Martin Sexton, “Fall Like Rain”

Written by January 30th, 2012 at 9:55 am

Martin Sexton is the guy John Mayer calls “one of the most treasured singer-songwriters I’ve ever heard in my life.” Mayer must have first become acquainted with the Syracuse, New York-born artist when he was busking in Harvard Square while Mayer was a student at Boston’s Berklee School of Music. The two Boston transplants have a fair share in common, namely how to write an unabashed pop hook and sing it with an expressive soul-inflected croon.

iTunes files Sexton’s music in my library under “country/folk,” but he’s just way too varied stylistically to be pigeon-holed into one genre. He’s got a rich baritone-tenor with remarkable range, able to float into the upper reaches of his instrument like a jazz clarinetist. That’s what happens when he sings the hook on the title track of his new EP, Fall Like Rain, his voice mirroring the free-fall of the lyrics.

On Sexton’s 2010 LP, Sugarcoating, he told American Songwriter he was interested in the theme of togetherness. At a time when the world struggled through a global financial recession and natural disasters in Haiti and Indonesia, he explained: “We need to see that we are the same more than we’re different. Because once we do that, we become even more empowered as a unified force of people. And if you have a population of people who really love one another, that’s a scary force to reckon with.”

But on his new EP, Sexton has turned from that far-reaching and universal message to one that’s more personal, though it will likely speak to everyone. He says Fall Like Rain and its title track are about “the spirit of searching and wondering how one might get along through life without so many crutches or pacifiers.

“Whether it’s TV, or money, or sex, or drugs, or whatever,” Sexton explains, “Distractions–how one could be open to life on life’s terms, to experience it fully.” That search for a deeper and more personal spirituality got Sexton thinking about “the idea of life, unencumbered by the shelters of our favorite distractions and the illusion of safety.”

While those thoughts were brewing in his head, Sexton says the writing for “Fall Like Rain” developed over time. In the same interview from 2010, Sexton made the point that inspiration tends to be a thing that comes early in one’s career, while now—ten records in—he relies more on craft and collaborators.

“I think when I first started out, it was more about inspiration,” he said. “Which is great, but usually inspiration, after the first record, or maybe the second, you can’t really rely on it. Because you’ve got your whole life to make your first record. And a few good moments of inspiration can make for a really good record. But after that, you’ve got a year-and-a-half to make your second one. And you’re busy; you’re out touring, and working, and whatever else it is that you do. So I think there’s more craft involved in my writing now. I’m also doing more co-writing than I did early on. Most of this new record is co-written. So I like to rely on other people’s strengths as well as my own.”

The chorus hook of “Fall Like Rain” had been haunting Sexton for years, he says, and he began to craft the lyrics and melody around it. Sexton recalls finishing the song this way: “I was sitting by the fireplace in my living room with my buddy Crit Harmon and we wrote it around the old mission oak coffee table. I had the chorus and Crit helped me sew up the lyrics. And I didn’t have lyrics for the bridge so I just la-da-da-ed them thinking I would write lyrics later for it.”

“Fall Like Rain”

How do I know what I really need
Do I find it in church or watch it on TV
How far will I go just to feel alive
What crazy stunts will I pull just to see the other side

Will I read it in another book before I fall asleep from the pills that I took
Or hide it under my bed and dream my life away

I wanna feel, I wanna fall like rain
With no shelter so I can feel which way the wind is blowing today
I wanna love, I wanna see the world
Gonna tell the truth and feel the sun come shining down on my face

Can’t know the heat ‘til you’ve been frozen cold
Can’t feel young unless you’ve been growing old
How can you know love until you got a broken heart
Can’t get anywhere until you make a start

Take the pain dial up some will your world is spinning and you’re standing still
Take your dreams, don’t dream your life away

I wanna feel, I wanna fall like rain
With no shelter so I can feel which way the wind is blowing today
I wanna love, I wanna see the world
Gonna tell the truth and feel the sun come shining down on my face

Written by Martin Sexton and Crit Harmon

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