Luke Martin Finding His Voice at Bruce Wine Bar

If you’re heading to Bruce Wine Bar this Friday night don’t be expecting green beer and “Kiss Me I’m Irish” buttons.  There will be plenty of pubs offering a chance to pretend you’re Irish for a night.  Bruce Wine Bar will be putting the focus on what it does best: presenting original singer-songwriters in an intimate setting conducive to listening.  Owner Steve Vipond consistently expresses his passion for original songwriting by presenting dinner shows that feature the best in touring artists and local emerging talents.  This Friday the focus will be on one of the most promising local talents around: Luke Martin.

It’s just been two years since Luke Martin decided to follow his dream of making music full time and his first paying gig ever was at Bruce Wine Bar.  “I just feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to meet Steve and Jen,” he says, “There has never been a venue like Bruce Wine Bar, with big city sophistication in a small town.”  He appreciates that it is a place that is classy in every respect, from the décor to the menu, and that it provides a platform for original music.  For him it’s a far cry from, and far superior to, the bar scene he left behind in Montreal.

“I was managing a bar there, and I wasn’t very happy,” he says, “and my family urged me to make a change, to do what I love.  So I quit my job and started playing full time.”  It was creativity, not a thirst for fame, that drove him.  He had been writing songs and playing guitar for about ten years, attended a professional theatre school and done a little acting and improv, but his only public outlet for creativity was as a cocktail consultant.  “At a certain point when you write a lot of songs,” he says, “you have to get out there.”

It seems counter-intuitive to leave one of the country’s biggest and most cosmopolitan cities to start a musical career in rural Ontario, but Luke Martin is a man who embodies paradox.  While he has an assurance and delivery on stage that comes across as a seasoned professional, he is actually tentative about his talent.  “I don’t consider myself a musician or guitarist,” he says, “but I’ve always been very interested in lyrics.  I’m attracted to songwriters like Bob Dylan, who are more poetic in their approach.”  Even while mesmerizing audiences with his songs and his delivery, he always comes off stage a little disappointed in himself, thinking about the things he needs to improve. “I’m never happy with what I’m doing,” he says.  Although he is grateful to the Bruce Wine Bar audiences who listen intently to his songs, he is just as happy playing to a noisy room full of conversation.  “When nobody’s listening,” he says, “that’s when I feel most free.”

The move to our area was a chance for a fresh start and to find himself, a process that he is still exploring.  He didn’t feel comfortable about the idea of becoming a performer in Montreal, playing to the same people that he had been serving drinks (although there’s no shame in that).  He had an opportunity to live in Markdale when he heard of a Therapeutic Riding Centre that was looking for someone to work on the farm and take care of the horses, something he’s had some experience with.  It gave him a base to work from to launch his career as a singer-songwriter.  Since then he’s moved to Kimberley, and his reputation as a performer and songwriter continues to grow.  He definitely feels he made the right move, “You get a chance to be more experimental here,” he says, “People are more willing to listen.”

Despite a growing fan base, selling out previous nights at Bruce Wine Bar, Meaford Hall’s Summer Terrace Series, and other venues, he is still restless, still looking for his unique expression.  He’d be happy if he was more satisfied with his efforts.  “I’d much rather appreciate what I do than sound like anyone else.  I’m a bit of a perfectionist, in just about anything I do.”  So far, mainly due to that perfectionism, there are not a lot recordings to be found of his work.  He has posted things on You Tube in the past, then removed them rather than have them stand of representations of what he does.  His restless creativity pushes him toward other outlets, writing in various media, with an idea for a graphic novel and plans to try his hand at stand-up comedy.  He would like to record his songs but it is a matter of finding the right producer.  Being a perfectionist, he’s not always comfortable with musical collaborations.

Until he finds his level in his own mind, the only way you can experience his work is to see him live.  We can be grateful to Bruce Wine Bar for seeing his talent and sharing it with the community.  Even if he comes off stage disappointed in his performance, the audience never is.

As always, reservations are recommended for both one hour dinner shows 7 and 9pm.

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