Tuesday, 9 April 2019

16 Year Anniversary

16 years ago today
CAL started
dark side of the moon was our first show
dez and steve butler played that show
and are still with me today

in fact
many of the musicians from the phoenix years
are still with me
i don’t think we’ve changed
but when i look back at the photographs
i see little kids

we’ve done so much
shared this music with so many
it’s a life

what we do feels true
there’s so much noise and misinformation out there
i don’t get caught up in it
i look back at all the bad advice people have tried to impart on me
unnecessary steps
i’ve stopped going to meetings
we know what we’re doing
i don’t need to hear about how should capitalize on social media
or target demographics
or build a brand
i hate that term
it just sounds like a buzz word used to remove people from their money
it rings false with me
we’re a band
an orchestra
we’re more of a family

never before has a generation been this passionate about music
my parents generation liked music
but it faded and fleeting
today’s pop is fine
but it’s here today and gone later today
just look at the charts from 5 years ago
time has passed and things have changed
CAL represents music that endures
and will continue to accompany us all through and around this mortal coil

after 16 years
i’ve learned a few things
this past weekend 
we had 37 musicians on the road
that takes a lot of planning
my sister handles most of that kind of thing
i love her so 
15 years ago she asked me if i wanted some help
i said okay
and with that she helped grow CAL

and grow we did
it’s getting big
and i’m giving more musicians work
here’s a copy of the email i send out to new musicians
i’m sure i shouldn’t be sharing it
but i’m a doors are open kind of guy:


listen to the album
learn the album
play the album
love the album
that’s it

note for note
cut for cut
tone for tone

groove onstage
but never grandstand
avoid tired old rock cliches
govern yourself like you are in an orchestra

don’t be frightened by alex’s snorts

wear black
and look as cool as possible
put comfort before style
don’t let fashion inhibit your show
shine your shoes
no colours
no logos
dress like a pro 
and make sure boge gets you a CAL water bottle for stage
no plastic baby

we don’t talk to the audience during the album performance
and during the 2nd set - the outro set - only sparingly
we never talk about anything that relates to the outside world
no politics / sports / new events / 
never anything like ‘hello cleveland’ or ‘are you ready to rawk chicago!’
that’s not our style
the core members know how to relate to the audience 
if you’re new to CAL - just stand back and smile

always compliment nick walsh on his hair

keep an eye on your booze intake
and be ready to hang out post gig
we like to hang out
we maintain a family vibe

if you’re having a problem with a part
seek help
start with rob phillips
he’ll point you in the right direction
we’ve all been there
and ask to have that part run at soundcheck
we want you to be great

never talk politics with nicky

if you start to incur expenses in order to make the show
let us know
we can help
we’re very pro-active in making sure your experience is a happy one
and if you need an advance - just ask
we’ve all been there too

don’t let mia confuse you

try and get each other gigs outside of CAL
i really like this part of our tribe
everyone getting each other work
that’s the good stuff
and if you have a better paying or a more important gig
let us know with as much time as possible
and we’ll work around it
we’ve all been there too
the doors are always open
we don’t carry grudges
we just want you to make money and be happy

ask nicole to make you a hat

if you have a bad guitar cable
throw it away
you’ll never fix it
just get a new one
you’ll sleep better

try hard not to start your own version of CAL
it upsets me when this happens
and it makes me rumble 

feel free to kick rick vatour out of your room at 2:00am

take care of each other
after 16 years we’ve all grown quite fond of each other
the toxic traders have been weeded out and replaced with givers 
CAL is a nice place for social interaction

and always take a moment to enjoy the moment
what we do is the stuff of greatness
we have something special
take it in
and reflect on your career and how far you’ve come

boge can fix anything 

make sure we get your family on the guest list
and bring them backstage so we can say hi 
and then rush away to tear down your gear quick
remind your guests that you are at work

never share a monitor mix with mark

make sure to eat well
it’s probably chicken for dinner
but we’re working through that

and learn to love the stones
as i don’t like people who don’t like stones

i’m looking forward to working with you
welcome to CAL
you’re at the top of your game now



that’s how we live
that’s our vibe
go ahead and steal the above blueprint
and start your own version of CAL
but you’ve got to have heart 
if you don’t feel it in your heart
and just want to make money
you’ll fail
and the audiences will know
our audience can smell a phoney a million miles away

