By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
"Environmentalism is not a partisan issue," says Martin Sexton. "It's a human issue." Speaking from his home in Boston a few days before the second leg of a cross-country tour, the guitarist, singer and songwriter has decided to add activist to his already full résumé. Using only biodiesel fuel in the tour bus, purchasing renewable wind energy credits to offset CO2 emissions and selling clothing made of organic cotton, the tour is determined to leave a smaller environmental footprint.
"I've always tried to be responsible in my personal life," says Sexton. "And after I saw Al Gore's film, I decided to take this to a professional level."
While some might view an eco-friendly tour as some sort of attention-getting stunt or as patently leftist, political posturing, Sexton wants to be neither a media darling nor a lock-step liberal.
"I'm not preaching, making a statement or trying to be high and mighty," says Sexton. "I'm just trying to set an example of how being green can be fun, economical and unthreatening."
Sexton's unique melding of musical styles and his evocative vocals have made him a critical favorite with an ever-growing fan base ever since he released his 1996 debut Black Sheep. Comparisons to rock/soul heavyweights Van Morrison, Al Green and Otis Redding have, remarkably, not gone to Sexton's head. Charming and well-spoken, Sexton comes across as the likable next-door neighbor who just happens to be able to sing and play his ass off.
"I'm a hardworking performer, and people seem to appreciate that," he says. And for the first time, Sexton is out on the road with a full band, quite a change from his much revered solo performances.
"I wanted to change it up a bit, to present the songs more like they are on the record," he says.
Sexton's most recent record, Seeds, is yet another collection of pop, soul, country and rock that defies easy categorization. While "Thought I Knew Ya" is an easygoing acoustic ditty a la Dave Matthews, "Goin' to the Country" is country blues infused with urban soul, and "Marry Me" brings to the fore a little-known admiration of the Fab Four.
"I guess I'd call it all soul music," says Sexton. "That seems to be the closest thing in the English language to describe what I do."
Yet now, Sexton wants to bring an element of laid-back activism into what he does; and he has partnered with CLIF Bar's GreenNotes program and Newman's Own Foods to help spread the environmentally friendly word.
"We're eating all organic food on the bus and in the dressing room," says Sexton with a remarkable sincerity. "Some people see it as left or right, but I see it as a given to preserve our planet."