September 9, 2016 by Robb Powell
I was deeply saddened last month to learn the news that Stevie Martin aka Rainy Boy Sleep had left us. The strange thing is just a week before I learned this he had popped into my mind after what had been a little while. As comes naturally to me with a lot of musicians and bands I’ve encountered over the years but perhaps begin to lose track of somewhat (the number of them to keep tabs on is a little on the colossal side), I wanted to investigate what he was up to lately. Checking Twitter I found Rainy Boy Sleep was no longer a registered user. At first this did not concern me as people often remove themselves from the glare of social media, be it temporarily or permanently. I, myself often contemplate it but with using Twitter to keep abreast of new music, and also with numerous online friends I’ve made, it becomes increasingly difficult. That and utilising it for promoting the show/blog. Nevertheless, if I wanted to I could remove myself as is the right of any user. I then went to Facebook to notice it hadn’t been updated since last year. Again, this did not concern me overmuch as often musicians take a few months out from the whole enterprise. Recharge the batteries, or work on their future plans perhaps. In some cases it means they are no longer making music, a band disbanded or musician who is no longer in the public eye even without any such announcement and this is just how things go too. Wait and he’ll be back, was my thought.
However, alarm bells and sirens began to sound when I stumbled upon a retweet about how Stevie had been missing for a few weeks and the police were involved and all were very concerned about his current whereabouts and safety. So late to the information was I that digging a little further as soon as I saw that I discovered a more recent retweet detailing how his body had been found. Cue complete and utter shock. And instantly deep, deep sadness. I didn’t know him personally ‘in real-life’ but when you often end up interacting with musicians directly (and we had exchanged a few messages back when I first started blogging and producing the podcasts circa 2012 as I asked his permission to play Shopping Centre Song on my second ever show) it gets a little more personal than it being just another famous person/band. The way I approach things I become invested in much more than just the music. I think this is only natural. It really does become about the person or people behind the music too, not just the cult of personality that can exist but about the true individual and what they are trying to express via their artistic endeavours. Isn’t this sometimes the point? Maybe not always. Maybe always.
Another reason I think Stevie’s death has had such a huge impact on me personally, is due to how I first encountered him. With no idea what to expect from someone supporting the legend Cyndi Lauper, Rainy Boy Sleep was a welcome surprise. I reviewed the gig a year later in those first days of blogging titled, >>Cyndi Sings Supreme as the Rainy Boy Sleeps<<.
I had hindsight of course but the time that had elapsed between the experience and the write up had done nothing to diminish the sheer force with which his brilliant and stunning performance had imprinted itself on my mind forever. Recalling it was like reliving that night and I enjoyed it so very much all over again. His quiet and seemingly delicate yet nevertheless amusing between song banter drew me and the audience to him with such ease. Perfoming one man solo, as soon as he’d set up all he needed to for a song closing your eyes you’d think there was a full band up on stage with him. You know, I’m pretty sure he was the first person I ever saw perform live with a loop pedal. Or, at least use it so extensively to set up so many sounds to create a huge performance. I watched transfixed and mesmerised as he set up all his backing vocals and all the many different sounds before then kicking off the song proper. Bringing all those sounds together, many instrumental via his obviously rich vocal abilities, including the different elements of percussion was just pure magic. Spellbound, he’d made an instant new fan here. Nay, an entire room full of new fans, as was evident from the fairly long line of people queueing up in the foyer at intermission to not miss out on a home-made CD his brother was selling for him before he arrived from backstage to chat to people.
I so desperately wanted to see him live again one day and admit I feel quite emotional at the realisation this will now no longer be possible. I feel annoyed with myself I left it so long, even contemplating going to a whole festival in Oxfordshire a few years ago just to catch Rainy Boy Sleep once more. Nevertheless I do feel lucky I got to be in the presence of such a wonderful and truly talented young man that hot summer’s evening in June 2011 at the Birmingham Symphony Hall. He may have still been in the relative infancy of his music career but to be on the bill with the likes of Lauper and afterwards James Morrison amongst many other big names, was testament to just how much he was already valued as an artist and performer. Oh and to hear him live at a venue as pristine as the Symphony Hall! Perfection! Looking at his music to include in this post I came across this wonderful video someone uploaded from the Hammersmith Apollo gig on that Cyndi Lauper tour. He joins her up on stage and starts off the magical Time After Time. Sadly this must have only been at the end of the tour at this venue as it didn’t happen at Birmingham.
I’m not sure this post extends to a tribute as such but I just wanted to express the sadness I feel at finding out about this tragic loss of talent yes, but more importantly the loss of a such a beautiful young individual soul in this increasingly isolated and cold world. Rest In Peace Stevie, and thank you so much for the music and sharing a big piece of your delicate beautiful soul with us all. Big love!