The Show Goes On: Musician Wants To Put N.H. Talent On The Map
New Hampshire artists have suffered a lot during the pandemic, but they've also helped people get through these hard times. For NHPR's series, The Show Goes On, we're talking with artists across the state to hear what inspiration they've found throughout this year and what's kept them going.
Martin Toe is a musician, author and community leader from Southern New Hampshire. The stories of the people living in New Hampshire are really at the center of a lot of Toe's music. Last year, he won a statewide civic leader award for his role in the community, and he released an album back in December titled Civic Leader.
(Editor's note: we highly recommend listening to this story.)
Like many other musicians, the pandemic forced Martin to cancel live shows, and he's missed connecting with his listeners in person. But he says it's also made him think more creatively about how to use social media and streaming platforms to reach new audiences, and he's still enjoyed the opportunity to make new music.
NHPR's Morning Edition host Rick Ganley spoke with Toe about what he's learned this past year.
Rick Ganley: So Martin, how would you describe your music to someone who's never heard it before?
Martin Toe: I would describe my music as a tapestry. Coming from West Africa and growing up here in New Hampshire and just absorbing music as a young kid, like I'll pull from many influences from Bob Marley, 50 Cent, even people like Lecrae and even a little bit of Pete Seeger influence.
Rick Ganley: How does grassroots organizing influence what you do in your music?
Martin Toe: Just being really, really involved in the community, in the state as a whole as trying to see New Hampshire as a more inclusive place that's inviting for young people. It's been like a mission that I guess was ingrained in my heart when a friend of mine brought me into organizing back in 2016, and just growing in that and just having my music around that. With the album specifically speaking, I will always write from the perspective of where I am, what's happening in the world around me, what's happening here in New Hampshire. And just grassroots organizing, having an impact in my community, it means a lot more. And I feel like also just telling that story in the music, it shares where I am right now as an artist and where we are as a community as a whole.
Rick Ganley: Something on your website caught my eye. Civic Leader, you said, "will be especially liked by all those who feel their truth is being ignored and not heard." Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
Martin Toe: I feel like the young people here in New Hampshire who really want to see New Hampshire as a more vibrant place for young people and where they feel like their voice is being heard, I feel like the album really gives them that voice. It gives them the avenue to be like I'm finally being heard through someone right now.
Rick Ganley: What are you getting from the art? How has the art helped you get through the pandemic?
Martin Toe: Just still being able to create is a blessing. And with everything that's happening even right now, being able to write and share the stories with people who are listening in and tapping in is encouraging to me that we can all lift up a message of inclusion and acceptance, just like a better tomorrow,
Rick Ganley: As people kind of look forward to the end of this pandemic and look forward towards, you know, life beyond this, what are you most looking forward to?
Martin Toe: I'm looking forward to packing venues here in the state. I'm looking forward to bringing out talents that have been hidden in New Hampshire. When people think about Biggie, they think about New York. When they think about Tupac, they think about, you know, the California, Kendrick Lamar, California. So, like, I would love to be that face. When they think about New Hampshire, they say Martin Toe. We want to get in front of many people and really reflect the glory back on New Hampshire as being like that space where we came from. You know, we have stories to. So it's important that the state know that New Hampshire produces fine art and that we're more than capable of going bar to bar, foot the foot with like any big superstar.