it. I'm really trying to stay in that magic equilibrium now as I write, the union of intriguing artistry combined with strong human connection."
Marc currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife, Crystal Martel.
Since the beginning, we've tried to be a band that remained down-to-earth. We always want to be real and accessible to the people we play for. We talk to them, play soccer, hang out, pray with them. When they see that we're real people sharing this journey of faith with them, it gives our music a different voice in their lives.Read more...
When Canadian melodic alt-rockers Downhere hit the U.S. music scene in 2001 with the release of their self-titled debut, Christian music fans took notice. The band's combination of powerful vocals, intelligent lyrics, and commitment to ministering to their audiences, helped earn them a Dove Award nomination for New Artist of the Year, a Juno Award for Best Gospel Album, and Canadian Gospel Music Association Covenant Awards for Rock Album of the Year and Rock Song of the Year (for "Larger Than Life").
The momentum continued with the release of So Much For Substitutes in 2003, earning the band a Dove Award for Modern Rock Recorded Song of the Year for "Breaking Me Down," as well as Best Male Vocalist honors from Christianmusictoday.com for co-lead vocalist Marc Martel.
For Downhere, the aforementioned industry accolades heralded the advent of a quietly introspective time. Two scant months after winning a Dove, they retreated from the forefront of the industry to reassess their direction as a band. A widespread and fiercely loyal fanbase continued to follow them through their dogged touring schedule, but behind the scenes, the band carefully took stock of where their ministry and artistry were going.
"We went through a brief season," says Downhere drummer Jeremy Thiessen, "of saying 'OK Lord, are we still doing the right thing? Is this band still where you want us?'"
"But pretty quickly we all agreed," adds co-lead vocalist/guitarist/keys player Jason Germain. "This is what we're supposed to do. We're supposed to be on the road, encouraging the church, singing our love songs. So we hit the road and that's where we've been for three years, touring and playing."
Life lived and lessons learned during that season find musical expression on the band's highly anticipated Centricity Records' debut, Wide-Eyed And Mystified. Produced by Grammy Award-winners Greg Collins and Mark Heimermann, along with the band themselves, Wide-Eyed And Mystified is a project ripe with a mature and passionate sense of calling, purpose, humility and community, not to mention raw melodic power. For Collins, whose credits include U2, Gwen Stefani and Matchbox 20, the project marked his first production in the Christian music arena.
The 13 musically diverse songs that comprise Wide-Eyed And Mystified have as their unifying center not only a hard-won sonic identity that comes through the band's years of playing as a unit, but a deeper cohesion drawn from the web of relationships, rooted in love for Christ, that extend from the band to the circle of people closest to them, and outward to the hundreds of churches they serve each year in ministry.
From the epic, orchestral "A Better Way," which speaks of Christ's sacrifice as the ultimate love letter, to "The More," an energetic mod-rocker centered on the daily outworking of one's faith, Wide-Eyed And Mystified maintains a sense that this isn't just a band making a record, but four committed believers issuing a communal call to walk out the implications of Christ's teachings.
"Since the beginning," says the band's bass player, Glenn Lavender, "we've tried to be a band that remained down-to-earth. We always want to be real and accessible to the kids where we play. We talk to them, play soccer, hang out, pray with them. When they see that we're real people sharing this journey of faith with them, it gives our music a different voice in their lives."
While Downhere is comfortable in their role as ministers to the church, they've long sought to maintain a standard of honesty in expression that intrigues and draws nonbelievers into conversation as well.
"We throw a lot into our 'vulnerability box' and really try to be relatable to the audience," Jason explains. "People can sense the fact that when we sit down to write a song we're really pouring ourselves into it, so there's a humanness they relate to."
Another stand out cut on Wide-Eyed And Mystified is the Brit-pop tinged "The Real Jesus." The song begins as a commentary on Western culture's numerous misunderstandings of the person of Christ, but it quickly reveals itself as a call to the church to proactively wrestle with what it means to live as Christ's representatives in the world.
"One of the themes on this record," says co-lead vocalist and guitarist Marc Martel, "centers on being real about what a life of faith is, rather than quoting easy cliches and saying 'Everything's going to be alright.' There are quite a few songs on Wide-Eyed And Mystified that acknowledge faith isn't always easy."
The ambient piano-based "Unbelievable" stands as a thematic counterpoint to the ongoing tension of sanctification, acknowledging that worship of God is an eternal calling, and that we are a part of an unfolding history of generations whose voices are joined in adoration of God's love.
"I don't think we solve much by pointing out problems," Jason says. "The solution comes through pointing at God's heart. When you understand how much God loves you, when it hits you for the first time, it's like a tidal wave and you're just totally lost in it. That's something we're trying to communicate. Despite difficulties, conflicts and broken relationships, there is a God who is Love, and worshipping Him is our highest calling."
Downhere acknowledges not only the legacy of worship, but the ongoing legacy of faithful service to God that has been handed down to them by previous generations. Marc and Jason joined forces to write the soaring anthem "Little Is Much," an emotional tribute to their fathers, both pastors of rural churches.
"My dad's not a great gifted speaker or a brilliant theologian," Jason explains, "he's just a wise and faithful shepherd with a great heart. His years of ministry embody for me the truth that if God is in something, no matter how tiny it is, it amounts to a greatness we can't even understand. That's our hope too, as we write and tour and sing our little songs, that God would take the four of us, take Downhere, take this record, and use them in a bigger way."