Born Martin Stamper, with a heart that races so fast sometimes it makes me pass out and die, my stage name is "Fast Heart" Martin or Fast Heart Mart for short. I have been a bona fide folk-rock singer since the year 1999.
As a child sometimes I would pass out for no reason. No one really knew why. I went to neurologists, cardiologists, phychologists, you name it. None of them could explain it. There was a rash of sudden death on my dad's side of the family. My cousin died suddenly at the age of 12. My aunt was 31 when she suddenly died one morning. I would wonder sometimes if I were next. I think it kind of made me an anxious kid. Some doctors wondered if it were just my anxiety that was making me pass out. My parents took me to talk to psychologists to see if that would help. I did not like going to these psychologists as it made me feel like a weirdo! I got pretty sad and would sit in my room and listen to music by myself. That's when the idea hit me; I wanted to be a rock star! I figured that rock stars get to work out their anxieties in front of the world and that's what I wanted to do. I'd always loved singing and the peace and calm it brought me. I sold all my radio controlled cars and bought an electric guitar. I would write songs and sing them in my room, alone. I did not tell anybody that I wanted to be a rock star someday, as I thought they would laugh. Maybe I didn't really even admit it to myself.
When I was 17 I passed out again in the hallway in high school. When I came to there was blood everywhere from my front teeth being knocked out because I hit the ground face first. Everyone thought I was dead and was kind of freaking out. I have been told that I was legally dead. I did not "see the light", but I was very disappointed to come back to this reality. I felt like "Oh no, this place again". Whatever is on the other side felt much more peaceful. This was when a doctor finally diagnosed my passing out problem as a heart condition called "Long QT Syndrome". It's basically an electrical problem that makes my heart quiver and not pump blood. So it's not technically a "fast heart", but it kind of is. The doctors installed a defibrillator to shock my heart back into rhythm when I needed it.
I was planning on going into the military after high school. I did not like school very much and I knew I did not want to go to college. I was very active, jogging ten miles everyday, riding my bike everywhere, lifting weights, etc.. I wanted to be a Navy Seal, if possible. However, the military would not accept me with a heart condition.
I became very confused at this time. Why is the world so inhospitable? Why do people have to work so much and seem so miserable? Why does everyone drive a car everywhere when they know it's destroying the planet? Why is there so many of us people? Where can a person go who wants to live free and off the land?
I had a friend from high school who was also very confused from a very traumatic thing that had happened in his life. We decided to strap on some back packs and hike the Appalachian trail. While out there we were asked by some gruff thru hikers, "what's your trail name?". I did not respond because I did not have one "You gotta have a trail name or else we're gonna think you're narcs " . Not wanting to be outcasted I quickly replied "Fast Heart Mart", a name I had bouncing in my head since I was diagnosed with the erratic heart condition.
My friend and I did not stay on the Appalachian trail forever, like we had thought. So I reluctantly went to community college only to be eligible for my parent's health insurance coverage. Afterall, the defibrillator implanted in my chest cost about $40,000, so I figured I better be covered.
I had developed a loathing of sitting in classrooms as I feared that I would pass out in front of everyone and cause a scene like I had done so many times before. Also, I saw the education system as somewhat of a farce to me. It wasn't necessarily about obtaining knowledge. I saw the education system as just remembering some facts to regurgitate for a test and then forget all about it. A place to jump through hoops for professors, who you pay a lot of money to, so you can get a job and pay all that money back with interest that goes to the wealthy. "You wanna live a good life?" I imagined the fat cat with the cigar and a top hat asking. "Here's some money. Go to school and learn some things that I approve of you knowing and then pay me back with interest. Then, you'll have a good job and have a good life".
In 1999, I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico and attended the University of New Mexico. I was a broke student and was tired of eating bean burritos. I wanted to take my girlfriend out to eat to a great meal. My friend suggested "Why don't you go play some of your songs on the college campus for all the people walking by. They will like your songs and throw tip money at you". "I'm not a beggar" I replied. "It's not begging" he retorted "it's playing music and making the world a more beautiful place".
Remember, this was 1999. Back in 1999, there weren't that many people playing music out on the streets like there is now. At least not here in the United States, except for cities like New Orleans, NYC, Boston, etc..
I gave it a shot. I went to the UNM campus, put out my guitar case, and started singing. Sure enough I made enough to take my girlfriend and I out to dinner! Furthermore, a man who owned a local cafe heard me and booked me to play my first ever show!
That's all it took to make sense to me: I wanted to be a rock star! Or at least a singer/songwriter who made enough money to live on. I did not believe in the higher educational system, I was panicked to sit in a classroom, and I had people who wanted to hear me play music. Sure, I could have stayed in college, got my Bachelor's degree (B.S. haha!) and had something to "fall back on", but as a life long professional musician told me "If you have something to fall back on, then you will". A few months later I dropped out of college to pursue my music and "I never looked back". Just kidding, I've looked back so many times I think I've had a hard time moving forward. The music business is very tricky. It's not like you can just go pay college tuition and fake your way to a degree and get a job making money. In the music business (and the arts in general), you have to win the hearts of people if you're ever going to get anywhere. Sure, there's the contrived exceptions of the mega pop stars out there (I'm not gonna mention any names as I don't think that's necessary) , but mostly you have to prove yourself and your skills. To say "I've never looked back" would be a lie. It's a scary path to walk and I often wonder if I should turn around? Can I turn around?
That was over 15 years ago now. I have played lots of street corners, open mics, cafes, house concerts, bars, a few huge concert halls, festivals etc.. I have opened for some great acts: The Handsome Family, Beck (twice, outside the venues on the street...but he did thank me once for "opening" for him), Calexico, Railroad Earth, and many of my friends' bands. I have recorded over 10 albums! I realize now that I need to pull it together. I love being a musician! I need a great song, a great recording and a "BIG BREAK"! I feel like the music has invited me to follow this path and I happily abide. Every time I think "that's it, my music career is gone, I'm going to pack it up" I get a call from a producer saying they want to use my music in a film, or a great show opportunity comes along, or a fan writes me a message saying how much my music means to them, or just something lures me back in.
I currently live in San Diego, California where it is almost always sunny and warm. It's a great place to play music on the street because the weather is so nice.I play my music as much as possible around town and tour for 2 weeks every season to various places throughout the world. My current "day job" is working as a multimedia technician for a local yoga studio in San Diego. I went back to my home state of Virginia for the year and a half before moving here to California, but it did not work out. I identify very much with my family and my Appalachian roots there, but as Devendra Banhart says about his native Venezuala, I feel like a Virginian everywhere except Virginia. The Great Spirit wants me to be elsewhere.
I know now that I need lots of help. Interpret that anyway you want. I would like to have help booking shows, promoting and maybe even recording. I think it would be great to get signed on with a great record label that wanted to help in exchange for me helping them. If I'm ever going to "make it", I'm going to need more help. I would like to have some of my songs placed in a great movie or tv show. This would secure my career as a musician and I could show up in any town in the world and people will come to my show!
Furthermore, I would like to publish a few stories and books. Also, I hope some of my video work takes off and one day I'll have some major movie releases.
"Fast Heart" Martin
PS I really like to be called "Fast Heart Mart" or "Fast Heart" or "Mart", but Martin is fine too. Martin Stamper is actually my real name, and it's a very cool, strong, name! However, if you google search "Martin Stamper" you are likely to find a Taekwondo master. Though I did study Taekwondo as a child, I am not yet a Taekwondo master. Therefore, it is less confusing for everyone if I'm called "Fast Heart Mart". It pleases me when someone calls me "Fast Heart Mart" because it is a name I feel I've earned.