Paul Martyn, wedding entertainer in the form of singer, saxophonist and DJ is the next up to the plate on my rota of industry friends.
If you’ve never had the chance to see Paul Martyn live then you’re really missing a treat.
He’s a true entertainer; he has a silky smooth voice; plays some seriously mean saxophone; and is a great DJ.
Just as importantly though is the fact that he’s an all-round good guy.
Below are Paul’s answers to my ten questions and you can also find out more about him over on his website at http://paulmartyn.co.uk
Tell us a little about your history.
“I’ve been performing at weddings for almost 25 years, obviously I started young!
I don’t honestly remember the first one I did or in fact how it came about. I’d been playing the pub and working men’s club scene from the age of 15 both as a solo artist and with bands so can only assume someone saw me there.
I do of course still play for other events such as birthday parties and corporate dinner dances. For the most part, they’re all pretty similar.”
Who are your musical influences and how would you describe your style?
“My personal musical influences don’t really affect my work as a musician and DJ… I’ll explain.
I love lots of different genres and the job helps widen my palette. When I play for a wedding I’m there to make sure the couple hear what they want to hear not what I think they should!
I do have to balance this with what will work for the often wide range of people and varied tastes at a wedding. In the end, it’s the audience I’m entertaining, not myself.
What I listen to on the way home has little to no bearing on what I might play at any given event.”
If you’re asked for a song do you work up an alternative version in your style or do you mirror the original as closely as possible?
“If I do learn a song for a couple, the aim is always to do a live version as close to the original as possible. The problem with being creative is that it may well move too far from the original and lose its meaning to the couple or worse be unrecognisable to them.
If a friend writes them a song or does an arrangement they’re familiar with it might work. But for me, I might end up with endless re-writes as a couple search for the ‘perfect version’ which in reality is probably the original.”
How do you involve shy crowds?
“My golden rule “you can’t ask people to have a good time and dance”…
I use what I call ‘stealth entertainment’ to engage a crowd. There is nothing worse than a DJ or act who tries to involve a reluctant audience by getting on the mic with “come on everybody get up dance, it’s not a funeral you know!” or similar… that’s one sure fire way to ensure no one dances.
I find ‘pulling at threads’ works far better; if you get a little interest from a small group, feed it, people will see them having a good time, relax and eventually join in. You do of course need to be choosing your tracks carefully and putting them in the right place which is a whole other question.
Suffice to say the best way to entertain a crowd of people who haven’t chosen to come and see you is to win them over, be humble, be cool and make good judgement calls about who you see in front of you. Who are they? What will make them feel comfortable? What are they most likely to dance to?”
Do you have a backup plan for kit malfunction?
“As far as equipment goes I have two of everything. The PA I use is self-powered and over-powered, so if one side fails the other will be fine to finish the evening without anyone noticing.”
What’s your policy in case of illness?
“To date, I have never missed an event through illness (touch wood!). Assuming the reason I’m not there still allows me to use a phone, I would pull out all the stops to find a suitable replacement for the couple.
I’m very well connected in the industry and although replacing my rather unique mix would be difficult to impossible, there are many great entertainers who as a last minute alternative would do an excellent job.”
Can prospective clients get to see you live before their wedding?
“I only play at weddings, private parties and corporate events so as a rule, it’s difficult to come and see me at an actual event.
That said it might not be that useful anyway as each one is tailored to the client. What works for them might not be what you’re looking for and as such could taint your opinion.
I do a good number of wedding fairs and open days at which I play live background music. This give couples an opportunity to come and see me play live and get an idea of the quality of performance.”
What are your favourite wedding venues in terms of layout and acoustics?
“Naming ‘favourites’ is a dangerous game in this industry!
I’d prefer to say which venues are perfectly suited to live music rather than which are my personal favourites. The key factor these days is the ever increasing use of noise limiters. If your venue has one there is a very good chance (regardless of what they tell you) that it’s going to have a dramatic impact on any live music.
As a solo artist, this is far less of a problem than for bands who will almost always struggle to keep under the limit. This leads to either constant and flow-breaking ‘cut-outs’ or big compromises in the playing.
If you really want that 12 piece soul band then make sure that the venue has a large main room (and by large I mean 150 to 200 people capacity at the least) and that they have no noise restrictions.
If they do, then it’s probably best to consider a disco or solo act such as myself, or another venue.
Venues I particularly like are Swancar Farm (perfect for live music of any kind), Kilworth House (if you have exclusive use and can use the Orangery for the evening party) and Blackbrook House which has a fantastic layout.”
Do you have any funny or embarrassing stories to share?
“I have more stories than you might imagine… none of which I’m going to share here for one very good reason… I don’t want anyone to panic!
Honestly, if you can imagine it happening at a wedding I’ve probably seen it, yes everything! Catch me at the bar sometime and I’ll tell you my favourites.”
Any tips for couples looking for a band for their wedding?
“In terms of tips, I think much of what I’ve already said is a good indicator but a few other tops tips would include;
Try and think from the perspective of what will make the party work rather than just your favourite music and bands.
Be realistic when it comes to the budget, a band, artist or DJ who is professional will have invested a great deal of time and money in becoming as good as they are. They will also have expensive equipment and insurance to pay. Not to mention a two hour live set playing from say 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. will actually entail at least an 8 hour day. If it’s too cheap there will be a reason.
Be very aware of the venue’s limitations. As I’ve said, don’t try and squeeze a big band into a cosy bar
Remember above all else, the entertainment is the key factor in your party being a success or not, whatever it is. A great DJ really will read the crowd and listen to requests, mixing them in appropriately, and creating an atmosphere without you really noticing. Needless to say, you’ll notice a bad one for all the wrong reasons!”
Paul Martyn’s Website: http://paulmartyn.co.uk