An Exclusive Interview with Marilyn Martin: From Madonna to Jesus Christ

Timothy YapApr 25, 2013 11:06 AM EDT


Marilyn Martin
(Photo : Marilyn Martin)

Marilyn Martin has had a number one hit with Phil Collins in 1985 called "Separate Lives."  She had an orginal song written for her by Madonna and she sang for the diva on her multiplatinum "Like a Prayer" record.  Now, she is back with a Christian album "Trust, Love, Pray" (which was recently reviewed here at  Recently we sat down with her to talk with her about her journey in the secular music world, her faith, her new CD and her future plans. 

BREATHEcast: You scored a number one record with Phil Collins in 1985 called "Separate Lives," how did you did a number one record change your life?
It was quite an eye opener having my first song become such a success. What an incredible blessing, but in some ways I wasn't really ready. I had spent my career up to that point in the comfort zone of singing other peoples songs in cover bands and singing background vocals for Joe Walsh and Stevie Nicks...not being the focal point, so the biggest change was adjusting to the attention I was getting.

BREATHEcast: You also got a chance to record an original song by Madonna and Patrick Leonard called "Possessive Love" and you did sing backing vocals for Madonna on her "Like a Prayer" album. How did you get to work with Madonna? What was it like working with her? Are you still in contact with her? 
I met Pat Leonard when I began the search for a producer for my second album. He's the one who approached Madonna with the idea of writing a song for me and she graciously agreed. Pat called me one day while he was working on her "Like A Prayer" album and asked if I would like to come and sing about an "Are you kidding?" moment!! She was impressive, to say the least, very in charge. That was the only time I met her.

BREATHEcast: You had two fabulous pop records in the 80s, your self titled debut and "This is Serious," then you resurfaced as a country artist in the 90s. Why was there a change in musical direction? 
After my second album my contract with my manager was up for renewal but I was feeling restless about a lot of things, mainly my musical direction. I hired a new manager who thought I should leave Atlantic Records and go to a different label so I turned down the option Atlantic offered to do a 3rd project. Big oops/ Gods will, either way you look at it I wasn't able to get signed to another major label. I was eventually signed to a minor label when midway through recording the head of Atlantic Records called with a crazy idea. He asked if I would be interested in making a country record. It was so out of the blue that again I figured...Gods will. Besides, I grew up in Kentucky loving country music. And here's a little known nugget...when I was recording "Separate Lives" the producer was a little concerned that I sounded too country!

BREATHEcast: I believe the expectation was high for you to release your country album which was preceded by the single "Through His Eyes," but the album was never released. What happened there? What were your thoughts on that country record?
Atlantic Nashville's protocol was to have a market research group listen to new recordings and give their opinions on whether it would be a success or not and, sadly, mine came back luke warm. In order to determine whether to move ahead or heed the market research findings everyone at the label gathered around a conference table to discuss and deliberate. Rick Blackburn, the president, stood at a large tablet, pen in hand and said, "Let's talk about the pros and cons". Starting with the cons the top two strikes against me were #1) I had had a pop hit and #2) I'm a woman...not kidding. The 2 pros were #1) In their opinion I had a good voice and #2) They thought I was nice. Unfortunately, the decision was made to not release my album, which was sad because I really liked it.

BREATHEcast: Recently you have released a Christian CD "Trust, Love, Pray" (see the reviews section at for our review). This was your first since your country record, why was there such a long wait? And why a Christian record?
After the traumatic end to my affiliation with Atlantic Nashville I desperately needed to stop. It was the first time I felt confused about what I was supposed to be doing. The worst part was that I felt like I had meandered outside of Gods will. For several years I just didn't have the heart to try to write or sing. Then a few years ago my husband decided to teach me how to navigate Garageband on my Mac. It's a program that enables people to create tracks and record vocals. I'm pretty technically challenged but this was like manna from heaven. I started creating tracks and when it came time to think about lyrics all that came to me were expressions of praise and thanksgiving. I was free to express what mattered most to me since I didn't have a label to dictate anything, and I really didn't have a plan to release a record. I was finally just writing and singing for the love of it.

BREATHEcast: Tell us about your faith journey. When did you become a Christian?
I can't remember a time when I didn't know that the Lord is my Savior. When I was very little my Grandmothers were my biggest faith teachers. One of my sweetest memories is sitting in the front porch swing with my Grandmother and listening to her sing hymns, my favorite was "Farther Along". When she sang that one, even though I was very young and didn't fully understand why, my heart would ache. Through my childhood I attended a Baptist church but after graduating high school I went on the road singing with various bands which caused me to lose that connection to Christian community, but I never lost my connection to God. Now my husband and I are members of a fantastic Episcopal church in Nashville.

BREATHEcast: Tell us more about "Trust, Love, Pray." Why did you decide to write all the songs yourself rather than cover songs from other writers? Is there a song from the album that means the most to you?
I was having so much fun writing that I just couldn't stop, hours would fly by, and since I really had no intention of releasing an album it never occurred to me to sing someone else's song. These songs were my walk, my testimony, but guided by God. Lyrics and musical parts would come to me so "out of the blue" that sometimes I felt I had no hand in it. So many times I would stop and thank God for the privilege of being His instrument. The perfect example of that is Amen. That song flowed from my heart and seemed to write itself.

BREATHEcast: As a Christian and having been in the spotlight of secular music, what are your views about the music industry? Can a person be a Christian and still hold onto his or her beliefs in today's secular music world?
The music industry is very different today from when I got my deal. Record labels have been hard hit by piracy and downloads forcing them to tighten their belts a bit. They seem to be more discerning when it comes to signing and spending money on new artists, but the huge upside is that now is such an exciting time for tech and social media-savvy artists. The advent of programs like Kickstarter to help raise funds to record, ReverbNation to help with promotion, and CD Baby for distribution make it easy to be independent. From my own experience I know Christians can have a career in secular music.

BREATHEcast: What is next for Marilyn Martin? Will there be a follow-up Christian record?
Absolutely, I'm halfway finished with songs for my next Christian album. I can't imagine ever singing about anything else!

BREATHEcast: Can you tell our readers where they can go to purchase your new album "Trust, Love, Pray" and find out more about you?
Thank you so much for asking! My website,, has info, pictures, videos, and all the music I've made from "Separate Lives" to "Trust, Love, Pray", which can be purchased at or on Ebay. 



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