Jeffrey Martin

The Song Builder

Portland singer-songwriter returns to Eugene

Portland songwriter Jeffrey Martin likes to be alone, whether he’s working construction, tinkering with the home he shares with his girlfriend, singer-songwriter Anna Tivel, or writing music.

“Something I liked about construction stuff when I was doing it,” he tells me over the phone from Portland. “I was mostly on my own. That’s the same way I write. I need a lot of time to sit in my head.”

In the past few years, Martin’s been touring his last release, 2017’s One Go Around. He also tours alone, an arrangement he prefers. He returns to play in Eugene April 18 at Sam Bond’s.

“It gets exhausting managing people’s emotions besides my own,” he says.

Tivel is also a musician with her own busy touring schedule. “She’s touring all the time,” he says. “That gets old.”

Missing her is when Martin hits his breaking point.

Opening for Martin this time is Eugene songwriter Tyler Fortier. Fortier produced One Go Around at his home music studio, which Fortier prefers to call an office.

In recent years, Fortier has largely stepped away from his work as a performing singer-songwriter in favor of producing other people’s music.

Fortier’s also found success writing instrumental material for film and TV licensing, a niche that’s allowed him to pursue music full time.

A while back Fortier realized performing wasn’t his passion. If it had been anyone else besides Martin who asked him to play a show, he probably would have said no, Fortier tells me over coffee.

“I’m his No. 1 fan,” Fortier says, smiling broadly.

One Go Around works in one of three different moods: lonely, tired, and tired of being lonely. It’s well-constructed music, four walls and a ceiling built over a solid foundation.

Martin plays the part of the hardworking acoustic songwriter, driven to do something with his simmering sadness, but ultimately a little ambivalent about human connection: The sweaty brow of Nebraska-era Springsteen meeting the aching back of John Prine.

From “Coal Fire,” off Martin’s 2016 release Dogs in the Daylight, he sings: “Everyone I love is trying to figure me out / Everything I knew, I buried underground.”

“I like the distance between what people know about me and what’s my real life,” Martin says.

A former high school English teacher, Martin draws as much inspiration from literature as he does from music, particularly the short stories of Flannery O’Connor and Raymond Carver. He’s rereading Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, he says.

He grew up on his parents’ music, Jackson Browne and Bob Dylan. But lately he can’t get enough of Seattle songwriter Damien Jurado.

“I’m kind of hesitant to get steeped in other people’s music,” he says.

He likes short stories because they say a lot with very little. “Sometimes I’m envious of the pace that a story can unfold versus what has to happen in a 4-minute song,” he says. “That tension is good.”

Even when Martin writes a song about some made-up character, “those stories are closer to me than I would like to admit,” he says.

Jeffrey Martin with Tyler Fortier

Thursday, April 18 • 9 pm

Sam Bond’s Garage

$7 • 21-plus

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