A Bigger Picture,
Wil Martin of
"What I've realized over the years is that if I can make myself a better person, I can maybe inspire people to also do that for themselves. "-Wil Martin
The Heavy Modern Rock band, Earshot, formed in 1999 with singer Wil Martin collaborating with original bassist Guy Couturier, drummer Dieter Hartman, and guitarist Scott Kohler in Los Angeles. They released their debut album, LETTING GO (produced by David Kahne and mixed by Andy Wallace) in 2002 on Warner Bros. Records. Guitarist Mike Callahan and replacement bassist Johnny Sprague joined the band shortly after their debut album was completed.
During months of extensive touring with the likes of Hoobastank, Shinedown, Staind, Kid Rock, and Stone Temple Pilots, their debut single, “Get Away,” reached #4 on the U.S. Active Rock radio Charts and stayed in the top 100 for over 64 weeks, while “Headstrong” was featured on The Queen of The Damned soundtrack alongside other artists such as Disturbed, Deftones and Marilyn Manson.
In 2003, Earshot returned to the studio to begin work on their second album, TWO (produced by Johnny K. and mixed by Rich Costey), released in 2004 on Warner Bros. Records. Their breakout single, “Wait,” reached #9 on U.S. Active Rock radio charts, while also being featured on the hugely successful Madden NFL 2005 and MX vs. ATV Unleashed video game soundtracks.
After parting ways with Warner Bros. Records in 2005, Earshot signed with Indegoot/Fontana/Universal Recordings in 2007, and began work on their third album, THE SILVER LINING, (produced by Brian Garcia and Wil Martin and mixed by Mike Watts). The album spawned the bands fifth charting radio single “MisSunderstood”.
In 2015, after taking a hiatus from the music scene, Earshot independently released their long-awaited 4th studio recording, AFTERMATH (produced by Wil Martin and mixed by Sam Hughes), a five-song mini-LP. The album launched with the release of the EP's first single, "Now That It's Over", and concluded with an intimate re-recorded acoustic performance of “Fall Apart”, previously released on the band’s second and most beloved album, “TWO”.
By: Abbe Davis, May 2023
AD: Welcome, Wil! What’s going on with you and Earshot?
WM: We have a new single coming out on Friday, and then in the next couple of months I am going to be flying out to Florida; which is where half the band lives. We are going to be recording our fourth album, or EP depending on how many songs get done. And then we are planning our 20th anniversary of our second album for next year. So, some stuff is happening. We’re making a little bit of noise.
AD: That's exciting! Are you in LA now?
WM: I live in LA. I was in Phoenix to have some R&R and now I’m in San Diego.
AD: Cool, now, let’s talk about your journey in music, and other journeys going on for you. When did you begin to sing and figure out that Rock was for you, and which singers/bands inspired you?
WM: I used to tell people I began singing in my mid 20’s but when I thought about it, I’ve actually been singing since I was four. My great grandmother migrated here from Mexico, and she spoke no English. She pretty much raised me, so I had to learn Spanish, and so I spent a lot of time with her when I was growing up. She used to cook all day and she had a little AM radio in the kitchen that only played a local country music station. Anytime Kenny Rogers' song "The Gambler" came on I noticed she would turn the radio up. They played the song a lot so I kind of memorized the words. So, whenever that song came on and she turned it up, I’d run into the kitchen, climb up onto the counter and would make my voice a little raspy.
AD: (laughing) I bet she loved that!
WM: Oh she would just laugh. I think that’s when the lightbulb went on in my head that I enjoyed entertaining people, and that I could make them smile, laugh, and feel things. That story didn’t occur to me until my great-uncle who reminded me that I used to do that. But professionally, I was a guitar player before Earshot. I never sang in a band. For whatever reason, I just decided that I could sing all of a sudden and here we are. It's crazy.
AD: That’s great. Which vocalist or band, when you first heard them, stopped you in your tracks?
WM: There are so many, and I believe before I found Rock music, I was really into Hip Hop and artists like Lionel Richie. I wasn’t into what you would expect.
AD: So you were drawn to songwriters?
WM: Yeah. When I think back on the little 45 records that my mom and grandma used to have, I was listening to songs that resonated with me where, the lyrics and energy of the music moved me and I’d play the songs on repeat. I do that a lot. When I find a song that I really like a lot, I play it over and over. At age 12 or 13, the first band I discovered was Led Zeppelin. My cousin came over one summer when I was at my great grandmother’s. He had an old, beat-up acoustic guitar. Neither one of us could play it, but we kept trying to figure out how this band was playing “Misty Mountain Hop.”
