It’s difficult to believe that even at the height of her dizzying fame in the late ’80s and early ’90s, US songstress Martika never set foot on Australian soil to perform for her devoted fans.
Little wonder why then, that Australia’s “Toy Soldiers” were so thrilled with the recent announcement from Frontier Touring that the singer would be heading down under later this year for her first ever live shows.
So we jumped on the phone to Martika to chat about her pop gems, the forthcoming album and why she’s taken so long to tour.
“Oh life can be so distracting at times,” she jokes. “Well I actually haven’t done any Martika performances with my songs since ‘Martika’s Kitchen’ – since the early ‘90s – so not only is this my first time going to Australia for a live concert tour, but also my first time touring with this material in about 20 years.”
Though it may have been two decades since ‘Coloured Kisses’ became her last charting hit here in Australia, Martika tells us that she’s enjoying revisiting her teenage years and the hits that made her famous.
“It’s a trip. It’s a journey for sure. It was just so long ago. I don’t know how many lifetimes I’ve lived since, so it’s kind of interesting to get inside the head of my teenage self again,” she says, admitting that at the time, she was a little overwhelmed by all the sudden global acclaim.
“I had no idea that they were going to whisk me around the globe and that I would have such big hit records in so many countries,” she says. “No-one in my family had ever experienced anything like that, so I really didn’t have anybody or any reference points to cope very well. It was like being thrown out in the water when you’d never swam before.”
But swim she did. And rather spectacularly, notching up a succession of chart triumphs across the globe, with singles including ‘I Feel The Earth Move’, ‘Toy Soldiers’, ‘More Than You Know’ and ‘Love… Thy Will Be Done’. The latter track was co-penned by Prince, who left quite the impression on the then young starlet.
“Prince was one of my favourite pop artists, so for me to be able to actually visit Paisley Park and all the people that were behind some of that music that had influenced me so much was a very cool experience for me,” she tells us, revealing how the pair worked together.
“I actually wrote some of the lyrics on ‘Martika’s Kitchen’ that were collaborations with Prince and the people at Paisley Park. So basically my lyrical content was what they utilized for those records. I would say that Prince maybe didn’t have the largest majority involvement in that material. Obviously he was involved in it, but there were a lot of people who worked on those records. He probably worked on them maybe for all of a few days and got the basics going on and we took it from there.”
Major involvement or not, it didn’t really matter. ‘Love… Thy Will Be Done’ became Martika’s biggest hit here in Australia, maintaining its No.1 run for five weeks. It would be one of six top 40 hits for the singer in Australia and one of three top five smashes. But ask Martika what it is about those early hits that still resonates with people and she’s at a loss to answer.
“I don’t really know,” she admits. “I have no idea other that I’m very grateful that some of the work that I’ve been involved with has left an impact that has so far been remembered by many people, so I’m very appreciative of that.
“I worked with very talented people and we all showed up and did the best job that we had to do and it feels good that people have loved some of that music, remember it and apparently are still interested in hearing those songs.”
Interest in Martika’s single ‘Toy Soldiers’ was once again piqued in 2004 when rapper Eminem sampled the track for his single ‘Like Toy Soldiers’. Martika recalls being incredibly humbled that he chose to sample her song.
“Oh extremely flattering to have an artist of his calibre,” she pauses… “I mean Eminem is one of the biggest superstars of our time in music…. A global presence. And it’s quite an honour that he would pick my song out of all the songs that have been made. That he would choose ‘Toy Soldiers’… It was a trip, man. It totally blows my mind still.”
Martika also recalls the moment she first heard it on the radio.
“I think I was driving in the car somewhere in the States,” she says. “It’s always so cool to hear something that you’ve worked on come through on the radio waves because for me, growing up with radio had such a huge impact on my life in wanting to make music. So when you hear something you’ve worked on coming on your car stereo unexpectedly, it never really stops being a cool experience.”
Throughout the late ’90s and the first decade of the new millennium, the “Martika” project was put on hold and the singer chose to work with her husband Michael Mozart on the Oppera project and later re-appeared under the Vida Edit stage alias.
Fast forward to 2012, however, and Martika is back, with new music to boot. The singer is continuing work on her forthcoming album ‘The Mirror Ball’. As the title suggests, its primary aim is to get you on the dancefloor.
“Yes, it’s most definitely a record to get you shaking your booty – and everything else hopefully,” Martika tells us with a laugh. “I wanted to bring something fun-filled, light hearted, happy and positive and something that people could have a good time with, escape a little bit from reality perhaps, put on at a party, go out to the club. We had my first single ‘More Than You Know’ remixed for the clubs at the time and it was quite a dancey, groovy kind of record.
“It made a lot of sense after so long reintroducing myself to everybody to bring out something with the energy of that for starters. I will say that the people I’m working with are amazing and the beats are so hot. They’re doing some amazing electronica things in the studio. It’s just going to be over the top in the dance clubs.
“We have the first single from the project out now,” Martika continues. “It’s called ‘Flow With The Go’, so you can get that online – the video and the song – and we’re working on the remixes of that. Right now we’re in the studio finishing off the recording aspects and the video for the second song which is called ‘Slow Motion’, so that should be coming out soon too.
“We’ve got another one on there called ‘It Doesn’t Matter’, which is real beautiful. The songs are funky and groovy and there’s some cool beats, but there’s some really beautiful melodic stuff, some heart-felt and soulful stuff and I think people are going to love it. We’re working on everything simultaneously because we’ve got tour coming up and so I’m working on the live show as well.”
As mentioned, that live show will see Martika touring Australia for the very first time in September and October this year. She dropped the setlist late last week and promises plenty of treats to appease even her most ardent fans.
“I’m absolutely doing all of the singles that were put out. ‘Toy Soldiers’, ‘Love Thy Will Be Done’, ‘More Than You Know’, ‘I Feel The Earth Move’, ‘Martika’s Kitchen’, ‘Water’, ‘Coloured Kisses’. I’m also going to be doing one that some folks request, ‘If You’re Tarzan, I’m Jane’. I’ve never actually performed that song live, even back in the day.
“I’ve really let the fans tell me what they want to hear. There’ll be songs that will rotate in and out keep the show fresh – songs like ‘Broken Heart’ and ‘See If I Care’. Some of the new songs I’ve been telling you about… A ballad called ‘Heartache’ which is ohhh… wait ‘til you hear that one. That’s pretty much the set list. I really want to give people what they want to hear and something new as well,” she says.
The countdown is now officially on, with just over three months before Martika arrives in Australia for the first of the live shows in Sydney. She leaves us with a special message for all of her Aussie “Toy Soliders”…
“I really do appreciate all the positive feedback and I’m just really grateful to the fans and I can’t wait to get out there and meet you all. I’m going to be signing autographs after the shows. It’ll really give me the chance to say hello and thank them personally for being so supportive of my music.”
Martika’s single ‘Flow With The Go’ is available digitally now.
The new album ‘The Mirror Ball’ is, according to Martika, due later this year.
Martika will tour Australia for the first time ever in September. Tickets for all dates (below) are on sale now.
September 27 : Sydney (Metro Theatre)
September 28 : Melbourne (Trak Lounge Bar)
September 29 : Newcastle (Panthers)
October 04 : Fremantle (Metropolis)
October 05 : Adelaide (HQ)
October 06 : Canberra (The Auditorium)
October 10 : Brisbane (The HiFi)
October 12 : Cairns (Brothers Leagues Club)