The 19-year-old garnered much praise for the track used in the ad – and it just happens to be the title track of his album, Open Heart Zoo.
musicOMH caught up with Grech on tour in Cardiff to find out how it all began…
Martin Grech is in an apologetic mood. He’s just come off stage at the Cardiff Barfly after an impressive and powerful set, but he is still of the opinion that he could have done better.
“It was great fun, but man did we screw up so much! My singing was all over the place,” he says. And that’s the great thing about Grech – you only have to be in a room with him for 30 seconds to be infected by his charm and openness. He’s not being unduly modest; just honest.
Although Grech may not yet be well known, his music certainly is, thanks the Lexus Cars advertising campaign over the summer which featured the haunting title track to his album, Open Heart Zoo.
Three years in the making, Open Heart Zoo was released to critical acclaim. Part dirty industrial riffs reminiscent of Rage Against The Machine and Nine Inch Nails, part Radiohead at their abstract and heart-breaking best, it’s all sung by a 19-year-old with a voice every bit as good as the late Jeff Buckley. It’s a stunning debut, led by producer Andy Ross.
“The heavier stuff is heavier, and the lighter stuff is lighter, and there’s not as much in between, but more extremes…”
– Martin Grech on his next album…
“I’d done some of the worst demos in history, and they got passed around and he got hold of them and believed in their potential,” he says. “He acted almost as a father to the music. It was almost a nurturing process; some of the songs were already in a finished form when I took them to the studio, but definitely the songs wouldn’t be what they are today without him.”
Discussing the influences and comparisons that have been bandied about in the press, Grech still seems genuinely flattered and slightly embarrassed by the legendary names mentioned. “I hear Jeff Buckley and Radiohead all the time, but I’m not tired of them at all – they’re good!” he says.
What influences does he see in his music? “Bands like Nine Inch Nails weren’t really an influence, because I only discovered them after I’d made my stuff. It’s purely just the Radioheads and the Soundgardens that I found inspiration from, and Peter Gabriel. I love his stuff – he was a major influence to me.”
These are still early days for Grech; this tour of small venues is his first as headline act, but what is coming next? After the three years it took to complete Open Heart Zoo, he’s already working on the next record.
“We are under pressure to get this one done, although the last one only really took us six months, just spread over years, so this one should be quicker,” he says. Although still early days, what direction is the new album taking? “Well, the heavier stuff is heavier and the lighter stuff is lighter and there’s not as much in between, but more extremes.”
Animated, laughing and excited, Martin Grech comes over like a kid in a sweet shop, getting to play his music and loving every minute of it. The good-natured teenager from Aylesbury has quite a future ahead of him, but what does he see in the years ahead? “I’d love to have the freedom to just make whatever I want to make, whether it be music, video, whatever. Free expression and all that stuff,” he says with a grin on his face. “It would be fantastic!”
Interview over, he’s straight out to sign posters and meet fans, thrilled by the praise and congratulations he’s receiving, but still apologising for the performance. A down-to-earth kid with the talent to go far.