WM: Pretty soon after that he kept feeding me more Rock stuff. I think the first Metal record he introduced me to was Cinderella’s “Night Songs.” I remember looking at the album cover thinking, “Are these girls, are these guys, what is this?” Then, when the music came on, the eery intro to “Night Songs” came on, and I was like “Wow!” I had never heard guitars distorted and such a primal way of singing like Tom Keifer did. Then I found Ratt, and Motley Crue, and Black Sabbath and Dio. That was in my teen years. My early 20’s, during the 90’s Grunge movement, was my most favorite time in music. Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Mother Love Bone and The Screaming Trees. I’ve always been influenced by good songs. I love the whole 90’s movement that happened. Still, today, when you listen to a lot of our music, you can hear the 90’s influence coming through. I’m trying to do it my own way, of course. So those things influenced me the most.
AD: I'll always love the Grunge movement, too. I hear ya. Now, how did you wind up in LA?
WM: I was born in Kansas, and when my parents divorced when I was three, my mom remarried when I was five. My stepdad, I consider him to be my dad, he lived in Illinois. He was an aspiring session musician and he wanted to move to LA, so we moved there when I was age four. Now my dad lives in Nashville, my mom lives in Nevada, and I’m by myself here in LA, ha.
AD: (laughing) Your first iteration of Earshot, you had a pretty international group. Scott Kohler, a French guitarist, Dieter Hartman, from Austria. How did you meet those guys?
WM: And Gui the bass player was French. The record co, when we would meet would say, “Man you have the United Colors of Benetton.” It just ended up that way. When my band started, at the very, very beginning, I met Gui and two of his friends when they had an ad in a local magazine called Music Connection, and for whatever reason, never having sung in a band before in my life, I called, auditioned and the bass player and drummer liked me a lot. But, the guitar player that they had at the time, didn’t think that I had a good voice or that the band would go anywhere as long as I was singing. So they auditioned 100 more singers after I tried out. Then, the bass player and the drummer called me back two months later and said “Listen, we have tried out a lot of singers, we feel you are the right guy but our guitar player doesn’t agree. We worked it out that he’s gonna give you two weeks with you writing with us and we’re pretty sure he’ll come around.” So I said "Great." We got through two rehearsals and on the third day when I went into the rehearsal studio, I noticed all the guitar amps were gone.” I went, “What happened?” and they said, “He couldn’t even get through the two weeks, he was certain that you’re not the guy.” So now we didn’t have a guitar player, but our bass player had a friend who was 18 or 19, and he would change the bass players strings, and he was a guitar player. Our bass player decided his friend could fill in until we found the right guy. We ended up keeping his friend and then adding a second guy.
AD: Well determination is key when you try to put a band together. This is what it takes and then, it has a life of its own. I mean, Earshot has had many iterations until you finally got with the band members that you are with now. I love how the band kept you anyway, despite the bass player. it’s great. If bands stick with it, things can happen.
WM: Yes, we have had many iterations and I’ve been the one who has stayed throughout. I think it happens where people wanna go in different directions. Especially now in the music business, its tougher now than when we first came out. It’s even more uncertain now. A lot of the guys who were in our band wanted to do more of a structured thing, knowing what they would make each week or month, and I get that. Being in a band as an artist is a really tough thing to do these days. It is feast or snack.
AD: So then, you guys signed with Warner Brothers, your first album, what a great time. When I read about your beginning, I feel like you guys began and boom, you guys were touring and with good names. Any interesting stories?
WM: Well, our very first tour was with Hoobastank, and it was their first tour in support f their first single, "Crawling in the Dark,” so it was literally us and the band. Their single was at radio for four or five months, and our single hadn’t even come out yet. We miainly toured playing 100 person bars, and they were packed. My biggest memory from the first shows we did was the bus, it was old. It said ’87 on the manuals but my tour manager at the time was convinced it was a bus from the 70’s. If you hit a slight incline it wouldn’t go faster than like 35 mph.
AD: LOL! He should have painted flowers on it to bring it back to the 60’s.
WM: Yeah, really! Too bad for me, back then I didn’t smoke weed, so time went even slower. It took us forever to get anywhere, and the first two shows cancelled cause there was a snowstorm in northern California. That bus, slow, freakin’ slow.
AD: Ha. How did you guys even deal with that? In a small space, and there is always one guy who kicks it up a notch.LOL!
