Harlem meets New Orleans with undeniably soulful results on John The Martyr's self-titled debut album -- whose video for the track "Time" is premiering exclusively below.
The 10-member troupe certainly has a unique story. It's fronted by 71-year-old New York singer Bill Hudson, who boasts a deep R&B and doo-wop pedigree. His chief collaborators are young NOLA players Kyle Ridley and Dustin DiSalvo who had moved north to make music in the melting pot. And melt they have "I think the task was to not try to define, but let’s embrace whatever it sounds like without the label. That's the magic," Hudson tells Billboard. "It's kind of a gumbo -- just a bunch of different ingredients stirred together and the fruition of what we all sound like when it does."
JTM began during June of 2015, when Ridley heard Hudson singing with a doo-wop group in a Manhattan subway. The guitarist initially "wanted to capture their voice, somehow" but soon honed-in on Hudson in particular. "When I heard Bill sing lead, that was a whole other level," Ridley recalls. "When I heard Bill sing lead on some lyrics I wrote, I thought, 'That sounds really cool'." After a subsequent show at the Mercury Lounge with an early version of the band, "we never looked back. I don't think I ever could have predicted this set-up, or this band. If I could've planned it, I probably would have screwed it up.
"It's gone through a lot of iterations," Ridley adds, "but it's finally gotten to the point where it's a real family, a great hang. It's surprising to see so many people from different countries, different backgrounds and different styles of music being able to come together around Bill's voice and not only find a balance, musically, but be able to just have a great time -- and laugh our faces off together."
And Hudson, an unapologetic lifer with no regrets, is happy to be along for the ride. "This is the furthest point I've reached in the music," he says. "When you're chasing your passion, you don't know where it's gonna lead you. A lot of people who don't get fruition leave after a few years. I always had a secular job but always kept that fervor for my music. Four years ago I met a couple of kids, and now here we are. A lot of things unfold that are unforeseen. I don't know what the next step is going to be or what it's going to lead to; That's just part of the mystery and the excitement that comes along with it."
Gary Graff, Billboard