Christina Martin & Dale Murray
The Carleton, 1685 Argyle Street
Sometimes Christina Martin doesn't feel like talking about it.
"And my husband's amazing," she says. "He's like, 'Why not? Yeah, we need to talk about this. We need to do this.'"
It's a difficult subject.
"We lost our brother Stephane to an opioid overdose in 2013," explains Martin. "And my brother was diagnosed bipolar late in life and struggled with addiction his whole adult life."
After her brother's death, Martin and her husband—who is also her engineer, sound mixer, co-producer and lead guitarist—partnered with Toronto's Centre for Addictions and Mental Health.
At their shows, the duo gives the audience an opportunity to support the hospital through monthly donations. Martin also uses stage time to talk about the work the hospital does and to start a conversation with her audience about addiction and mental illness.
"It's just been something that I've been keenly aware of growing up and most of my adult life," says Martin.
"So we try to raise awareness and share stories to show people that it's okay to talk about it, to drive home that idea that we need to basically try to eliminate stigma, which is the biggest barrier for people to reach out and ask for help—or to even reach out and help someone they care about because we get all weird about it, and we don't have the dialogue, perhaps."
When Martin is on stage, she opens up about losing Stephane. She also delves into her ongoing struggle with anxiety, which is mirrored in the songs she performs.
Her newest album, Wonderful Lie, is a collection of what she calls "stripped-down" versions of "some pretty iconic songs by iconic songwriters"—mixed with a few originals. There's a simple rendition of ABBA's breakup song "The Winner Takes It All," a twangy cover of Richard and Linda Thompson's "A Heart Needs a Home" and an acoustic version of Martin's previously-released original track "It'll Be Alright." The album is mostly voice and acoustic guitar. It's sad, slow, country-folk Americana.
"I am drawn to melancholy material. Not always. I mean, I like happy songs and upbeat stuff," she explains. "But I'm always drawn to the—I guess a little bit of the dark in the light."
Martin sees a therapist from time to time. It helps her cope with anxiety and trauma and it helps her better understand her relationships with other people. But for her, singing and songwriting have always been a kind of therapy, too.
"I don't go to therapy when I'm happy or because I'm happy. No one obsesses in therapy about how happy they are. It's all about examining the darker stuff and how we overcome that and get to a better place," she says.
"And songwriting for me was always a place where I could sort out—figure out—what happened, what's going on; make decisions, form conclusions about why I feel the way I do; make observations, just try to figure out for myself. How do I feel about this emotion, or what just happened, or about what happened to that person? And there's usually something that inspires me, like somebody overcame something, they went through something tough and they're coming through it or maybe they're still in it."