MarthaGunn: The new spiritual healers

9 Mins read

MarthaGunn are the new healers from the United Kingdom, ready to cure your deepest feelings with their music.

The band create soul-bearing songs, inspired by love stories and interpersonal relationships in our beloved twenties.

Their tunes are a marriage of honesty and depth with a touch of melancholy, but also a lot of fun. They’re the perfect mix of unbridled emotions and alternative indie.

The band is made up of five best friends: Abi Woodman, the lead singer; Humphrey Luck and Max Hunter on guitar; Ally Mackay on bass; and Frankie Sparrowhawk on drums.

They’re known for providing eclectic performances in the UK and across Europe. Their last album Something Good Will Happen gave the band the possibility to explore love in all of its form, giving us an album rich in deep emotions but also a great desire to dance. They’ve just ended their tour around the UK, and they’re ready to start a new chapter.

The name came from Martha Gunn, an 18th century heroine in Brighton; she was a spiritual healer, popular for dipping members of the Royal Family in the sea as a spiritual healing tradition.

The idea for the name came from Abi’s dad, as she’s an ancestor of their family, but also because the band met in the town, so it felt as if was meant to be.

Abi Woodman portrait against brown wall
Abi Woodman [Bree Hart]

Abi moved to Brighton during her twenties for university and before the course started, she met Max Hunter, one of the guitarists. And then one by one, the rest of the group found each other.

“When I was 20, that’s when I started this band. It’s always been really clear to me, since the age of 15, it’s just taken me time to figure out what route I’m meant to be on. I’m still figuring that out.  And I think growing through your 20s is learning to be okay with who you are. Making your own decisions liking who you are. And yeah, it is like a roller coaster”.

Bands such as Mystery Jets and Fleetwood Mac had a great influence on her career as a writer as well as on the band.

The first song that the band brought together was Honey, Let Me Know. It was the first time the band had played with Frankie, the drummer. While they were playing and improvising during a rehearsal, Ally had bought the bass line, Abi was improvising a melody and lyric over it and they realised the piece was great, but it was missing a strong chorus.

“A few moments later I’d been bitten by a dog. I remember lying in my bed and I had this idea in my head for the chorus and I recorded into my phone and fell back asleep. And that’s how it was finished. I was recording the chorus into my phone while probably quite high on medication,” Abi recalls.

Frank Sparrowhawk waving white flag with "I FELT LIKE I WAS PART OF SOMETHING" written in black
Frank Sparrowhawk [Bree Hart]

In 2017, the band signed with Communion Music, a British independent music company. Founded in 2006, the company partners with artists such as Sam Fender, Lewis Capaldi, Daughter, Ben Howard and many others.

“They wanted to sign us in 2016 and we didn’t have a manager, so we decided to hold off on this for a bit. And then a year went by and we were like, right, we’re still no closer to finding the right manager for us. Let’s just sign it,” said Abi.

After a while they found the perfect manager to help them with their careers. “It’s not quick being a musician. People always think it just comes out of nowhere, but it doesn’t, it is years and years of hard work,” Abi explains.

In 2019, the band released their first EP, Love And Emotion. The album included three fantastic tracks titled Love and Emotion, Saint Cecilia and Honey, Let Me Know.

Love and Emotion combines the voice of Abi with the crafted melodies of the instruments in a sweet but also rowdy way.

“This song was written a long time ago in a rehearsal studio, the same one that we wrote, Honey, Let Me Know. And Ally, the bass player and I just had a free evening, we thought, let’s just go to the studio and try some stuff out. And they started playing this little bass thing. And I just improvised the whole song in about five minutes.”

The pioneering track is about someone not showing you the love that you deserved, representing sadness from an unfulfilled relationship. It’s a realisation that someone may be different to how who you want them to be.

Band MarthaGunn hugging backstage
MarthaGunn backstage [Bree Hart]

“But also, you know, I shouldn’t have stayed in that. Now. I look back and I’m like, Oh, you know, he was doing his best I should have left earlier. That’s on me,” Abi explained.

With the release of the EP, the band announced their first headline tour followed by another tour with the band Palace, an alternative blues/rock band from London combining back guitars with brooding vocals.

“We’d supported other people before. But yeah, our first tour was great, it’s a different feeling, having your own tool, people are coming to you, you don’t have to win people over as much. Whereas when you support a band, no-one there is there to see you. And you have to win people over,” Abi said.

In their career they have supported a number of different artists, such as Black Honey. “We had a couple of really special shows around that tour where we played a sold-out great escape show, which was really magical. One of my favourite moments was when we played a very acoustic off-mic, stripped back song called Ohio There at the Black Honey gig in Tunbridge Wells, which was sold out. And the room was silent. And it’s those kinds of things that I remember around that time of that tour,” Abi told us.

After their first tour and the much-needed success, the pandemic arrived. This left the band nostalgic but also willing to start a new chapter. The Covid-19 situation had a huge impact in the music industry, which was one of the sectors that was left behind during the last year.

“I think about where we would be now. And I’m sure we wouldn’t be where we are, we’d have toured for a year and a half, and gained a lot of fans in that time,” Abi said. “It is hard to think about that. But, you know, I’m still very happy with all that we have achieved in that time.”

