Eric Martin is here To Be With You

Eric Martin is here To Be With You
Eric Martin lead singer of the rock band Mr. Big.

By Michael Gomes

Published: Wed 2 Nov 2016, 4:42 PM

Last updated: Sun 15 Jan 2017, 10:44 AM

Eric Martin was the frontman of the popular American rock band Mr Big that featured legends such as Paul Gilbert (guitar ) and Billy Sheehan on (bass), besides Pat Torpey (drums). The seminal 90's supergroup is most famous  for the chart-topping hits To Be With You and Wild World among a string of other popular rock anthems. Over the years, having performed on some of the world's biggest stages, none of the band members are prepared to hang up their boots as yet. In fact, there is talk of them working on a new album, and who knows maybe a world tour after that. While we keep our fingers crossed on that, closer to home, Martin will in town on Friday, performing a solo set at The Music Room, as part of his Asian tour. So if you want to listen to some good ol' rock this weekend, you know where to go. Warm-up acts on the night include local bands Moonshine, Kicksound and Ashwin Thomas. Ahead of his Dubai gig, Martin spoke to us about Mr Big and more. Excerpts from the interview.
Is this your first time in these parts?
Yes. I've been around the world many times, but I've never been fortunate enough to come to Dubai.
What Mr Big songs can Dubai expect to hear?
As many as I've written, and I've written more than half of them. It's an acoustic performance so it will be songs geared to that format. I'll throw in some rockers as well.
What's 'big' about Mr Big? Why was the band named such?
After meeting and jamming with Billy Sheehan (bassist), Paul Gilbert (guitarist) and Pat Torpey (drums), we all had one thing in common  - our love for British and American rock bands that were influenced by R&B and soul.
Bands like Led Zeppelin, Humble Pie, Grand Funk Railroad, Montrose, Spooky Tooth, Free with Paul Rogers, and Paul Kossof, Simion Kirke and Andy Fraser.  
Our drummer Pat  was looking through his record collection and took out the Free album Fire & Water which had the infamous hit Alright Now. But the first song (on side 2, it was all vinyl then), was Mr. Big. A mid tempo blues rocker that kicks into a higher gear, it struck a nerve, I guess, and we thought that it would make a great band name. Moreover, it looks good on a T-shirt.

Though Mr Big's cover version of Cat Stevens' Wild World became a hit, do you think doing cover tunes was the way to go for a band?
Why not? We recorded a handful of songs by artists we were influenced by - for fun, like 30 Days In The Hole by Humble Pie, My Woman from Tokyo by Deep Purple, Aint That A Shame by Cheap Trick,  Hold Your Head Up by Argent, Baba O'Riley by The Who, Mr. Big by Free and many more covers.
It was all for fun, we were not trying to achieve any kind of success with any of these songs, but ironically, Wild World, became a gigantic hit.. it caught us by surprise... we couldn't have been happier!
You've played with greats like Billy Sheehan and Paul Gilbert. How easy or tough is it to work with musicians of that calibre?
I have been lucky in my life to work with talented musicians like Billy and Paul as well as a host of others like Steve Lukather, Neal Schon  and Jonathon Cain from Journey, Joe Lynn Turner, Ian Gillan, Rick Parfitt from Status Quo and the list goes on. It's not so tough to work with stars like these... I believe in myself.
So what are Gilbert and Sheehan upto these days? Any chances of a Mr Big reunion?
Billy, Paul, Pat and myself just finished a handful of shows in California, to have fun and also to get our rock chops working again. Between May and August next year, we will be doing a world tour.
What's on your playlist right now?
Right now, in my car? I have five CDs playing - Gavin DeGraw - Sweeter, The Black Crowes - By Your Side, Avantasia - Ghost Lights (bonus version), Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Four Way Street and of course, Mr. Big...
If not a singer what would you be?
My father was a drummer. He taught me the basics of drumming. I have played drums in a couple of bands when I was a kid. I've still got some rock chops, but I'm not that good.
Once I discovered I could sing, I gave it all up. But if I couldn't sing anymore, I would, maybe, dust those old drums of mine up and start practicing.
Any album or single in the works?
I won't know until the last minute... that's how these guys (the band) are. I figure in about a month or so from now, I'll be getting CDs full of songs, ideas from the 'Big' rhythm section.

American rock band Mr. Band
American rock band Mr. Band
Eric Martin of Mr Big.
Eric Martin of Mr Big.

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