With chiseled good looks, a smooth, classically trained voice, and a love for New Orleans, Terc Martinez is someone who everyone will be talking about soon. After hearing him sing and experiencing his presence, my friends and I were transfixed. Eager to know more, I quizzed Martinez on his life and his upcoming independent release on Stat Enterprises, Canciones de Mi Alma (Songs From My Soul).
How did you get started playing music?
I grew up near Audubon Park, but I played music in the French Quarter when I was a teenager. One day a professor from Loyola University saw me and invited me to study music, so I went to Loyola and I focused on opera.
You studied opera in New Orleans?
Yes, I had extensive classical training at Loyola, and I took it pretty seriously. I focused on opera as if it was a martial art. I soon found myself traveling around the world singing in Italy and France. I was even a featured vocalist with the Bolshoi Ballet in Russia.
Which singers influenced you?
I had so many influences growing up. My father was a great singer and being of Cuban and Acadian descent, I loved anything Cuban; and being from New Orleans, I loved jazz. But I also loved Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, and I really followed a lot of the UK groups like Led Zeppelin, Elton John, Freddie Mercury and, of course, Luciano Pavarotti.
Wow, that’s quite a range.
Even while training for the opera, I was always concerned about not sounding like an opera singer. I focused on learning how to use my voice.
You’re traveling all over the world singing opera, living in New York, London and L.A. What made you come back to New Orleans?
I was living in L.A. and I was beginning to record a project of popular music when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. I decided to come home. I placed all my things in storage and prepared for an extended visit. After being in New Orleans, I realized that I wanted to stay home. I met some great local musicians, started jamming, found a recording studio and I began to work on this collection of Spanish songs.
Why Spanish songs?
I love Cuban rhythms, drums, anything vocally driven with big melodies over hypnotic grooves; Canciones de Mi Alma represents this love of Cuban music.
It seems like New Orleans is very close to the spirit of Cuba. We have been sipping on mojitos made with 10 Cane Rum; what do you think of the rum?
10 Cane Rum is incredible, so smooth, made with real sugar cane. It’s fantastic.
What are your goals?
While in New Orleans, I would love to create more and record as much as possible. I am ready to put myself out there; I don’t want to hold anything back. I want to live at the highest level that I can. People today are super cautious; when I look back at musicians that I love, like Janis Joplin or Jimmy Hendrix, they were sweating buckets, letting it all hang out. I want to do the same; I want to leave it out there on the field.