Idaho in Georgia

Ever wonder what happened to some of your elementary school classmates? For Idaho vocalist/songwriter Jeff Martin, the answer came in the form of a record contract. “Brian Long, who signed me to Caroline Records, and I were in fifth grade together,” he recalls. “We were both nerdy little guys at Brentwood Elementary and were somewhat friends. I remember selling him racing car stick­ers and he kept somebody from beating me: up once. I had no idea it was him when I got a call saying my band was great. He sounded like a 45 year old record company ‘suit’ guy. We had not kept in touch at all. The first time he called, he asked where I grew up and went to school. As soon as I said Brentwood, it took seconds to figure out.”

As creative force behind Idaho - writing, singing, playing an assortment of instruments, engineering - Martin is essentially sole proprietor of the name, particularly so since parting ways with longtime collaborator and best friend John Berry. But rather than forge ahead as a solo artist, Martin chose to assemble a new band that could translate the material from his latest project, “This Way Out,” on stage. This four-piece will open for The Cranes at The Post Office on February 11.

He admits that, in the past, it was difficult to let outside musicians into Idaho, which revolved exclusively around his work with Berry. However, the latest inception of the group has altered his perception. “Dan and Mark have been with me seven months. We spent a lot of time rehearsing and recording. They’re both so talented; they know how to hold back, there are no musical egos. We have a wealth of color we can reach into, and we’re starting to come up with great interplay I have never experienced with a band. I think there will be a leap forward on the next album. Our new bass player, James, is great and comes from a completely different place - rootsy rock, so he has given the songs a meaty bottom end.”

Martin does not view his situation as unique, noting that of late a num­ber of bands have emerged with a central member shouldering much of the responsibility. While he admits that writing lyrics is often “a chore,” he counters critical descriptions of Idaho as atmospherically dark and cold “We’re more organic sounding,” he defends. “By that I mean neutral, unprocessed and unscathed.”

As the. entity behind his new unit, he credits what Idaho has become to what it was in its inception. “John and I had a similar sense when we went into the studio to make this music,” he explains. “It was like resurrecting something very strong, and I almost envied his tie to it. Music was his rea­son to live, and he helped me find it in myself.”