that’s true with most things in life
back in the day i skipped an important exam
just to hear ‘don’t fear the reaper’ on the radio
i have always been that passionate about music
i still hang onto the hippie credo of the 60s
and think that music can change the world

it took a long time to figure this all out
i’m not sure how we did it
i think it had something to do with blind faith
once i had the idea for CAL
i was like a zombie
i maxed credit cards
cashed in savings and inheritance
exhausted lines of credit
i never left the house without a bundle of flyers
i worked and worked 
i had two sons
i never stopping to pause
somehow it worked out
i think because i cared so much
it’s funny - because i still feel like we’re just starting

when i do interviews
i often get asked 
what advice i have for anyone starting a new business
two things i have not been very good at: relationships and business
so i tell them
run your company on a high point rewards credit card
pay off that card every month
then use the points to upgrade to business class
and pursue love at all costs

16 years gone
a tattoo of truth on our invested careers
a life shared with our version of the holy trinity
the musicians
the venues
the crowd
we all care about this music
we all care about each other

so please join me 
in wishing CAL
a happy anniversary

april 10, 2019

jack daniels and ritz crackers

Sunday, 24 February 2019


i’m a mess of a man
there’s a lot wrong with me
as there is most of us
but i’m trying to work through it

it’s been just over 2 years since my son passed
i’ve been trying to hold things together
for my son and mother and sister and partner
but now i need to get myself strong
it started with physical training
and now i’m moving towards seeing a shrink
to get my brain healthy

funny thing
i’ve reached out to 4 different shrinks
and once they asked why i wanted to get shrunk
they passed
as if it was too big a task
i was troubled at first
but now i think this is funny
and i think lucas would think it was funny too

last night
i connected with my oldest friend 
and we headed out to brampton to see the queen show
it was great
and i was happy
because everyone onstage takes care of me
in a deeply profound way
i realized that i’ve been absent 
and in my absence
these fantastic musicians carry the torch
compassionate people all
perhaps they don’t even realize it
but i do
and that feels good
it thrusts me towards building more shows
with more musicians
that feels really good

once home
i wandered down the road to my local pub 
and ran into doug - our lighting tech from massey hall
we chit chatted 
i returned to my seat at the bar
and he wandered over
and thanked me for the work i was doing with the canadian cancer society
no one has ever done that
we shared stories
brief yet heartfelt
and then 
heading home
it came 
my knees buckled
and i let it go
alone on carlton street at midnight
weeping like a baby
all from a little flash of meaning

i think it’s about forgiveness
that’s as close as i get to clarity
i’m living through extraordinary circumstances
and running a company all the while
i question everything
i start by looking for the fault in myself
and radiate out from there
this is starting to work
and moving me forward towards healing

that and music
what else is there?
maybe a book
maybe a movie
but you can move with music
take it with you
let it be a bandaid
a declaration
a piece of ID
a fashion
a lifestyle

we’re going through a time 
where music and love are the only true things in our lives
everything else seems like it’s attached to an agenda
an agenda that just wants to remove you from your money
we get lied to
we get identified and marketed to

but when i get my headphones on
and walk through an airport with springsteen playing
i feel strong
when i get in the car and switch on the beatles channel
i feel happy
when i put the pretenders on my turntable while i’m cooking dinner
i feel smart
and when i go to a show
and sit in the audience amongst people
who all grew up with this music
and the musicians walk on stage and shine
i feel alive

february 24, 2019

coffee and apple slices

Friday, 19 October 2018

The White Album

the beatles lost their minds!
they did not listen to reason
they were the kings of the world
hit after hit
the money was rolling in
then they recorded the white album
a double album of electro shock therapy
it changed people
it scared people
the mop tops were dead
long live the free thinkers!

imagine the white album getting released in this day and age
taking ‘piggies’ or ‘revolution #9’ into a record label
i think the conversation would go something like this:

