Marc Martel, as an artist, has been described in many ways. Many publications have considered him to be THE Freddie Mercury incarnate, while an equal number of admirers have considered him to be “the kind of voice that comes along once in a generation”.
Whether you’ve known of Marc Martel and his talents through the Queen Extravaganza, his original band Downhere, or even through his solo work, there is no denying the absolute raw power and amazing pitch control he exudes through his one in a million voice heard on his major label début “Impersonator.”
Named, due in part to the many comparisons he’s received over the last decade to the late Queen vocalist, ‘Impersonator’ shows the confident vocalist ready to step out on his own to make a brand new name for himself in the rock music scene. No longer just a ‘Dead Ringer’ for Freddie, Marc Martel proves that he can stand on his own among the rock and roll greats as ‘Impersonator’ is definitely an album that shouldn’t be missed.
Late last month, we had the opportunity to talk to Marc about his rise to success, his thoughts on those nagging Freddie comparisons, and the inspiration between his début album and his upcoming promotional tour. Read below!
AltWire [Mattison Keesey]: To start, for those of our readers who were not fortunate enough to be introduced to you with Downhere or your stint with The Queen Extravaganza, could you please tell our readers a bit about yourself? When did you first realize you wanted to get into music?
Marc Martel: I’ve been a professional musician for about 15 years now and rock-pop is my main thing. I love to sing, it’s my favorite thing to do. I’ve been a singer/songwriter for all those years. I’m actually Canadian, but I’ve lived in Nashville, TN for the last 15 years.
AW: What was is like to be a part of The Queen Extravaganza?
Marc Martel: It’s awesome! It’s ongoing, we’ve actually got another tour coming up in the fall in the UK and Australia. It’s a blast! I think my favorite part of the whole thing is the sights and the friends I’ve made, we’re a pretty tight group now. I get to walk on stage with my microphone and sing some pretty awesome songs. We’ve got a great crew that does all the set-up and tear downs, which is something I don’t get to see very often. It’s just a really great experience.
AW: Much talk has been put on your vocal (and even somewhat physical) similarity to the late Freddie Mercury. While some would be really honored to receive such a comparison, have you always been happy to receive this comparison, or has it sometimes bothered you?
Marc Martel: Well, that’s mainly the theme of my album, ‘Impersonator’. It’s obviously an honor, and I’ve been getting that comparison for a while, over 12 years now, on a regular basis, no matter what music I’m singing. Even when I try not to sound like Freddie, people will come up to me and there was a point where I was counting how many people would say that to me after a show, like “Hey! Has anyone ever told you that you sound like Freddie Mercury?” It was at least 5 every time, without fail.
It is an honor, there are far worse singers out there to be compared to. I’ve come to terms with it. I’ve accepted it, and it’s something I’m never going to escape, so why bother? If I tried to escape it, or kind of morph my voice into something unnatural. It’s the way I sound and thankfully it’s someone who people genuinely love to hear.
AW: When were you first made aware that some people felt you sounded like Freddie? Did you realize it yourself or did it come from somebody else?
Marc Martel: It actually came from someone else. I didn’t grow up on Queen’s music. I was vaguely aware of ‘We Are The Champions’ and ‘We Will Rock You’ and stuff like that. But it was my bass player in Downhere that brought that to my attention. He said, “Ya know, you sound a lot like Freddie Mercury, I don’t know if you know that”, and I said, “Hmm, Freddie Mercury. I think he’s the lead singer of Queen or something like that?”
Then I started getting into them, and this was maybe 12 or so years ago and I started getting into Queen a little bit. I thought, this guy really pushes himself beyond the limit of what a lot of singers would even attempt and it’s encouraged me to explore the boundaries of what I could do vocally.
AW: With your album ‘Impersonator’, it seems as though you are trying to stray away from the Freddie Mercury comparisons; however, after working with The Queen Extravaganza and being compared to Freddie for so long, I can imagine it would be hard to completely leave him out of your album. Would you say that there was still a little Freddie Inspiration in the writing of ‘Impersonator’?
Marc Martel: There is definitely a few songs that are a bit of a throw to Classic Rock in general. I really like guitar rock in general, and there’s some in there. Anytime you put my vocal on straight up guitar rock, I can’t escape the Queen comparisons, so it’s there definitely. I would never say that Queen is one of my biggest rock influences, as far as songwriting goes.
I’ve lived in Nashville for 15 years and part of the Nashville singer/songwriter thing has worked its way into who I am as an artist, and there’s a lot of that in there. I wouldn’t consider myself a straight rock artist, I’m more of a pop-rock artist. I grew up listening to the top 40, just like everyone else. I like catchy, simple melodies and I think there’s a little something for everyone in the record.
AW: In a press release your publicist sent to us at AltWire, one quote that really stuck out to me was: “He possesses the kind of voice that comes along once in a generation, an uncanny instrument that gives each song unique life and emotion”. I think that’s rare to find in an artist and I’d just like to know where you stand on that. How does that statement make you feel?
