Monica Martin finds her voice, helped by Marcus Mumford, James Blake


Marcus Mumford has the power to work with anyone. He even recruited legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg to direct his debut music video for his latest single “Cannibal.”

So, unsurprisingly, there are some esteemed guests on the Mumford & Sons frontman’s upcoming solo album, including Phoebe Bridgers and Brandi Carlile.

And Monique Martin.

Martin doesn’t have the same name recognition, but she’s very familiar to Wisconsin music fans. In 2013 Martin rose to prominence with a group of friends from Baraboo in a creative and whimsical folk-pop group PHOX.

One of Wisconsin’s most accomplished bands of the 21st century, PHOX have played Lollapalooza and Coachella; appeared on NPR’s “Conan” and “Tiny Desk Concert”; open for Lumineers and Head and Heart; and toured across North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Monica Martin fronted the band PHOX (pictured here performing at the Riverside Theater in 2013) with a group of friends from Baraboo.  The group continued to appear on

But when the group ended in early 2017, Martin sought a fresh start in Los Angeles. And it was during a concert in Los Angeles that she shared a stage with Mumford. A great admirer of her work, he asked her to appear on his album as a guest vocalist for the song “Go in Light”.

“I love the song and I’m such a fan of his,” Martin said of Mumford. “It’s just to talk about these kind of crazy organic connections that can pretty much only happen in a place like LA”

Before the song and album arrive on September 16, Martin will return home to Wisconsin to play her first show in Milwaukee as a solo artist on August 27. in the back room of the Colectivo Coffeefollowed by Sold-out concert in Madison the following night at the High Noon Saloon.

“I would undermine my worth. ‘How could I have a career after this thing that was sticky, that was PHOX?'” Martin said. “I couldn’t imagine what it would be like. Now I know what it is like. It’s beautiful and nurturing in different ways. … I have strengths and I have validity as a singular artist.”

Monica Martin found her own path after PHOX

It took a little while for Martin to come to this state after moving in 2018.

“I spent a lot of time trying to write songs in every way possible,” Martin said. “A lot of it was seeing what it means when I don’t preemptively consider other voices contributing to a soundscape.”

She recorded with art-funk band Vulfpeck and producer Violents, but when it came to “the journey of trying to figure out where I fit in or who I am, I think I overcompensated”.

“Some of the songs I wrote in the first two years feel like I went too far the other way (from PHOX),” Martin said. “They ended up not saying how much folk music was a part of me. … There were a few times where I finished something in a co-writing space or with a new producer and I wanted the things are smooth, but I will make concessions again and again.”

But over the past two years, Martin has suggested, “My identity crisis is setting in” — and it shows in the music.

At the invitation of his friend and actress Beth Stelling, Martin meets the musicians and actors who frequently perform at famous place in Los Angeles Largo. After making his Largo debut, Martin said the owner told him, “This is your house now.”

It was there that she met Khushi, who became her most trusted producer and collaborator. And Khushi in turn connected Martin with her best friend, actress and activist Jameela Jamil (“The Good Place,” “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law”), whose boyfriend is the influential musician and producer. James Blake. Blake became one of Martin’s biggest supporters and a recurring collaborator.

She collaborated with musician and producer James Blake

Martin was a featured vocalist on Blake’s track “Show Me” from last year’s “Friends That Break Your Heart” album. Blake returned the favor earlier this year, appearing on a new version of Martin’s beautiful single “Go Easy, Kid,” a tender plea to ease his anxieties and doubts. (The track, recently featured on the popular “Song Exploder” podcastalso had input from Martin’s former PHOX bandmate Matteo Roberts.)

“It’s always nice to end something and say it captures the spirit of a feeling perfectly,” Martin said of “Go Easy, Kid.” “A lot of people with self-esteem issues will go through those times when it’s so clear that you’re talking unreasonably to yourself.”

“Being with James, who I’ve always adored, having him say, ‘I cry every time I listen to your songs.’

Martin has since released another solo single, “Hard to Explain,” and plans to perform some originals, including an unreleased track, and some covers at his shows in Wisconsin. She can even approach a PHOX song.

Reflecting on the group that gave him his debut, Martin said, “You see all the ways you were able to stretch your limbs, all the things you used to take for granted.”

“Initially there were seven of us, all very young with very different levels of emotional intelligence and ability to communicate,” she continued. “There was a lot of failure and a lot of heartbreak, and at the same time, we did something so (expletive) cool because every single person in this band is an amazing artist.”

“I would be curious to know what the emotional dynamics would be in 2022. I think it would be much more capable of having a more intimate collaboration honestly,” she continued. “I’m so, so grateful for this experience. It really opened my heart to be able to connect with people in this way. If it wasn’t for (PHOX), I probably wouldn’t have started singing quite publicly.”

If you are going to

Who: Monica Martin with Jake Sherman

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: The back room of Colectivo Coffee, 2211 N. Prospect Ave.

How much: $18 to $20 at the door, at the box office of the Pabst Theater (144 E. Wells St.) and pabsttheater.org.

Contact Piet at (414) 223-5162 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @pietlevy or Facebook at facebook.com/PietLevyMJS.

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