WM: Oh yeah, there’s always one guy. I think just our manager or tour manager, one of them reminded us how it is better than being in a van. But I think I may have been like “Hey I don’t know, the van might go faster.” It was an old bus, not a glamorous thing, but at least we could spread out. We were signed by David Kahne and he produced Letting Go. So, he called me to check in, weeks after we were out. I said, “Everythings great, but this bus, you wouldn’t believe it.” So on the next leg of the tour, he gave us more money to get a nicer bus.
Then things got a lot better, actually. So many good stories, but you’d think I’m making them up. I'd have to give you a ton of context, censor it, some is not that appropriate.
AD: LOL! We’ve heard a lot. I’m sure you have tons of stories. Then, you guys tour a bunch, you put out three albums, but after that Earshot has a ten-year hiatus, why? What went on?
WM: The first thing that led to that was, we were at odds with our label. David Kahne was on his way out and a new person came in, and anytime that happens it’s difficult, They don’t always see things how the band does, and they have different agendas, etc. We didn’t have the same type of support that we had when we first were signed. So, we went a couple of years without a record deal and having to deal with the emotions of the Warner Bros. deal blowing up in our faces. Then we got another record deal that was spearheaded by our then manager, who was one of my good friends, we were really close, so that shifted from a manger relationship to now his being our record label. It affected things a lot and that blew up a little bit. So then after that, I had a bad taste in my mouth with the industry and for my own sanity, I had to step back for a few minutes and it turned out into almost a decade.
AD: How did you spend time during that hiatus. What reset you to get you to where you are now?
WM: That’s a really good question. It was really organic, how it happened. Aside from continuing to write and record music, a friend of mine worked for Live Nation and they needed some help with some festivals they had going on. I got asked about working production so I did that, and I got to see a lot of bands that I’d played shows with before. It was cool to catch up with them. Then a few years later, I got a call from one of my previous tour managers asking if I was interested in tour managing Peter Murphy from Bauhaus and I was like, “OK, I’ve never done that before." but I said, ‘Sure, I’ll give it a shot.’” It was something I did well at, I did three or four tours for Peter, and then I got a call to do UFO, and then I got a call to do the Misfits, which was cool. Jerry Only, I love him, he’s the best. I was out with him before the reunion stuff happened, a great guy. I really learned a lot from him. I think working with him reinspired me. As a matter of fact, all of the bands I tour managed always tried to nudge me out of the nest, reminding me that I should be out there.
AD: That’s cool support. And then you get both sides, both aspects of it all, too. Great how that works.
WM: Yeah, I think that is what made it work so well. I wasn’t a tour manager who didn’t understand their anxieties day to day, just the opposite, I understood it.
AD: Our friend is a tour manager, and he tells us some stories about having to help situations along the way, it’s a lot of work keeping everyone on track.
WM: That’s what it was, without realizing it then, I was coaching these artists, getting them past whatever obstacles were giving them anxieties. Without them having to tell me what they were, I innately knew what their stressors were. I had stressed about those same things many times. I just understood them, kind of like a horse whisperer. It just made everybody feel better all around.
AD: That's very cool. Then you created your company,“Encore Coaching & Consulting” correct?
WM: Correct. I just decided that I’d been doing this work haphazardly with coaching. It’s something I grew up around, my mom having done that line of work for over 20 years, so I guess I automatically I always did that. My dad was a musician, so I innately wanted to also play music. During the pandemic I decided to do coaching, make it official and here we are.
AD: How is it going? How do people find out about you, thru the band or?
WM: It’s like any other business, I’m going out there getting new clients. I have friends who are clients at the moment.
AD: I'm sure it works that way a lot. I guess with Earshot, and also maybe that plays into it, too?
WM: Yeah some, I do more, my niche is working with other artists, or I really enjoy the challenge of working with people in a corporate setting. Executive Coaching, or entrepreneurs. A band is really very similar to starting up a business. The same challenges. I would say that trying to be successful in the music industry is probably more of a challenge. I enjoy working with people who are trying to create a business or grow their business. That’s kind of my forte.
AD: Many people don't instinctively know how to organize those things, though the ideas may be great or important. So now, switching gears, I hear you are doing some transcendental meditation. How did that begin?
WM: I have been doing weeks of it now. When I was 20 my girlfriend had a friend, an older guy, who would meditate twice a day. I didn’t really know what it was, but he was talking about transcendental meditation and how he went to retreats, and even to India for a few weeks. Then, another good friend of mine, four or five years ago, brought over a book for me to read about Transcendental Meditation, and of course I never read the book. He still tells me I should read the book.
AD: I mean, you don’t have to read that big book, ha.
WM: I mean, I might, I wasn’t motivated to back then, but I was reading a book weeks ago and it mentioned TM again. A few days ago, I was saying how traditional meditation or visualization has never worked for me 'cause I’m looking for quieting my mind. In those things it's about visualizing a waterfall, or drops of water, but it does the opposite of what I need. Transcandental Meditation has been about shutting up for a minute, it’s been really great.
AD: Yeah, I hear you. I can't do the visualizations and prefer TM. People, our minds tend to race. We get on that train. There is certainly a lot to tap into with energy when people get quiet and unblock the rushing train of thought. Answers show up with a quiet mind.
WM: I have already experienced that a bit. Within the first two or three weeks of practicing it, there were little nagging things that, before meditation, seemed simple to resolve yet I couldn’t. I would literally come out of meditation some days and the lightbulb would come on, “Of course, this is what I’ll do.” It comes so quietly and calmly.
AD: It can. Each day will bring different things thru the practice of doing it. The challenge is to not get bogged down by the day in and day out. We’re all balancing pieces. I’m so glad you’re doing it. I always hope that more people begin to give meditation to themselves. Our world needs that from each of us, that healthy calm, so we can all make better decisions out there.
WM: It’s interesting you mention about doing things for having the world become a better place. I’ve always been into spirituality, have read a lot of books, “A Course In Miracles,” “The Power of Now,” “The Bible.” The books are conceptually different, but all of the books are trying to get people to the same place, just different methodologies. They talk about “Help and love thy neighbor.” I mean, I spent many years trying to help others to be better by doing things I felt would help them to do so. What I've realized over the years is that if I can make myself a better person, I can maybe inspire people to also do that for themselves, through their observations about what I’m doing. A part of the problem with our world today is a lot of people spend too much time worrying about what others are doing, instead of worrying about what they are doing with their own lives, or what are they doing to make themselves better. What are they creating?
AD: Throughout history people have done that. It's easier to blame others than to work from deep within. Masters of peace, love, good messages came along yet instead of listening to the wisdom, people mistrusted or persecuted masters for their care or their loving ideas. The hardest thing to heal is ego or darkness. It can be like Star Wars out there, politics and war. We both have had integrity, or try to, yet not everyone looks at what they are doing out there.
WM: Integrity doesn’t mean that you’re always right and that you don’t make mistakes. It means you make mistakes but you’re honest about your mistakes. That word integrity gets thrown around, and people put on it how it has to look a certain way. In History, many atrocities have happened when someone felt it was right. Adolph Hitler thought he was really doing the right thing, he wasn’t, but he believed that. He was acting within his own idea of integrity doing what he believed. He thought he was doing the world a favor, which is crazy.
AD: Hard to define the word integrity, I see what you're saying. Whoa, the Psychology and mental illness tied into that one person. I mean, it is still studied today. A lot of healing is needed out there. People have to be ready, or maybe knocked over to figure it out. We could talk all day about this! Back to a lighter note, tell me all about what to look out for with Earshot?
WM: Ha, it's all very interesting though. Our single drops Friday on May 5th. It’s called “Unravelling.” We’ve gotten a good reaction from radio DJs and online magazines and blogs.
AD: So cool. You guys sound great! Can't wait to hear more ahead, too.
WM: Thanks. You never know how it will go and that is what makes it exciting. When you create art, you’re reporting what is happening around you and that’s what makes great art. I think the song is a pretty accurate reflection about what’s happening in the world today, so I think for that reason it will do well.
AD: Well, I also love your acoustic versions of your songs.
WM: Thanks, I love performing on acoustic. I love Joni Mitchell, she's one of my favorite artists along with Neil Young, Crosby Still, Nash and Young. It’s great doing acoustic.
AD: Well please let us know when you are in town. Stay in touch.
WM: I definitely will. Great talking to you, thank you so much.
AD: Namaste, thank you, too.
Earshot Official Website (earshotband.com)
Abbe Davis, Editor of TRR/Musician
Abbe Davis is the editor of TRR. She is also a singer/songwriter. Her band in Asheville is recording Hard Rock singles for release this year. She has played in original music, Blues, and Jazz up the east coast, and performed alongside legendary Blues artist, Buddy Guy, at the Riverwalk Blues Festival. In 2022 she and her band (Sordid Fable) performed at the Parkland Memorial Concert in South Florida.