'A great feeling': With new EP, Martin Sexton kicks off concert tour at Payomet

By Jason Savio – July 14, 2021

CAPE COD TIMES– “I’m doing this time/This time ain’t doing me,” Martin Sexton sings on “Hold On,” one of four new songs on his upcoming EP “2020 Vision” set for release on Sept. 10.

He describes the song as the “silver lining” of the collection. 

“It’s all of that hardship that the world suffered through, all of that darkness, sickness and death, and out of that dark time for my family — and I hope many others — there were rays of hope and rays of light,” he says on a phone call with the Times from his home in the Adirondack Mountains. 

That ray of light for Sexton came in the form of a treehouse he built with his son during the pandemic. The two had been planning to put it together for a long time, but it became one of those things they never seemed to get around to until the world shut down during COVID.

Sexton wrote the song in the treehouse after they finished it. 

Martin Sexton at Payomet - Live music on Cape Cod

“It took that pandemic to give me that kick in the butt to actually get out there (and build it),” he says. 

You’ll be able to hear Sexton play the whimsical “Hold On” and the rest of his new material — plus “chestnuts” of older material — when he performs Friday at the Payomet Performing Arts Center in North Truro. 

Payomet had its first live event in its giant tent since before the pandemic started when Ana Popovic performed on July 4. The venue is now booked for the summer, with a full schedule of different music acts who include Dom Flemons, Mavis Staples, Popa Chubby and more. Last year and earlier this summer, Payomet held small music and circus events on its ballfield.

“We're so happy — ecstatic is the only word,” says Kevin Rice, executive artistic director at Payomet, about the larger venue reopening. “The tent is out of mothballs and up again, cobwebs cleared away and looking pretty.” 

Rice says that he and the Payomet crew are taking every precaution to keep patrons safe, and they “want and expect every single ticket buyer and audience member” to be vaccinated. 

“It’s all about air,” he says, so the sidewalls of the tent will be left off as much as possible to create an “open air theatre.” 

Payomet, which is located inside the Cape Cod National Seashore and so is under federal guidelines, will follow all “local to federal” protocols when it comes to COVID-19, Rice says. There are also plans to continue using the ballfield this summer — which Rice describes as “our friend for the past year” — starting with the world premiere this week of “Saddle Up!,” a circus show about gender equality set in the wild west.
For Sexton, his trip to Payomet is the first stop on a 21-show tour that extends into December. 

“It’s a great feeling now that we’re sort of back in the swing of things,” says Sexton, who normally plays 130 to 140 shows a year. “Just to be back on the horse because during that time we were all like ‘Oh my God, are we going to be able to work? Are we going to be able to feed our families?’” 

Like many other artists, Sexton kept himself busy during 2020 by offering online performances and taking part in a few outdoor shows across the country, including one at the Yarmouth Drive-In last summer. 

“It was a blessing,” he says. “It was a testament to the power of music and also the power of people’s need for music.” 

His biggest project, of course, was writing and recording “2020 Vision,” a soulful collection of songs that offers an uplifting spirit through its charming pop/folk sound. Sexton recorded his parts remotely from a friend’s studio in western Massachusetts and sent those over to Grammy Award-nominated producer John Alagia in Los Angeles. Alagia then had the rest of the band add their parts.

“I think we captured a live sound even though it wasn’t live,” says Sexton. “So that was a neat experiment for me, to do a bi-coastal recording. I usually do it pretty live on the floor. I usually have the drummer in there with me and maybe a bass player to get that live thing going, and then build on top of that.” 

One of those who took part in the collaboration from L.A. was John Mayer, a friend of Sexton’s who was an influence early in the guitarist’s career. Mayer contributed guitar work on the song “Calling on America.”

“I first met him at a club in 1999 in Atlanta, and I think he was in college, and he was handing me his CD, wanting to open up for me,” says Sexton. Then, he adds with a laugh, “the next time I saw him, I was opening up for him on his sold-out arena tour, and he had a Grammy and his girlfriend was Jennifer Love Hewitt.” 

Sexton has been going strong and steady for three decades as a musician, having a career that has been “everlasting and ever-growing.” 

“I’ve never had what you think of as a big break, like I had a big hit,” he says. “I’ve had this cool career where it’s just incremental little steps that have gone for 30 years now, which is really a blessing because I know guys who have, in air-quotes, that big break 10, 20 years ago and they had their five minutes and where are they now?” 
Sexton talks about his career as a solo artist with gratitude, noting that “making a living with art is sort of defying gravity in a way.” 

As laid back as Sexton may sound when speaking to him, it’s clear that he is ready to hit the road, bringing his new songs and old favorites to fans. 

“I’m looking forward to coming back to Payomet and raising the tent there with some soul music,” he says. “And I’m looking forward to seeing smiling faces without masks on!” 

If you go
Who: Martin Sexton in concert
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Payomet Performing Arts Center, 29 Old Dewline Road, North Truro
Tickets: $52, $48 for members
Reservations and information: tickets.payomet.org/MartinSexton