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Interview: Martika

13 min read

Martika’s time under the bright pop spotlight, while brief, left a mark on the 80’s that continues to help define the decade as one of the music industry’s finest periods. The singer – born Marta Marrero – burst onto the world stage in her late teens with the iconic single, Toy Soldiers which was taken from the musicians self-titled debut album of 1988. The track very quickly solidified Martika as one of the brightest new acts of the late 80’s as it traveled to the top of the charts around the world; including taking the number one spot in the U.S for 2 weeks. Success followed Martika throughout the early nighties thanks to her sophomore record, Martika’s Kitchen; a record that contained 4 songs which were written and produced by Prince, including one of the singers biggest hits – Love… Thy Will Be Done.

Soon after the success of Martika’s Kitchen, Martika faded from the spotlight and it’s all be relatively quite ever since. July, however, sees Martika return to Australian shores and to the international stage with a tour that sees the Latino singer join fellow 80’s stars including Berlin, Limahl and Katrina and the Waves on a whirlwind tour of Australian cities. Starting out in Brisbane on July 12th and wrapping up on July 24th in Melbourne, fans will get to hear all their favourite hits from some of the biggest acts of the 80’s.

Ahead of her journey down under, we had the pleasure of talking to the very sweet and very excited Martika about her return to performing, her career and the reasons for her absence over the last 25 years. Here is what she had to tell us….

Brendon Veevers: Hi Martika! How are you and where are we speaking with you from today?

Martika: Hey Brendon! I am in Chicago and I know its very early where you are so I really appreciate you getting up and talking to me so early. I hope you have had some coffee.

BV: Haha, yeah, already up to coffee number two for the day here! I’m a big fan so its a pleasure to talk to you.

Martika: Oh that’s sweet. I appreciate that. It’s lovely to talk to you too.

BV: Now, you are a hot commodity at the moment here in Australia. You have a long line of people wanting to talk to you after me so lets dive on in and get some answers out of you shall we?

Martika: Oh yes, let do the interrogation sir! (laughs)

martika4BV: You are part of the upcoming Totally 80’s tour of Australia in the coming months. Have you started rehearsals and how have they been going so far?

Martika: I have. I have started my rehearsals here and from what I’ve been told, the band is rehearsing in Australia and we’ll rehearse together when I arrive. We have some time before the first performance. So yeah, its been good so far.

BV: What are your most looking forward too about this upcoming run of dates?

Martika: I think its really gonna be a lot of bang for the buck for the audience members. People that come and see a show like this; they’re gonna have a really great experience because I would imagine it’s gonna be a really big singalong because everybody is going to be doing their hits.

For me, I hit the stage last so I figure that by the time I go on, everybody is going be be really groovy. They are definitely going to be at the height of energy I think. So yeah, I think that is probably going to be the coolest thing.

If I were going to a show like this, I would think it was going to be a lot of fun to see so many different artists and just to know so many of the songs that are being performed.

BV: What was it that tempted you to sign up to the Totally 80’s tour?

Martika: They invited me along and they have this really great scenario put together and the venues are beautiful and I love Australia. I didn’t get a chance to travel throughout the country when I’ve been there in the past. I went twice to do promotion for my albums so I was just in Sydney and Melbourne doing a lot of press and radio and television types of stuff so the opportunity to travel around the country is just a once in a lifetime thing I think so I’m so excited about it.

Like I said, the venues are all so beautiful and I am just really so honored that they invited me to be a part of it and that I am included in it.

I’ve only just been doing my set for the past few years and only started singing these songs again after twenty some odd years so its really cool. These are the kinds of opportunities that don’t really come around a lot. I just figured; let me get my little set together and if somebody wants me to come along and sing these songs after so long then great. You do one off shows here and there but to have a tour of this level with so many artists is just really unique so I’m really excited.

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BV: You have been doing a lot of promotion and interviews around this upcoming tour. What’s it been like to get back in the saddle and promoting this new tour?

Martika: I guess once I get into it, its really kind of natural because I did it so much when I was promoting my albums back in the day but, like you said, its been such a long time. Really, the first thing is that I was so amazed that so many of you want to speak with me and it really makes me feel good that you are all so curious about me and that you remember me and fondly, most of the time which is obviously the best.

BV: This is actually my 3rd attempt to talk to you myself. You are in high demand here.

Martika: Oh thanks. It really does feel good because I haven’t kept a very high profile over the years and I never expected a tour on this level would be an opportunity for me to do this again at this stage of my life. And then the fact that everyone is curious to know whats been going on with me and happy that I’m going to be there. It does feel good.

I’m really just mostly excited about the fact that I get to do this and that I get to get on stage to sing and dance for everybody because I didn’t really get to do that before in Australia; I only did promotion so the fact that the people that remember me will get to see me on stage, singing and dancing is awesome.

BV: Like you said, you haven’t been to Australia in quite a while and when you did visit in the past, it was mainly to do promotion. Will you get the chance to see the country properly this time around?

Martika: I think that there will be some off days, here and there so yeah, I will probably get a chance to. Though when you’re traveling and working its not anything like if you were just traveling and you kind of have to stay focused. I’m sure there’s going to be lots to do surrounding the events. But, being a singer, you have to also protect yourself because its your voice and you can’t really stay up to late. You have to acclimate to the new climates. There’s a whole list of things that singers have to live by on the road which I guess can stifle your ability to really get out and about and just dive into the scenery and to check things out you know.

But, I’m just happy to be able to be there and to see what I’m going to be able to see and to meet the people that I am going to be able to meet so I am extremely grateful. I’m just so excited.


BV: What’s it like for you to be performing songs like Toy Soldiers and Love, Thy Will Be Done after almost 30 years. Are they still exciting tracks for you to play and do you think they have stood the test of time?