Marc Martel: I don’t know, it’s like tooting your own horn! Someone else said it, it’s not like a quote that I said in some drunken stuper at one point! What do you really say about that? I agree with it, but I never realized that the comparison to Freddie Mercury was anything special, really. People said that I sound like this guy, and I’m like yeah sure, what’s the big deal? Everybody has this category of voice that they fall into and it happens to be a high thing, like a lot of rock singers can sing high. I just never realized it was anything special until this video when viral of me singing a Queen song a few years ago.
I guess it is kind of unique based on the whole public’s reaction of it, it’s kind of hard to deny that. I just kind of keep using my gift and singing as much as I can off any old stage. It’s a day to day thing for me, I just try not to let it go to my head. It’s ironic that it says unique, because everyone compares me to someone else, who is more unique then I was! It’s a weird thing for me.
AW: To be completely honest, when watching your video of ‘Somebody To Love’, I could cover your face and think you were Freddie Mercury, but when listening to your solo album, the sound of Freddie is minimal to me.
Marc Martel: I never took any singing lessons. The way I learned to sing was by imitate guys who were sort of in the same vocal range as me. When I was in grade school/elementary school George Michael was the big pop-star and I figured out that I could morph my voice into what he could do on the record and later on, when Pearl Jam came along, I was like everyone else and jumped on the rock bandwagon. Honestly, I forgot what the question was and I kind of went off on a rabbit trail there!
AW: That’s okay, I’m interested in what you’re telling me! Keep going!
Marc Martel: I think the first artist that came along that really helped me find what was closest to me was Jeff Buckley in the 90’s. I started listening to his music and his songwriting was so crazy! It seemed like there was no format to it, and that helped me open my brain and my artistry to new things. He’s my favorite rock or pop singer of all time, and he’s just a pro.
AW: Now that were talking a little more about your roots, I’d like to go back to when you made the Freddie audition video. How did you hear about it and, aside from your voice, what made you want to do the audition?
Marc Martel: It was a friend of mine here in Nashville who used to record for my old band and he found out about this contest that Queen was having to put together this Queen tribute band. He emailed the link to me and I thought it was a crazy opportunity that seemed like it was meant for me. So I checked it out, and I had a band at the time, we were doing fine and had a lot of work, but I thought what if I tried out for this thing and it could be sort of like a cool part time gig.
So I just went for it. I went up to my studio and recorded myself singing this song and after 4 or 5 takes I thought the last one was the best, so I uploaded it. My old band would put YouTube videos up all the time, and we would get 2-3 thousand views on a good one, so I expected no different with this one. The next day, it was already up half a million views. It was just a really strange, I mean really strange, two weeks for me. It still feels like that didn’t really happen.
AW: With the release of ‘Impersonator’, you will be embarking on a follow-up tour, which will be your first time touring solo. How do you feel doing your first tour as Marc Martel?
Marc Martel: Yes, this will be my first time touring solo. I’m excited, and nervous, but I’ve got a great band together and we’re well-rehearsed. I’ve actually reached my goal or rehearsing so much that I’m starting to get bored with the songs already, which is great, because now I can really focus on the audience and the show. It’s going to be a lot of fun!
AW: What do you thing the fan base turn out will be? Do you think The Queen Extravaganza and Downhere fans will be attending the shows?
Marc Martel: Obviously I’m always trying to reach a new fan base and get the word out there, but since it’s my first one, I really have no idea what to expect. I’ve got a lot of people out there who know me for my Queen stuff, and a lot of people who know me from my previous band, Downhere. I’m expecting there’s going to be a pretty great mix of those people and some new people coming to find out how incredible the show is, so then more people will come!
Again, I don’t know. I’m really looking forward to getting this tour under my belt and re-assessing from there what kind of people my music attracts. I’m more excited about getting on the road then I am about releasing the album, because on the road I’m really going to connect with people and see who is really connecting with my music.
AW: Will you have any supporting acts accompanying you on the tour?
Marc Martel: It’s going to be all local openers. I’m actually really excited about some of the openers. There’s some really cool music that I’ll be playing after.
AW: That’s great! Local openers can be a great way to attract fans.
Marc Martel: Yes! Hopefully I can succeed at converting, stealing, some fans!
AW: Where are you most excited to go?
Marc Martel: I don’t get to the northeast that much and the first leg is DC, Boston, New York City so I’m looking forward to that. I haven’t played New York, very much ever, so that’ll be a lot of fun. Doing a couple of cool, media outlet stuff which I’m there too so that’ll be a lot of fun. I’ve got some family in Boston, so I might see them. I’m really excited for everywhere. We’re covering a large slot of the eastern states and its being awhile since I’ve even toured in the states.
AW: What else can we expect from you in 2015?
Marc Martel: The first tour, then I’ll be doing another leg at some point, hopefully over the summer. In the fall it turns back to The Queen Extravaganza, and we won’t be in the states at all. We’re doing Australia, UK, some Europe. In the past we’ve done a typical Queen concert where we just play all the hits, but this time we’ll be doing a new thing where we playing through the entire album ‘A Night At The Opera’, which ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is on. That’ll be interesting to see how that goes because it’s a really intricate, intense body of music. I’m ready to go full force on this touring and starting to write for the new record and all that!
Marc Martel – “Stalemate”:
Marc Martel – “Dead Ringer”: