Meet Martin Corcoran, Senior Tutor at the community music charity, Reeltime Music in North Lanarkshire. I am already feeling rather guilty about labelling him with a singular job title, as in reality, what Martin does on a day to day basis would blow the minds of the busiest of multitaskers. Martin has grown up with the charity and indeed, Reeltime with him. From humble beginnings in the late nineties, Martin and Project Manager Ryan Currie invested the blood, sweat and tears required to elevate what started as a room with a drum kit and some amps, to the multifaceted organisation which sees literally 1000s of young people each year being supported and given opportunities through the arts. Music tuition, song writing, recording and music video production, Reeltime’s goal is to spark confidence within their participants to explore their own potential within a safe, friendly, relaxed and encouraging environment. Their story to date is extremely inspiring and the success of Reeltime and in particular, its youth work, has been possible because of the drive and determination of those who believed in it enough to make it a reality.
Martin’s love of music started at a young age and although it was sport he had initially considered as a career path, when his best mate’s dad had given him a handful of guitar lessons, told him to "bugger off and learn the rest yourself!" , he soon realised where his passion and a natural talent lay. Immersing himself in learning to play guitar riffs and the chords to his favourite songs, Martin could usually be found in the school’s music department or at a local youth music group (later named, Reeltime) devoting much of his time to being in bands and creating music. With his heart set on studying Electronics with Music at the University of Glasgow, the slight, if not vital issue of not having a qualification in music didn’t faze him. With his eye on the prize he was given the go-ahead by his school to crash Higher Music in his final year, achieving the ‘B’ he needed to get on to the course. His appetite to learn everything there was to know and to hone his skills saw him use his student loan to buy all the equipment he needed to have his own set up at home. “Studio techniques were my thing, I’d record anyone and anything just to get the experience!”
Martin’s commitment to his studies and his craft is impressive but it’s his relationship with Reeltime, spanning almost 20 years and his dedication to the cause (particularly in the early years) that is truly inspirational. Throughout his time at university, Martin became Chairperson of Reeltime’s Management Committee and with the group’s determination, the formation of new partnerships with other organisations and endless funding applications resulted in Reeltime finally being able to build a recording studio in 2003- coincidently the same year Martin graduated from university. Enthused by their achievements thus far, Martin made the bold decision to continue working at the charity unpaid for a further year, helping to steer them towards further growth and success. Martin, Ryan and joining staff over the years have developed a strong bond and have equally invested their time, energy and life’s work to making Reeltime a place for young people to be creative and become more confident in their abilities, providing endless opportunities to try new things, discover hidden talents and form relationships with like-minded people. Closely collaborating with the local council, as well as organisations such as Creative Scotland and The Princes Trust, tailor-made projects are created to suit the needs of the participants to ensure they are providing a service that does more than just tick the boxes- Reeltime’s work touches lives, makes a difference and gives young people a chance. “My job has completely changed over the years and will change again. Now it’s more about working with young people to get them engaging and building on their skills and organising projects.....every day is different and I love that!”. Speaking with Martin it’s evident that his love affair with Reeltime has never wavered. He is immensely proud (quite rightly so!) of what the ever-growing team has achieved and he clearly gets that same kick out of the job that started out as hobby aged 16. “It’s really unique. Other organisations now come to us to model their forms of practise on how we do things at Reeltime! I’m so proud of our reputation and what we’ve been able to do.”
As with any demanding career, it’s often difficult to make time or muster the energy in your precious downtime for hobbies or interests and Martin admits that up until recently he’d been finding less and less time to practise his instrument. All that changed when he received a phone call from an old school friend 2 years year ago looking for a guitarist for his Thin Lizzy tribute band, Still Lizzy. “It was the kick up the backside that I needed. I hadn’t played in bands for about 5 or 6 years and although it was such a busy period in my life I was determined to do it….and learned 17 Thin Lizzy songs in the space of 3 weeks!”. The band have enjoyed great success playing gigs up and down the country and getting the opportunity to perform and work with fellow musicians is something which Martin considers a real source of inspiration. Mentoring, tutoring, planning, facilitating, recording and delivering are momentarily laid carefully to one side as he is given the chance to step on stage and relive his earlier years of being a musician and it only being about the music. He recognises the benefits of taking time out to do something he enjoys and to be creative. “It’s about trying to keep a balance! It’s difficult but you almost need to force yourself to take that time to do something for you creatively!”
In addition to playing guitar, his love of song writing from a young age had also fell by the way side over the years and pinpoints joining the Still Lizzy as the catalyst to him releasing his recently completed EP Background Noise Dusting off melodies and lyrics he’d written in his teens and early 20s, Martin decided this summer was the time to finally record and produce the music he’d planned to for several years but never quite found the time to make it happen. Past failed attempts to get other musicians on board, he made the decision to go solo, writing every part, playing every instrument and recording his 6 chosen tracks at his home studio. “The music I write isn’t the kind of music I listen to which I find quite strange! It’s more like the music I listened to when I was about 16. However my playing style has changed. When I was younger it was all about long, intricate guitar riffs…..now it’s more about a nice melody and meaningful lyrics”. What Martin aims to instil in the young people he works with day in day out is the importance of play and being creative- something which he’d forgotten to allow himself to do. “The Picasso quote ‘Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up’ is so true. Everyone wants to play, whether you’re 3 or 63! I just had to get it done, get it out there and let people listen to it!”.
Martin is a grafter and will be ungrudgingly generous with his time, energy and expertises to assist others in their creative journey. He adores music and values the power it has to literally change and shape lives. As a Creative, however difficult it can sometime be, he continues to dedicate time to his instrument and maintains an element of play to keep those all-important juices flowing. He loves what he does and he does what he loves! Now, if that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is!
What’s on you iPod right now?
“Recently I’ve been listening to Spotify’s ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist when I do the dishes. That’s where I discovered Zervas and Pepper- their sound is reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac”
Favourite Scottish word/phrase?
“Aye man! I say it all the time!”
What would you like to overhear someone say about you?
“He’s a good guy!”
Biggest pet peeve
Who is Braw or Brave?
“My idol Bruce Lee-it’s amazing what he was able to achieve in his short life. What he had to overcome in his life to achieve what he did is just unreal”
“Playdo-I have a tub on my bedside cabinet. When I smell it takes me back to my childhood, in my aunt’s house aged 7 playing with my cousins. It has to be real Playdo though-not the fake stuff!”
I’m happiest when…..
“Chillin’….or when I’m playing!”
What advice would you give your teenage self?
“Push yourself more. I used to be a shy person and although I was confident in a practical sense I found it hard to speak up and give my opinion on things!”
Check out Martin’s EP Background Noise:
Check out Still Lizzy :