DAve Stewart - The Lake Poets - Martin Longstaff

Source : Chronicle Live

It took 15 seconds for Dave Stewart to decide he wanted to hear a lot more from Martin Longstaff, who tunefully trades under the name The Lake Poets.

The former 50% of eighties music legends, The Eurythmics – and multi-international-award winner – had heard about the singer songwriter, who also hails from Sunderland, via a friend who was raving about him.

“He told me he’d heard this guy sing at a benefit in a church hall. He said he’d got a lump in his throat and goosebumps.

I said ‘well, come on, can you send me something?’. He found something online with Marty just singing with an acoustic guitar.

“As soon as I heard the first 15 seconds, I said to myself I was going to get in contact with him. I managed to get his email address and sent him an email.”

Unsurprisingly, Martin, who works as a primary school supply teacher and lifeguard on Wearside, needed a bit of convincing that he wasn’t being pranked. “At first I’d missed a call and I didn’t recognise the number, so I just ignored it,” he says.

Dave, who grew up in Sunderland and went to Bede School, laughs. “At first he wasn’t quite sure if it was genuine. Then I spoke to him for a bit and then asked him how would he like to fly to Nashville and make an album in this amazing studio, which has all this vintage equipment and where all these legendary people have recorded? And he was like ‘hell yeah’.”

Having just finished promoting his first EP, Honest Hearts, Martin, who has been writing and performing his distinctive and North East-soaked songs to increasing acclaim for the past four years, says he couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing.

“I was flabbergasted. When he suggested we work together, I thought he meant write a song or something. When he talked about flying me out to Nashville and producing my album, I nearly fell over.”

Good as his word, Dave, who splits his time between Nashville, Los Angeles and London, had Martin on a plane in February.

“He put in about six weeks on his own, in an ‘Airbnb’ kind of place to write some more songs and get the feeling of Nashville. And then I arrived and we went in the studio and recorded,” says Dave.

“We had a great time, the recording was so atmospheric.”

The album, which includes popular songs from The Lake Poets back catalogue like North View, Shipyards and Vane Tempest as well as a string of new tracks, was recorded in Blackbird Studios. Run by superstar country singer Martina McBride and her husband John, recent clients have included Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and Taylor Swift. Not to be sniffed at, then.

“Everything there is back to the old days, like recording in Abbey Road in the 60s,” explains Dave. “All this old gear gets wheeled out and it sounds so great. I played on a couple of tracks. One time it’s really just a lot of noise I created using the feedback I can create when I turn my guitar around and then one time I played straight guitar.

“He recorded about 20 songs, which we got down to about 12 and then continued fiddling with them for a couple of months in Los Angeles. Then he went home and we continued fiddling with the sound until we thought it was perfect.”

And tomorrow night, the world will get the chance to hear it for themselves, when the eponymous Lake Poets album is officially released.

And what better way to celebrate, than with a couple of gigs on Dave and Martin’s home turf?

Two live performances have been booked in at Sunderland Minster – one on Friday and one on Saturday – and Dave will be flying to make sure he’s in the front row for them both.

“We’re going to show a bit of a documentary we’ve been making and we’re going to play a bit – well he is going to play a bit. He asked me if I was going to get up and I said ‘well, I only know Cushy Butterfield’.”

Although the Saturday night gig sold out within a few days of it going on sale earlier in the year, 50 tickets have just been released for the Friday night.

“I think he could have sold out three nights,” laughs Dave. “He’ll be in Germany with me the night before and we’ll fly in together. We get on great and I think by the time he’s taken the album all over the place… in 18 months time, he’s going to be able to play anywhere he wants.”

The Lake Poets album launch takes place at Sunderland Minster on September 25 and 26. There will also be gigs at Surf Cafe Tynemouth, The Olde Young Tea Shoppe Middlesbrough and Holy Trinity Church Sunderland on October 23, 25 and 29 respectively. For full details and booking, visit www.thelakepoets.com