It’s hardly unusual for a young musician to leave her hometown to find validation as an artist. Interesting thing is, Molly Martin wasn’t at all sure music was her calling when she headed to New Orleans for her first year of college at Tulane University. But it wasn’t long before the 2014 Conestoga High School grad started falling back on the performance chops she’d picked up as a student at School of Rock Main Line, transferring to Nashville’s Belmont University her sophomore year. Now, our critics’ pick for Best Breakout Artist is busy carving out a flamboyant indie-rock niche for herself in a city known worldwide for country music. Her debut album, Mary, came out earlier this year.
MM: I certainly knew I was different, but it took me awhile to realize that music was the outlet for me. I grew up doing sports and everything, just like everybody else. But I remember seeing my brother doing a Black Sabbath tribute show at School of Rock in seventh grade and thinking that was the thing I’d been waiting for. It lit me up. I always knew I was very expressive and creative, but I didn’t know what the medium looked like until I saw my brother playing music. Then I started, and it felt like a completely natural fit for me.
MM: Yeah, when I was 15. I was never going to be the one sitting alone in my bedroom tinkering away. I needed to be out there performing. Having to learn music so I could play a show was very motivating to me. Getting to be on stage was this deeply affirming thing that was always waiting for me to find it.
MM: I felt that emptiness of not knowing what to commit to. I realized that I had to commit to doing music for real. Belmont just felt like the right place for me. Nashville’s such a songwriter town. It just had what I was looking for in terms of a small community and a maximum saturation of musicians and writers.
MM: That really came for me at the end of high school. It was really daunting, because I didn’t really know what I was capable of.
MM: It took years for me to really trust myself as the person at the helm of my own career and developing my own voice. All of that happened while I was here. Because I was a transfer student and a little bit older, I ended up making connections in the city more than in school. I also had this friend in Philly named Scot Sax who helped me get shows outside my college bubble. It made my transition from college easier, because I already had a whole life outside of it.
MM: I feel there’s a lane for me here, but I’ve definitely had to carve it out. Obviously that lane is much different from the country lane. But that’s been me my whole life. It’s always been sort of DYI.
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