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One small step for Vicci Martinez

Marching suits vow to take Tacoma singer to new heights

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Vicci Martinez checked her bags and made her way through Sea-Tac Airport security on Sunday. She found her gate and checked in. As she took a seat in the waiting area, she fished her cell phone out of her bag, and then dialed my number. Busy girl that she is, this was her first opportunity to check “press interview” off her to-do list this week. This wasn’t our first interview together, I’ve written several stories about her since her early days as a child prodigy, but this time it’s different. Now she has a team of suits representing her, and this interview was arranged by phone through a courteous marketing rep at W.F. Leopold Management, Inc in Burbank, Calif. Signing with Leopold was a huge step forward in her career because this company represents high caliber artists such as Melissa Etheridge, Maroon 5, Kenny Loggins and Meredith Brooks.

The plane she was waiting for was about to take her to a meeting with a team of professional songwriters. She said she was nervous. I couldn’t help but speak words of reassurance to her. She told me she still feels like a child when she speaks to me, and then I’m sorry for it. I’ve watched her grow from a 15-year-old girl with a powerhouse talent into a firmly established and seasoned professional musician. I cheered for her when she was on “Star Search” with soaring pride as if she were my own sister. I met her family and felt instantly at home with them. Like the rest of her hometown fans, I’ve waited expectantly for fame to take up residence in her life. It seems now that her overnight success, which took years of hard work to acquire, is about to be realized, and that realization is both humbling and formidable for her.

“I’m finally stepping up,” Martinez explains. “Now my whole goal is to stay human and not let it go to my head. This guy (Bill Leopold) has every connection that I would ever need with just a phone call. Now I feel like I owe even more to the world and to my fans.”

She tells me she admires artists like Chris Martin from Coldplay because she can tell he’s a loving man who loves his wife and children, and that the music is coming from his heart. She also admires Dave Matthews because he doesn’t seek media for vanity sake. “You don’t see him everywhere unless he has an album out or he’s promoting good causes,” she explains.

Despite her professional achievements this year, it has been a tough one for her. She spoke of the recent passing of her father and its profound effect on every aspect of her life, especially her music. “There’s more essence to it,” she says. “There’s more emotion to it. I felt like my whole energy changed. It was this sort of fight for life … I wear my emotions on my sleeve, always have, and I share that with my audiences. Now I’m relating a lot more to adult life. I used to wonder, ‘Why don’t they just relax and be happy?’ Now I’m sad for mankind and what people go through.”

Writing songs has been more difficult since her loss. She explained that it’s difficult to condense deep emotions like that into words that don’t sound cliché. She hopes what she learns on this trip will help her. I told her that I understand all too well because I lost my mother and my ex-boyfriend this year. She recommended two books, “On Grief and Grieving” by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler, and “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles” by Steven Pressfield. This impressed me because I still recall her struggles with homework while she was finishing high school, and now she’s studying voluntarily to be better at her job. I told her this and she laughed. Soon her flight was called and she was off on her next adventure, and I was left with a feeling of awe. She’s still little Vicci, but she’s becoming so much more than that, and though I have absolutely nothing to do with it, I still feel proud.

When she returns home later this week she will prepare for her CD release party in Tacoma. The new album, I Could Be a Boxer, is a mixture of old and new music. It’s also a mixture of live and studio recordings. One of the new songs on the album is titled “Angel,” and it is an expression of her loss and its aftermath. The title track, “Boxer,” is a new acoustic number that recalls the simple but poignant intimacy of her early recordings.

[Jazzbones, with Ryan Shea Smith, Saturday, May 12, 9:15 p.m., all ages, 2803 Sixth Ave., 253.396.9169]

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