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Culture: Singer with a grand passion for creation; Martina Sorbara has more than one string to her bow. Not only does she play the guitar, but she also made the instrument herself, with her bare hands. Charlie Melvin meets the multi-talented Canadian singer.

Byline: Charlie Melvin

Meet Bryan Ferry's new best friend. Canadian singersongwriter Martina Sorbara is in the middle of a staggering 40 concerts as the Roxy Music star's special guest.

After completing 20 dates in the States last August, Martina was invited to open the same number of shows on Ferry's current UK tour, coming to Birmingham's NIA Arena on Sunday.

'It is a big deal for me,' the raven-haired singer smiles. 'Except, I'm kind of young, I haven't heard many of his records. I'm playing solo on this tour. It's just me, in front of Bryan Ferry's instruments, feeling tiny.'

To coincide with her British visit, Nettwerk Records are releasing Martina's masterful The Cure For Bad Deeds, which established the diminutive performer's reputation in her home country. It's her second album, made with financial support from the Canadian Government's Sound Recording Development Programme.

'Canada is really great for giving grants and funding Canadian artists,' the talented 24-year-old acknowledges. 'They have a huge agenda. It's very hard for a Canadian artist to break out anywhere else - America, the UK or anywhere - so we don't make a lot of money without somebody's help.'

The album was produced by her manager Jian Ghomeshi, drummer with the Toronto band Moxy Fruvous.

Martina originally released The Cure For Bad Deeds on her own Little Big Music label, manufacturing a modest 5,000 copies. 'I was still independent of a record company,' she tells. 'Sony were after me for six years, and then after one month of talking to Nettwerk, I said, 'there it is, that's the company I want', and we signed a threealbum deal.'

Martina released her first album Unplaceables, in 1998 at the age of 19 - the result of recording 13 songs in a single day. 'It cost me $1,000. It was sort of in response to being courted by Sony Records. I felt like I had to figure out some things on my own, without any pressure or living up to anybody else's expectations. It's entirely extinct now, except for some tracks that are floating around on the Internet.'

Martina Sorbara grew up on a farm in Maple, Ontario, with an older brother and three sisters. She is the youngest, born November 13 1978.

'I'm a full-on Scorpio,' she giggles. 'I'm as Scorpio as they come, I think. I'm bright and sunny all the time.'

The children grew up without TV or radio, but they did have a record player and Martina remembers dancing and singing along to Cyndi Lauper's True Colours album.

'It was the first record I knew all the words to, and then I got into John Prine and The Beatles. Our parents were hippies - they got married when I was five.

'We had about 80 acres of land, and they just let us run wild on the property. We could pretty much do whatever we wanted, but I think that gave us all a lot of confidence. My dad's Italian and my mother is blonde and blue-eyed. She gave birth to six oliveskinned kids - we think that's kind of funny. I can't wait to perform in Italy, and be able to stand on stage and speak their language.' Martina learnt to play the piano from the age of eight, but she's never mastered the ability to read music very well.

She is also a self-taught guitarist, taking up the instrument at the age of 11, beginning to write her own songs at 15 and performing live within a year.

'Because I taught myself, I never know what I'm doing,' she admits. 'I wish I knew more, because that would make me smarter.'

The Sorbara kids attended Waldorf School in Toronto's Thornhill district. 'It was an alternative school where it was kind of mandatory to do woodwork, metalwork, sewing, knitting and basket-weaving. It was amazing.' The academy had an enlightened woodwork teacher who taught Martina to make her own guitars - 'I do play them on stage,' she says.

'One of them is great, it's miraculouslyturned out to be a gem, but one of them could be about to explode, we'll have to see. I think this winter's weather has just torn it apart - it may not last another two weeks.

'Making guitars will continue to be an experimental thing for me because I haven't learnt enough to be able to make them with any confidence of how they'll turn out.

'They keep changing - the good guitar has been getting better and better, but the one that's cracking up was great at the beginning, and now it's starting to sound worse and worse. How do you plan for that? I don't have enough experience.'

As well as constructing her guitars, Martina enjoys making her own clothes. 'Sewing is quite a passion for me,' she grins.

The gifted girl also likes to spend spare time with her sketch pad, pursuing her passion for fine art.

'It really is important to me,' she says. 'It kind of shares almost as big a place of importance in my trade as my music does. It satisfies the same part of me. I really like to conceive something and then see if I can make it. It's the same with songs - I like to conceive sentiments, and then see if I can make them into some form of song.

'I feel like such a weirdo, like it's not justified, as if there's pressure on me to be a full-time musician and nothing else. I don't care. If I'm supposed just to keep doing the same thing over and over again, then I quit.'Bryan Ferry & Martina Sorbara come to Birmingham's NIA Arena on Sunday March 23. Tickets pounds 28.50 Tel 0870 909 4144. The Cure For Bad Deeds is releasedby Nettwerk Records, distributed by Pinnacle.

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Martina Sorbara is a young talent with a lot of passion
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 20, 2003
Words:975
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