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Tracy Martin: Know Your Keys to Launch Your Career
When you see Tracy Martin, it’s easy to be struck by her stunning beauty and funky style. But when you hear her play, you’ll know that behind that beautiful smile lies a monster musician with the chops and talent to do whatever she sets her mind to. Her first gig was with Christian group Soulace in 2007, and since April 2009, she’s been playing keys with R&B superstar Musiq Soulchild. Growing up, Martin honed her prodigious musical skills through gospel music, playing drums and keyboards in and out of church in her native Atlanta, and playing trombone with her high school marching band. Though she learned to read music, she developed her ear as well, the combination of the two proving invaluable.
“I’ve always had a good work ethic when it came to learning songs,” says Martin. “Moreover, I’ve always been a stickler for learning the record as-is. I think the most important thing was making sure I was on top of all my keys. I never wanted to be handicapped by the transpose button, and had too much pride to use it. In return, having learned my keys fluently prepared me to go into more demanding situations, such as the artist wanting to change the original key to one more comfortable to their voice and me not having to fumble through the key of their choosing. Also, it just sounded good that this teenage girl could play in all her keys.”
As her Soulace gig ran its course, she began touring with other wellknown gospel artists such as Sonya McGuire and Friends, Ricky Dillard and Wanda Nero Butler. Her networking around Atlanta led her to a friendship with drummer Stanley Ingram, who was the first to inform her that Musiq was looking for an all-female band. Eager to reach out, Martin wrote to Musiq via his MySpace page and got an immediate response from his assistant Donnita Hathaway (who happens to be the daughter of legendary soul keyboardist artist Donny Hathaway). Martin got to audition, but didn’t get the gig right away. She did keep in touch and after a few casual hangs, invited the band to one of her own gigs where they could see her in her element. “I believe that’s what sealed the deal for me,” says Martin. “The ladies had a chance to assess me on a general level, and onstage, all in a matter of two weeks.”
In April 2009, Martin got the call to join Musiq on the Playing It Cool tour with Anthony Hamilton. Though they were promoting Musiq’s On My Radio album, Martin began working in the recording studio on newer material. “Along the way I’ve had several opportunities to go into the studio with Musiq and be creative for his artists, for other famous artists, and even for him on his latest album, which is huge,” says Martin. But learning the parts from previous albums was where her earlier preparation came into play and gave her a comfort level on the job.
“To my advantage is a highly trained ear and my almost fetishistic discipline to learn the record as it is,” says Martin. “It hasn’t been hard to learn different parts to the song...