Playing music has always been part of Katie Marti’s life. As a child growing up in a small town in New Brunswick, she sang in a choir and took piano lessons. She entered a national songwriting contest as a kid. “It was a nerdy little classical ditty on the piano,” she said. “I think it was called Irish Jig.”
She placed second, she recalls.
Many years, a move across the country and a career change later, Marti is a fixture in Revelstoke’s folk music scene, ready to jump into the next stage of her life and pursue her dream of being a performer.
“I always really loved performing,” she told me over a coffee at the Modern one morning last week. “I think it’s the same as when you’re out on a beautiful day or eating a fantastic meal or skiing on a great ski day, you have that feeling of euphoria where there’s nothing better you could be doing right now.”
Marti is most easily described as a folk singer/songwriter, though her first EP, recorded earlier this year, has an old country music feel, with it’s fiddle playing and lap steel guitar.
Her earliest memories performing, aside from those childhood piano recitals and choirs, come from campfire sing-alongs at summer camp. “The usual hippie stuff like Leaving on a Jet Plane and Four Strong Winds,” she says.
An only child, Marti’s mother bought her a guitar at a key point of her life when she was a teenager and she went from there. She was able to channel her creative passions into playing and writing her own music.
“I would sit in my room if I had time and I would write songs, I would write books and I would write stories. I would write interviews and record them,” she says. “I’ve always been creative and super nerdy.”
She snuck into bars to play open mic nights and watched as some childhood friends emerged as musicians. When I asked about her influences, she cited Rose Cousins, an east coast folk singer who’s about her age. “I watched her with envy as she worked it out and established herself,” Marti says. “Now she tours with Jann Arden and big names.”
Another influence is her friend David Miles, who she watched go from “playing terrible gigs” to playing the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto.
“Those two are probably at the top of the list, although my music doesn’t sound much like their’s,” says Marti.
Her own path took her into teaching. She spent 10 years as a teacher before taking a year off and spending a winter in Fernie and a summer guiding for Outward Bound. A few years later, she took a job as a the head of modern languages at a prestigious Vancouver private school.
Then, in 2012, she had that moment where she realized it was now or never to pursue her dream of being a musician. She quit her job, moved to Revelstoke, got a job waitressing and started playing around town. She came here to start somewhere new, where people didn’t know her as a teacher.
“I found it really easy to come here and do the things I’m going be doing without the questions or funny looks,” she says. “It was really easy to come here to re-invent myself and introduce myself as the first thing I want to be.”
Marti has played at pretty much every venue in town, her favourite being the monthly Coffee House at the United Church. She says they provide the best atmosphere for playing new music.
“On this stage it’s wonderful because as somebody that wants people to hear the things that I’m doing, it’s satisfying and really encouraging,” she says.
The experiences allowed her to develop her songs. Earlier this year, she received a grant from FACTOR and went home to New Brunswick to record a three-song EP with some friends. The result is “We’re All Home,” which blends country and folk with a bit of an indie feel. Stay Awhile, the opening track, is a mellow affair, while the tempo picks up on Nickels and Dimes. The closer, Home, is another ballad.
One of Marti’s goals is to write more up-tempo songs.
“I’ve always joked that I just sing sad songs,” she says. “I do a lot of the time but I think it’s important to step beyond that and have some food stompers and fun music for people to listen to.”
Marti plays the closing night of the Summer Street Festival in Grizzly Plaza this Sunday, Aug. 28, from 6:30–9:30 p.m. Faced with performing for three hours, she’ll be playing almost every song she knows, including some of the first ones she ever learned. She’ll surround her originals with covers and do her best to keep people entertained.
Her next plan is to move to Victoria and develop her music in a bigger city. “I have a bit of momentum right now but if I stay in Revelstoke that momentum will stop,” she says. “If I can spend the next five years really focusing on playing music, traveling around and building a bit of a career, I’ll be happy to let whatever happens happen in my later years. I don’t want to look back and think I could have done more.”
Listen to Katie Marti’s music at her website, katiemarti.com.