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CIS Writer Ponders Life While Making Music

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
August 22, 2007


Marty England, lead singer of the band Pondering Judd, at Thundering Sky Studios in South Berwick, Maine, during the making of their new record. Guitarist Mark Edgerly is in the background.

If it hadn’t been for his friend Scotty and the garage band they forged years ago with a couple of other 12-year-olds, Marty England might never have found his voice.

Not the staff writer-voice he uses at his job with Computing and Information Services but his literal voice, the one he uses when he’s up on stage singing with his so-not-a-garage band, Pondering Judd.

The regional rock roots band has been on the music scene since 1993. Their sixth record in seven years comes out in October. Last summer they did a 10-city tour with the Irish band the Saw Doctors and they were named the Best Rock Band at the Seacoast’s 12th Annual Spotlight Awards celebration at the Portsmouth Music Hall.

“People will come up to me and say, ‘you have such a gift’ and I know I don’t have a gift at all. My talent is the result of hard work and perseverance. In high school, I sang six to eight hours a day,” says England, who has had no formal training.

He is about as unlikely a lead singer as you can imagine. When he was a kid, he had a speech impediment and had speech therapy for about 11 years. But he would always sing along with his old Beach Boys records and he liked that.

One day, way back when in that garage, with three guitarists, a drummer and no vocalist, his pal Scotty showed up with a microphone.

“He said, ‘we all talked about it and you’re going to sing,’” England says. “That was the first time I ever had a thought of singing. For someone who had a speech impediment, who was stricken with shyness, it was good for me.”

And he had great studies: Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Steve Earle. Their influence is evident in the lyrics he has written for all the Judd’s records.

When the band first started 13 years ago, they called themselves “Grover” until a Boston-based group who happened to be using the same name contacted them and made lawyer talk.

At the time, England’s friend Judd was living in Colorado and he wrote him about the search for a new name. When Judd sent back his ruminations, he signed the letter “Pondering, Judd.” And that was pretty much that.

England thinks his songwriting influence comes from his father, whom he lost two years ago to cancer and whom he calls the best storyteller he ever knew.

“I’m kind of an extension of him,” England says. “I kind of believe that everything we ever write is already inside. That’s not saying we’re not influenced but I think it’s already there.”


England views himself as a reporter both in his job and in his songwriting. With music, he says, he is an observer of all things sensory.

“I’m not a guy who wakes up and says ‘I need to write a song today.’ But I am a guy who wakes up and says, ‘I need to write today,’” England says, adding that he does that either in journals or in songs.

He describes the band’s sound as roots rock, a combination of folk, Americana and rock-and-roll. He has written 38 songs in the last 18 months. Ten of those will be on the new record, “Coalesce.”

“This record is more about awakening and recognizing how lucky I am to have the people I do involved in my life,” England says. “As a musician, it’s easy to get caught up in hanging out with people who want to hang out with you. But you have to make time for the people you have a connection with.”

While the tour was “everything I ever worked for,” England is pretty pragmatic about any larger success. All the members of the band except the drummer have day jobs. Any money they make, they put back into the band so they can continue to produce their own records.

“As a local band, a regional band, you have to play music because your very core depends on it,” England says. “You can’t do it because you want to be rich and famous because the odds of that happening are very slim.”

For him, being a singer-songwriter is medicinal; a way, he says, to understand life and himself and everything around him.

“I’ll sit and play the guitar with the dogs at my feet, my wife Jenny at my side and there’s nothing like it,” England says. “I still look at music as an escape not a means to an end. The day it stops being fun is the day I’ll just stay there playing in the living room with my dogs.”

To check out Pondering Judd’s sound visit http://www.ponderingjudd.com/ .


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