In 2020, MarthaGunn released their second EP, Caught Up & Confused, which includes the tracks It’s Over, Say When, We Don’t Need Each Other and, Caught Up & Confused.

“If a song I’ve written can impact somebody’s life in a positive way, my job is done.”

Abi Woodman

The EP is full of hymns dedicated to the catharsis of moving forward. Everyone in their twenties felt “caught up and confused” and many listeners could see themselves in the lyrics of all the tracks.

The band is used to go to a house in Wales three or four times a year to work on their music and there is one trip that Abi remembers really well because is where she unlocked something on her that was an important reminder to have fun whilst making music.

“When you sign a record deal, you get a lot of pressure put on you whether that’s externally or your own pressure put on yourself. And you overthink things and you forget what you’re doing, you know, you forget why you’re doing this,” she said.

She remembered to have fun with the music itself. You can have one relationship fail, but you can write from it from so many perspectives, because as the years go on, you can see it differently”. So with, It’s Over, it’s about the same person that I wrote Love and Emotion about and it’s a completely different song.”

Ally Mackay playing bass guitar on stage
Ally Mackay [Bree Hart]

She continued by saying that the songs have different meaning, because they were created in different stages of her life. It is about taking power in finishing it with someone. There is a line in the track that says, “I guess I’ll add your name to the record, baby of lovers I can’t keep.”

Abi explained:“Because from an outside perspective, maybe people think I’m, I’m thick? Well, I don’t, I don’t stay with people for long enough or whatever. But it’s taking power in that situation, it’s empowering.

“Leaving a situation isn’t my view, take strength to do that. And, you know, I just want to have fun with it. I think that comes out in the song; I have fun with it. Every time I sing it live, I love it.”

With Caught up & Confused, it’s about being honest with yourself. This is the reason why it connects to people. It represented a really special moment on her writing because it is not easy to open yourself and be honest about your emotions and your fears.

This is why MarthaGunn have all the cards to be a successful band around the world, they touch the souls of the people with a combination of soul-bearing melodies that are able to express how any 20-year-old feels inside their rooms waiting for something good to happen.

“Once you’ve actually released your song into the world, it’s no longer yours. You’re done with that, is cathartic. You’ve released whatever that was holding you back, and even if it’s quite scary, to be really honest with yourself, it’s no longer just yours in your bedroom. This is when you realise you have released something from yourself in a good way,” Abi said.

Following the similar feelings of that track, the first song released this year was Honest. The tune it’s about a new beginning, a new reborn almost connected to an ending. I strongly believe it fits perfectly in this historical period, as the beginning of 2021 have represented a “new reborn” for most of us.

A part of the lyrics says:

The shell it longs to break,
As it ripples through this placid lake,
But choosing not to grow,
Exhaustion starts to take its toll.

Abi explained that the analogy is that when a lobster grows, it grows out of his shell. And when that shell breaks, it has to grow a new shell.

“I always feel like when you’re going through something, it’s really painful. But you have to go through it to be able to grow and to learn from it.

“And if you don’t, if you choose to stay stagnant, and you don’t go through it, you actually end up becoming either ill physically mentally you know, all these things. So yeah, it does really relate to this last year, but it wasn’t intentional.”

MarthaGunn performing
MarthaGunn [Bree Hart]

The most famous album Something Good Will Happen came out on September 17 – it is a mixture of disruptive melodies that capture the feeling of emotions in relationship in our twenties. It is pure love in all forms, it is about failure and success.

Abi explains: “It really just does sum up all of these relationships that we’ve been through in our 20s. And what we’ve learned, and it’s the most honest I’ve ever been with myself. I feel like I can close that chapter now and I can move forward with my life. we’re all extremely proud of what we’ve made.”

The album is full of upbeat songs that are fun and light-hearted but at the same time other are deeper and it perfectly show how strong the band is now and who they are and who they want to be in the music scene.

With the release of their album, MarthaGunn also announced the dates of their UK tour. It started on September 30 in Oxford and concluded on October 13 in Norwich.

Their “moment of good luck” before concerts is to sing When the Saints Go Marching In, but they change the words to “When the guns go into gear.” They usually huddle and sing it together before going to the stage. “That’s like our little thing,” Abi said.

The tour was a success. I had the pleasure to see them live in London, there were about 250 people and I can say the energy on stage is addicted.

They work so well together and the melodies are all one with the voice of Abi. It is almost impossible staring at them without dancing and close your eyes to feel the vibes on your skin.

“The craziest thing is when people are singing the songs with you. I just find that so bizarre that these people that I don’t know, know the words, the songs I’ve written, and it means something to them, if a song I’ve written can impact somebody’s life in a positive way, my job done,” Abi said.

“I can’t control the success in terms of how many people hear this album. But what I can do is just write honest music. And if it connects to one person, and I’ve made a difference in somebody’s life.”

Abi’s plans are to continue writing as much as she can and see where the world is going to take them: “Five years from now, I just hope that we’re all being true to ourselves. Yeah, that we’re making it that we love and flowing effortlessly with life.”

Featured image courtesy of Bree Hart.
Edited by Lucy Crayton and Jamie O’Brien Hartigan.

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