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Martin Kerr is the last person you would have expected to see on Canadian Idol. The British-born musician writes smart, Crowded House-style tunes about love, marriage and the undiscovered geniuses who don't subject themselves to the rigmaroles of a manufactured reality TV show. He doesn't want a record deal. He has released two folk-pop albums, I Know You're Out There and justanotherman, on his own. Yet there's only so far an independent musician can get without an extra little boost.
"I've been doing this full time for a year now and realized how difficult it was to get press or any kind of buzz going," he says. So on a whim -- he was busking at a farmers market when somebody told him about the Idol tryouts -- Kerr decided to audition for this year's season. He made it as far as the Top 16 before getting the boot in early July.
"Trying to adapt to the environment of a big, glitzy TV show was really weird and I'm not sure I did it terribly well," he laughs. "I definitely learned a lot and I felt like I got better each week, but it was really the pressure of the competition that got to me. There was just so much riding on it, you know? And it was my first time really being in the public eye and knowing that there were people slagging me off on (Internet) forums and VoteForTheWorst.com. It did get to me a bit."
Kerr was far from the worst. He was simply too good, too accomplished for Idol -- like previous losers such as Theresa Sokyrka, Jacob Hoggard and Jaydee Bixby. Yet they went on to bigger and better things -- outselling and even outlasting Idol's five winners.
Even if Kerr doesn't become a household name in Canada, he might end up big in China. In 2007, he released a double album of children's tunes, Virtues in Us, co-written with a Chinese musician. The songs are being used in several Chinese schools to teach students about cleanliness, courtesy, patience, generosity, courage and service.
"It's being piloted right now, and if it takes off, which it seems to be doing, they'll make it part of the national curriculum," says Kerr, who worked for several years as an English teacher in the People's Republic.
"It's a big deal. It's the biggest school system in the world. It's really exciting to be contributing to something valuable like that."
After years of travelling (and busking) around the world, Kerr and his wife, Tara, settled in Edmonton in 2005. He recorded his second album, I Know You're Out There, with Captain Tractor's Chris Wynters last year. [The album was named Best Canadian Pop Album 2007 by Toronto Exclusive Magazine].
Kerr now plans to record a series of EPs -- when he's not gigging with his new friends. He's playing Wednesday, Nov. 5 at Sherwood Park's Festival Place with fellow Idol contestant Oliver Pigott. Kerr is also planning a tour of Alberta with some of the show's other losers.
"I've got this network of good friends who are great singers all across the country," he says. "Wherever I tour, I'll have someone to play with. If you can team up with someone local (in each town), then you've got a lot more people to watch you."
Sandra Sperounes, The Edmonton Journal
Monday, July 28
Martin is available solo, or as a trio, or 5-piece band:
Martin Kerr - Songwriter, Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Martin Kerr - Acoustic Guitar, Lead vox
Brad Hardstaff - Hand Percussion, backing vox
Steven Roe - Lead Guitar, backing vox
Martin Kerr - Acoustic Guitar, Lead Vocals
Carter Lee - Bass, backing vox
Steven Roe - Lead guitar, backing vox
Caleb Caswell - Drums, backing vox
Chris Pruden - Piano, synthesizer
I Know You're Out There, LP (Independent) 2007
justanotherman, LP (Independent) 2002
The Future Now, LP (Independent) 1997
Favourite Songs from the Family Learning House (A Better World Production 2008
Virtues in Us (A Better World Production) 2007
Songs from the Family Learning House(2004)
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada Website: www.martinkerrmusic.com