Martika: Yeah, at this point I am really proud of the songs that I did. Especially those two. I think also just the fact that I haven’t been out singing these songs for twenty some odd years. I have a freshness to them at this point and now you kind to tap in to where you were but at the same time you are expecting a moment of now. I think there are certain things that I did very naturally back then but now I can understand things musically in a different way so hopefully I will be able to deliver it on a level I would like to but I know that its going to come across really well because I feel string and I’m excited about it and I’ve been singing the songs and they sound really good.

This particular set, because its part of the Totally 80’s tour, and a retro moment for people, they really want to hear the songs sound like the record as much as possible so I’ve been studying the records. As a singer, at least for me, I tend to sing differently now than when I made those recordings, so its kind of like you have to put yourself back to where you were in that time. You know, there are different placements of your voice and different tones and that maybe I wouldn’t really sing them that way today but because I need to bring it out the way that people want to hear it – the way they remember them – being part of this nostalgic moment.

So its been a challenge in and of itself but I love it because I like to have a focus about what I’m doing. It’s like, I know what I have to do and I’m gonna deliver it. I’ve been in show-business since I was barely double digits in age so it kind of comes naturally for me, once I get out there.

BV: You were quite young when you became an international star. Toy Soldiers went to number one which was a massive achievement for you quite early on in your career.Looking back now, do you think that you prepared for the success that you achieved quite early on in your career?

Martika: Ummm, I think that sometimes I handled it really well. Other times I think I handled it as much as I could. I don’t think you can ever be fully prepared to have that kind of success.

I think in my innocent mind I was like, “maybe I’ll do a little club record and maybe I’ll have a little following and I’ll build my fan-base and as I mature, they’ll mature with me” when I was a teenager and I don’t think it really hit me – the possibility of going number one and being that successful, even though you know that you want that, when you get it, it’s like “oh wow, everyone’s watching me now” (laughs). It really does put just a little bit of pressure on you to be on that world stage at such a young age, or any any age really.

But yeah, being so young, they’re only so much being prepared that one can be to really do all of that and to also pull it all off. But I think I pulled it off the best I could. It was a different time. MTV was so much a part of the influence of wanting to be a pop star. You know, you see all these pop stars and they just seemed like they were having so much fun and as a teenager I was like “wow, that seems like the most fun job in the world. I wanna be a pop star” (laughs). I really didn’t think it through to the extent of what that really entailed. I just thought, “cool – be a pop star. Sing and dance and wear whatever you want” you know. (laughs).

So, yeah, I was extremely naive and I was singing and dancing since I was a kid, and I love music so much. I do recognize how powerful music can be. It can be a unifier and it can touch people emotionally and I feel incredibly privileged to be able to do that and to have done it and to be remembered for it, and that people still want to hear me sing these songs 25 years later is kind of cool.

I feel really comfortable with the role at the moment because when I was a little girl I had one family member in show-business. He was my uncle – my mums brother. He was in a band and they lived on the road; playing in amusement parks and that sort of thing. So everytime my uncle came to town we would go to Disneyland or whatever to see him do his set and it was always the same set and it was so cool because it was like, he was the closest person to me that I could see was making a living doing music and so now I’m like the nostalgic girl. I’m my own version of my uncles band. So it makes sense in my head and it feels comfortable because, like they say – once you have one hit record, you can work for the rest of your life in the entertainment world – so I am really lucky that I have a repertoire that people remember and that I can still get out there and sing for a living.

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BV: Have you kept up with the changes that have seen music evolve so heavily over the past 20 something years?

Martika: For me, I didn’t ever really try to keep up. I’m the girl that kind of ran away form the spotlight (laughs), so I’ve never really felt the pressure to keep up because at one point I just decided to take a break that should have been a month, that turned into a year, that turned into a decade, that kind of turned into “hey! Is she ever coming back?”. So, like for me, I don’t thinks its really ever affected me as much, do you know what I mean?

Some people want to hear new music from me and most people want to just hear Toy Soldiers or Love, Thy Will Be Done so it doesn’t ever really matter what I’m doing. I could write the greatest song in the world today and then perform it and then after I finish singing that song the audience would shout “sing Toy Soldiers” (laughs), so I think it’s just fine with the audience members.

That’s whats great about the format of Totally 80’s; for me to do a nostalgia night where people are coming out to revisit their past as well as mine, so it’s find for me at this point, you know.

BV: Are there any plans to release new music – perhaps a new album or single – or are you taking it one step at a time with Totally 80’s being that next step?

Martika: Yeah, I’m just kind of taking it as it comes. I just started putting myself out there – on the market, so to speak, and I just started gigging in the last few years with this material again so I hadn’t really sung these songs in a long time.

I was involved in other projects – not so high profile – so yeah, once I just sort of put a set together of this material, and just sort of got out and did a few shows here and there, then opportunities came from that and this opportunity is pretty unique.

It’s kind of working out that every year I get out and do at least a couple of gigs, and this is a big deal to do a tour of this level and to do this many shows back to back, so I’m so excited about it. If anything like this is available again in the future then I’m prepared to do it and I would love to do it because for me, at this stage, its such a blessing that I can still sing and dance and just get out there and do it and that people still want to see me. So I’m definitely up for the right situation and just not really stressed about it; I have a pretty chill life; I’ve very mellow and if somebody wants me to come and perform and if the situations right then I’d be happy to do it.

Martika will be joined by fellow 80’s acts Berlin, Limahl, Katrina and the Waves, Paul Lekakis, Me Without Hats and Stacey Q on the Totally 80’s tour throughout Australia starting 12th July 2016. Details below…

Totally 80s

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