JOHN: Well, Mr. Record Company Executive, when are you releasing our album?
RECORD COMPANY EXECUTIVE: This album is unreleasable! You’ve got too many songs and not enough singles. For goodness sake, you’ve got an eight and half minute song of nothing but sound FX!
PAUL: “Mother Natures Son” is a lovely track.
RECORD COMPANY EXECUTIVE: And what’s all this about hiding a monkey?
RINGO: I like me drums on that one!
RECORD COMPANY EXECUTIVE: Can’t we get back to the happy, snappy songs like ‘She Loves You’ or ‘Can’t Buy Me Love?’ This Bungalow Bill fellow! He’s a murderer!
GEORGE: I don’t like your tie

the white album is a trip
a journey
it’s a war of acoustic vs. electric
arrangement vs. improv
john vs. the world
this is massive music
a full continent of music
detached from the rest of the world 
and viewed through a kaleidoscope

i’m 57
when this album came out in 68
the people who were 10 years older than me
made it an event to listen to this record
it became an energy
a movement
so much so that it was the biggest selling album of the 60s

we know how to perform this album
we care about this album
we - dare i say - understand this album
and dammit - we love the beatles
unraveling this album on the roy thomson hall stage is going to be a journey
all aboard

craig martin
october 19, 2018
toast and tea

Sunday, 26 August 2018

5 Albums You Didn't Know You Needed

5 Albums You Didn't Know You Needed

ram - paul mCartney
i’ve been raving about this albums for years
linda sounds great
and the songs flow seamlessly into one another
creating a homey vibe
if i could travel back in time
i’d choose to go to paul’s farm and sit in on the recording
perhaps make tea and soldiers 
and make myself available to do a funny voice
on uncle albert / admiral halsey
play this album on sundays

marvin gaye - what’s going on
a concept album 
a lot of people don’t realize this
but marvin had a firm grip on what indeed was going on
and this album was a warning shot for society
global warming
it’s all here 
marvin takes the issues and through the beauty of 
his voice
his lyrics
his arrangements
he makes it all sound hopeful
plus this is a great album to put on when you’re having sex

the pretenders
this is a rock ’n’ roll record
chrissie is open and honest 
the first feminist for me
she can snarl
and she phrases her songs like joni 
the band is crisp and a little bit angry
i put this album on when i’m cleaning the house
statistics showed a surge in effective cleaning
all motivated by the sound of 80s kicking in

gord downie - introduce yourself
for all of our american cousins
i implore that you buy this album
and consider it an introduction to canada
it’s not a geography lesson
nor a history recital
but it’s poetic and graceful
and it understands that canadian heart 
i wrote a previous blog about this album
the scratch of sadness that shows through 
makes me ache a little bit
and it makes me feel alive
gord wrote this album knowing that the great gig was coming
every song is about someone
and every song is about us

the rolling stones - goats head soup
this album is for all the bad girls and boys
who remember their teens 
and what a saturday night felt like
maybe you were alone
or maybe you were in somebodies basement
but goats head soup was probably on the turntable
and it made you feel good
and bad
lyrically mick’s at his best
‘winter’ is the stand out track for me
it makes me wish for snow in june
just so i can tap into that vibe of being bad
i love the stones
i don’t like people who don’t like the stones

craig martin
august 26, 2018
tea and soldiers

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Summer Ends

sometimes it feels 
like the only true thing in my life is music

i’m tired
there’s so many messages
it wears me down

music is as true as it’s going to get for me
i can’t see clear of much else
life has altered expectations

this past weekend
we played a small club in austin
the bar smelled like a bar should
we all changed in front of each other in a small room backstage
and we crammed up against each other on stage
it was glorious

after the show we all spoke about how much we loved dark side of the moon
and how performing it felt important
everyone spoke like there was iron in their voices
it was a true thing
you could feel it

we’re so protective of this music
all of it
i have no claim other than caring
but i feel like it’s our job to make sure the music is properly performed
that’s what we are
the performances are books

i just posted a video of us doing CSN’s suite judy blue eyes
it’s so beautiful
the song is transcendent 
rob soars 
i wonder if it’s just me who gets so emotional about performances like this
but then i get emails from people 
and posts
and we all connect for a moment in time

our summer is soon coming to an end
it was planes and vans and stage doors and after show pool hangs
it started at the wolf trap on june 1
and gets close to ending this weekend with the white album shows

