Carnforth's Martin Smith shows the US how to keep it country with his new album

Country singer Martin Smith’s prolific career has taken him from Carnforth to the Grand Ole Opry, as Michelle Blade discovers

Martin Smith's life's work, 2020.
Martin Smith's life's work, 2020.

A country singer songwriter is celebrating 50 years in the business and is releasing a new album later in the year.

Martin Smith, from Carnforth, has been writing his style of country music for many years.

His last six albums feature all original material, which he affectionately calls his life’s work.

Martin Smith at Wembley in 1982.

This material has won him several major song-writing competitions both here in the UK and in Nashville at the Worldwide Song-writing Contest.

He has also won two Musical Diplomas.

As an artist he’s appeared at the prestigious Wembley Country Music Festival twice.

He has also performed alongside many top international names of the calibre of Frank Ifield, George Hamilton IV, Bill Anderson, Charlie Landsborough, Guy Mitchell, Brendan Shine and Raymond Froggatt.

The Martin Smith country band. Martin Sith (centre), Norman Bell, Ronnie Butler, John Clark, the International Festival of Country Music Morecambe 1989.

Martin, now living in Ulverston, says: “I strive to be original in my musical endeavours and to continue to promote my songs worldwide.”

Martin, who describes himself as a ‘young at heart 70’, has loved country music since he was eight years-old.

He started singing initially in a six-piece choir at Carnforth secondary school; he then went on to win various talent competitions at the famous Butlins holiday camps throughout Britain.

By the age of 21 he started performing at clubs and cabaret venues up and down the country as a semi-professional guitar/vocal act.

The Martin Smith country band. Martin Smith, Bob Nichols, Howard Clarke, John Peat. Sunday residency band at the Inn On The Bay 1979.

He then went on to form his own country band and started to write original material. Martin says: “My original material started to gain momentum and in 1978 and again in 1982 I reached the Wembley final of the Silk Cut National Country Song Contest of Great Britain with my band.

“This success inspired me to record a second album, from which two of my original songs won the Country section of the Fourth and Fifth International Song Contests held in County Cavan, Ireland, in 1980 and 1981 respectively.

“In 1982 I again pursued a solo career and entered the MCSF in Nashville, Tennessee, (a Worldwide Songwriting Contest) and was awarded a Musical Diploma for reaching the final hundred.

“In 1989 in the same contest, I attained 25th position (out of some two million entries) receiving a second Musical Diploma.

Martin Smith and the legendary Albert Lee at work in the studio in 2004.

“In 1990 I appeared as one of the featured artists at the Morecambe International Festival of Country Music which was recorded for the BBC TV Documentary ‘Country by the Sea’.”

Over the years Martin has continued to both write and perform his own material, appearing alongside many top international names of the calibre of Frank Ifield, George Hamilton IV, and top British and Irish acts including Charlie Landsborough, Poacher, and Raymond Froggatt, to name a few.

In 2005 and 2006 Martin was fortunate enough to visit the Grand Ole Opry and Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and Graceland in Memphis.

He says: “These trips gave me new incentives and an optimistic outlook to further my songwriting career.

“I achieved a number one on the International Hotdisc Charts and also topped the UK Country Chart twice with songs from both my Brave Face album and my Britain’s Best Kept Secret album.

Martin has six original albums to his credit and eight albums overall, and continues to attract the impeccable talents of some of the best musicians in the country to play on his albums – people such as the legendary Albert Lee, Richard Nelson (Daniel O’Donnell’s steel player), and Tom Tyson (Gene Pitney’s bass player).

Latest project at Shireshead studio in Lancaster. From left: John peat, Mo Witham, Kevin Fryer, Martin Smith, Gerard McDonald, Jeremy Procter, John Clark, 2020.

Martin says: “I released my first Christmas song in December 2013 which was chosen by a French radio station to be played in Nashville and Atlanta on Christmas Day.

“I was the only British artist on the playlist among many renowned country greats, including George Strait, Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, Dolly Parton, Toby Keith, Randy Travis and Garth Brooks.

“Y Put The X (In Christmas) was also featured on ‘Hot Country TV’ Christmas Eve 2015.

“I have recently completed a DVD and CD featuring 10 original songs both new and old, all filmed and recorded in and around my home in the Lake District.”

In May 2019, Martin released his sixth original self-penned album to date called Something Old Something New. As the title suggests, it is a mixture of old and new songs.

Four of the songs were written many years ago and never really had the exposure they deserved, so Martin included them on this album.

The other six tracks are new songs that he hopes the listeners will enjoy. There is also one bonus track.

Martin said: “I’m very excited about my latest project, which is a new CD of 12 brand new original songs and features musicians of the highest calibre yet again.

“The likes of Kevin Fryer, John Clark, Mo Witham (Suzi Quatro band), Jeremy Procter (Travis), Gerard McDonald, Richard Curran, John Peat, Bill Roberts and Richard Nelson (Van Morrison and Daniel ODonnell).

“This new album is being recorded at Shireshead Studio, near Lancaster, under the expertise of engineer Mick Armistead and will be released later this year for radio and internet station airplay.”

Martin feels proud to be part of Morecambe and Lancaster’s music scene history, having regularly entertained at venues in Morecambe such as The Battery Hotel, The Carleton Inn, The Broadway Hotel, The William Mitchell and The Shrimp to name a few. He also regularly performed at The Royal Oak, The Catholic Club, The Red Cross, and most other live music venues in and around Lancaster alongside other well known artistes such as the late Jim Kent and Don Whitfield. Martin’s mum was born and bred in Morecambe, and his aunt also had a milk round in the town.

He was raised in Carnforth and throughout his career performed in venues such as The Longlands Hotel, The Redwell Inn, The Railway Club, The Red Court Club and the British Legion.

Martin is married to Sue and they have three children. He also has three more children from his previous relationships and has 12 grandchildren.

He says: “Country music is my biggest love after my wife and family of course!

“My all time country favourites are Don Williams, Willie Nelson, Jim Reeves Glen Campbell and Merle Haggard.

“My favourite song is The Loveliness of You which I wrote about my eldest daughter Clair and which I perform regularly.

“Sometimes it can be easy to come up with original songs and sometimes it can take over a year to write a song.

“I love talking to older people, they often give me new ideas for songs from their life experiences and their stories.

“But mostly my songs are all about my own experiences in life.

“I have had so many good times and great memories over the last 50 years really, too many to mention.

“I have met so many fantastic people along the way, many of whom are still friends to this day.

“There have been so many good nights I could write a book.

“In my opinion country music is about feelings and real life stories that ordinary people can relate to.

“Country music seems to be having a resurgence at the moment and is reaching out to a far wider audience. Long may it continue!”

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Martin Smith at the 100th year celebration of 'Hearts of Oak' Morecambe Bay prawner, Piel Island 2012.