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The Voice of Mr Big


Kathmandu, November 16, 2016: It was 1992. After a gig in a wet bar of Florida (the USA), Eric Martin was playing pinball alone while waiting for his crew members.

Television was on and MTV declared Mr Big’s song To Be With You, written by Martin, as ‘No 1 song in the country’.

“Nobody from the band knew that we were number one and it totally caught us off guard,” Martin shared about the moment that changed his life as well as his band Mr Big with The Himalayan Times, when he was in the Capital for a concert. “It was the defining moment of my musical career.”

Mr Big was founded in 1988 by Martin on vocals with Billy Sheehan on bass guitar, Pat Torpey on drums and Paul Gilbert on guitar. Until then (1992), the band wasn’t a big name and was playing in smaller venues.

And when Martin saw the music video of their song on MTV as ‘No 1 song’, he was “so embarrassed of myself at that time — I looked like s**t. Looking at the video I thought ‘oh I look so handsome…’ and I felt I needed a haircut.”

The man with soulful voice further recalled the moment, “I called my band members and I was like ‘guys, it’s so awesome’. I got a major ‘heart attack’ — I was so excited at that point.”

He was so excited that he wanted to “buy a cell phone which was trending at that time” for being at the top spot. He had made the call to his friends through wireless telephone that used to be as big as his black converse (Martin took off his black converse during the interview to show the size of the phone).

The fact that they were number one changed their “life’s address”. After that “we were opening for big bands like Scorpions, Aerosmith, Rush, Bryan Adams among others and playing in theatre arena with capacity of 10,000 audiences.”

Martin started out in music in his teens out of passion, of which he reminisced, “It was in 1977 when I was paid for the first time, which was eight dollars.

That was shared between the band members.” It was later in his 30s that he started making good money out of music.

It has been 40 years that he has been producing and making music while performing around the world with different bands as well as a solo artiste.

“It’s my luxury that I have both the opportunities to sing in a band and as an individual. In a band you have to come to a point where everybody agrees on something — it is a democracy,” the singer said.

As a solo artiste “performing alone is a bit scary but it’s a challenge and you can do whatever you like. For example change the lines of the song and play a different tune. You do it for yourself.”

Nonetheless, the journey as an artiste has been “an experience, adventure and a journey where you learn things that become a part of you” — like he learnt to “joke and make people laugh during my performances and it is important while you are performing alone”.

During this time, Martin has come up with numerous albums. Mr Big, Lean Into It, Bump Ahead, Hey Man, Get Over it, Actual Size, What If… and…The Stories We Could Tell are his albums with Mr Big while he has more than 10 solo albums under his belt.

Mr Big is a big part of his life — the band disbanded in 2002 and they reunited in 2009. He has future plans with the band too.

He elaborated it as, “Even in coming years, we want to care about each other and be constantly on the road together without any pain and keep respecting each other.

We then want to make music together, not like a job, but for fun when we first started. And we are constantly talking about our tour of next year, from May to end of August.”

The singer-songwriter is busy touring and performing these days. Because, music for him, “is my livelihood, creative outlet” along with it being “therapeutic as it heals major wounds like heartbreak. I can’t imagine myself doing any other thing”.

It is the same music that has “put more stamps in my passport”. And so he was here in Kathmandu last weekend. It was a “dream come true”. He expressed, “Since I was a teenager I always wanted to be in Nepal. It’s a dream come true for me. I guess I may be inspired by musicians that I used to listen to like Jimi Hendrix, The Beetles, Bob Marley and others. They all came to Nepal and something happened to them.”

By Sangita Shrestha