Norma Jean Martine is a talented 25 year old singer/ songwriter who comes all the way from Middletown, New York. In 2011 Martine then moved to the UK at the tender age of 20. She’s already supported the likes of Tom Odell, Nick Mulvey, Gaz Coombes, James Arthur and Lissie. It was 2014 at the Concorde 2 where I first witnessed Norma live. Back then she was supporting Lissie and the material performed left me hooked. We then come to the present and Martine has been snapped up by Virgin. 2015 saw the release of the outstanding Animals EP and this October finally sees the debut album Only In My Mind come into the world. I was even fortunate enough to preview the record and OMG it was literally amazing. Originally this record was slated to come out on 9th September but the release was put back a month. They say good things come to those who wait and I’m positive the vinyl will be a vision of beauty once it’s in my hands.
Aside from that Oslo, Hackney played host to the latest headline performance and I must say Norma Jean Martine was out of this world. For starters she had a band backing her which made each tune ooze plenty of power. Things kicked off just after 9pm and the set opener was Hang My Hat. The moment Martine graced the stage she then immediately took to the keyboard. Anyhow this cut was ever so captivating and I could also pick up on a rasp/ huskiness within Norma’s vocals. Everything about Hang My Hat was spot on, those vocals just mesmerised me and the backing band added that something special. Martine delivered this well written tune with plenty of gusto. Those storytelling lyrics were extremely infectious, my favourite part had to be the chorus “Don’t care if I never see you again/ Thinking maybe we could just pretend/ This is a fairytale with a happy end”. Actually those emotional lyrics made me picture a girl who has that feeling of emptiness and wants to feel loved even if only for a night. “My name’s Norma Jean Martine. Thank you so much for being here tonight” she then said before they launched into Sons And Daughters. Now this blissful cut packed a fierce punch leaving me completely enthralled till the very end. Martine literally gave this sweet infectious number her all and the band gave it that anthem esque feel. “How you guys doing tonight? I’ve been really really looking forward to this show” Norma said before mentioning that it was the first show with her new bass player. It was then time for Only In My Mind which was the first song she wrote when she moved to England in 2011. Emitting plenty of rootsy blues vibes, Only In My Mind was a super catchy acoustic cut which had me tapping my toe. It was then time for With You which oozed plenty of soul and I’m really surprised it hasn’t made the albums final cut. This exquisite tune was rather chirpy and I was left smiling all throughout. Norma Jean Martine literally went full throttle and this laid back number showcased her powerhouse vocals to perfection.
The tune which followed was No Gold. For those who don’t know this song was released way back in 2014 but had no promotion whatsoever. There is a video on YouTube but it’s unofficial. This was an upbeat pop tune, Martine’s vocals were extremely strong and the band gave this phenomenal song that extra oomph. The lyrics were outstanding and it had me moving on the spot. No Gold had been perfectly crafted and there was also one belting chorus. “Hell knows where I’m gonna land/ A small town girl no gold in my hands/ Gypsy I know you understand/ I’d die to be free no gold in my hands/ Sorry if you never ever see me again/ And I’m sorry if I never call/ Hell knows where I’m gonna land/ A small town girl/ No gold in my hands”. Martine’s raspy vocals reminded me of Australian songstress Gabriella Cilmi. It was then time for the recent NJM single and this being the ballad I Want You To Want Me. The intro was literally breathtaking then the drums kicked in. IWYTWM was a gentle tune which left me captivated from the word go. It was delivered perfectly on the keyboard giving it that whimsical fee and Norma’s vocals were faultless. Just witnessing it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on edge and the tender lyrics had dashes of emotion “Don’t wanna be left out in the cold again/ Need more than the love, I need a friend/ If I speak it all, it’s gonna be the truth/ I Want You To Want Me the way I want you”.
It was time for a cover and this being Welcome Stranger. Now this wondrous tender tune belongs to Ed Harcourt which Norma re wrote. Now this song was truly incredible. It may have been delivered at a smooth but steady pace but it was enough to completely captivate me. Moving back to the keyboard it was then onto a cover with the Norma Jean Martine twist. “My dad has a car shop and when I was a baby they put up a giant picture of me and in sharpie he wrote the boss on top of it. It’s still there 25 years later. It’s really cute so I’m kinda the boss too” Martine said before tackling Bruce Springsteen’s I’m On Fire. I have to say this was truly remarkable and her take was played at a steady pace. NJM definitely did this song justice. Next up was Still In Love With You. For some reason Katy Perry’s In Another Life sprung to mind. This was an entrancing beautiful ballad which I found to be a tad slushy. Anyhow Still In Love With You was delivered to perfection and the band gave this dreamy number that extra edge. The lyrics were soothing and infectious but my favourite part had to be the chorus “They said we were too young/ To know if it was true love/ They couldn’t been more wrong/ I still love you, I’m still in love with you”. A love song was the penultimate tune of the set and this coming in the form of No More Alone. This wondrous ballad was both slow and beautiful. It had a Regina Spektor vibe to it which is a fantastic thing as I love Regina. The curtain closer was the aptly titled Game Over. This was a lovely way to end to such a perfect evening. Game Over was an upbeat toe tapping cut which was extremely catchy.
Straight after they left the stage, only to return moments later for a further two songs. The stripped back I Will Never Love Again was an emotional ballad. Norma mentioned it was her favourite on the new record. The vocals were on point and you could tell that Norma put her heart and soul into delivering this tender ballad to perfection. The last last song then came in the shape of Animals. Played at a blistering pace this infectious song was literally an epic. Whist this is a pop cut the use of the band added rock elements. Also this had been completely reworked compared to what features on the new LP. Everything about this cut was flawless and it reminded me of the material Gabriella Cilmi has under her belt.
Hang My Hat
Sons And Daughters
Only In My Mind
I Want You To Want Me
I’m On Fire
Still In Love With You
No More Alone
I Will Never Love Again
OVERALL: Norma Jean Martine has something incredible special. Not only is she an ace singer but she can write some incredible songs. I think having supported The Corrs at Kew Gardens in June worked wonders because I did come across some newbies.
Martine is definitely onto a good thing and having a band backing her made each cut have that extra edge. Just having the privilege of witnessing that reworked version of Animals was simply mind blowing. I cannot wait to have the album in my possession and I look forward to the next Norma Jean Martine live show.