and another season begins
lots of shows
i’m figuring it out
i’ve got a good behind the scenes staff
our mandate is simple
note for note - cut for cut
keep the musicians working
and stay true

august 14, 2018

starbucks coffee and egg bites

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

The Stones

oh i love the stones
always have
when i was a boy in the 60s
my dad - knowing how much i loved music
called me in from playing 
to show me a tv show with them on it
baited and hooked

years later 
when keith had to play the benefit concert in oshawa
our local new station went live (CFTO - scarborough baby)
and there’s mick leaning into the crowd singing ‘starfucker’
i remember writhing about because my favourite rock star
was swearing on national TV and the censors didn’t have a clue
that was 79

mick’s lyrics are amazing
fat nouns and jangly adverbs
and keef is riffalicious
and with that i realize that
i don’t like people who don’t like the stones

i got to see the stones play the club shows in toronto
RPM, horseshoe, phoenix
i have all kinds of stories (just ask me)
i remember the set lists
the clothes
the audience
it was like seeing royalty

and isn’t that the point?
the stones are still out there
enduring well past the 'getting old' jokes
and riffing their hearts out
touring like no other band ever has before
committed man!
a while back - i spoke the above comment
someone retorted with ‘the beach boys have endured!’
i punched them in the face
i’m writing this from prison
drunk on cell block booze

we’ve been rehearsing the sticky fingers album
it’s been emotional 
and i’m happy to be amongst people i have genuine love for
the other night - i looked around the room during ‘waiting on a friend’
and realized that for 15 years, we’ve all been touring together 
in and out 
up and down
through and through
like bastardized royalty
one month bobby spent more time with us than he did his family
we belong on the road
that’s where the real musicians go

tonight we return to the roy thomson hall patio for 2 nights
the band is smart and tight
and happy
and i’m excited to be back on stage
it will be emotional 
i’ll be carrying the canoe 
but these songs elevate your mojo
and get you kicking at the stall

we’re playing in delaware this weekend
so expect the RTH shows to have a heavy dose of sticky fingers stuck to them
and of course my love of 'exile on main street' is well documented
so an unhealthy dose of those songs will also be featured
we won’t be playing miss you or satisfaction
this is a musician’s show
we want to shine
the entire week is being filmed for a episode of undercover boss

sometimes the world gets spinning on some kind of axis
that throws me off balance
and makes me feel out of sync and untested
but getting on stage with people you care about
and playing music that vibrates your soul
in venues that cloak you in cool
that’s the stuff that raises the dead off the battlefield 
hoists the flag
and gets you fighting another day

craig martin
august 1, 2018
amanda’s smoothie

Monday, 19 February 2018

Gord Downie's "Introduce Yourself"

i’ve been listening to nothing but this album for two months straight
gord downie was a family man
and this album takes you into that side of him
he had a nice big family
i’m jealous of that
i have a tiny family

for our american cousins
gord fronted a band called the tragically hip
he was one of the greatest frontman ever
right up there alongside mick, freddie, scott

i've seen the hip so many times
i lived in kingston for a while back in the extreme early 80s
i think i saw them at the lakeview manor
those were different times
but i am so happy to have seen the hip with my son lucas
he kept looking over at me and smiling during the show
as if to say 'he's weird but cool'

the songs on introduce yourself are each about a person
you can only guess 
lyrically ol’ gord’s colouring life with a small observations
and deft philosophy
‘love over money’ i think is about the band
“love over money - that’s how we got good”
great line

there’s songs about putting his kids to sleep
buying T shirts at concerts
and my favourite - the title cut - introduce yourself
about writing a message on your hand 
with the exception of AC/DC 
my music always needs to have an element of poetry to it

my son jackson goes to the same school as gord’s kids
kids with tragedy printed on them
ours has been private and theirs has been fireworks
i wonder how they’ll deal with it all in the years to come
of course they’ll be fine

kevin drew co-wrote the album with gord
just excellence and nothing more from their pairing
if anyone knows kevin
please send word that his work has touched me in a profound way
and i’m a better person for having this album in my life

music finds us 
we don’t find it
we’re bombarded with music - shell shocked
but there’s that beautiful moment when you find an album
and that album starts to bind to you
and heal you
and help you remember
and then you share that album with people you care about

feb 19, 2018

poached eggs and coffee