Fort Mill fiddler and Connor Christian’s Southern Gothic raising the roof

joverman@fortmilltimes.comFebruary 20, 2013 

— Last week, Fort Mill resident Elena Martin, fiddle player for the band Connor Christian and Southern Gothic, was on Facebook when she saw a photo posted by a fan. It was a shot of the band’s first music video playing on the fan’s television, with a small number “2” in the corner of the TV screen, showing that the video had recently hit number two CMT Pure’s Top 12.

“I thought, ‘That is unbelievable,’” Martin said. “How did we get here?”

It was a big week for Martin and the four other members of the band. In addition to the release of the music video, “Sheets Down,” and the video’s success on CMT Pure, the band released its album “New Hometown” on Feb. 12.

Martin has been performing with lead singer Connor Christian and the band Southern Gothic for three years. They’ve toured throughout the country, from Milwaukee’s Summerfest to SXSW and places in between. The group is classified as country, with Martin’s fiddle playing as a strong element throughout the album, but has a rock edge to it that has earned them spots opening for groups such as Styx and ZZ Top.

For Martin, touring, videos and music charts is a new world.

Martin, originally from a town just outside of Siberia, is a classically trained violinist. She moved to the U.S. in 1998 after graduating from college and married her husband, Chris, soon after. In 2005, the couple moved to Fort Mill when Martin took a job in the music department of Forest Hill Church in Charlotte, where she performed on Sundays with the church’s band and acted as a part-time administrative assistant. She spent four years with them before her long-time desire to be a full time musician began to nag at her.

“I decided it was now or never,” she said.

Playing the violin wasn’t a skill in high demand, so she learned to play the fiddle.

“Any country band needs a fiddle. I thought I could try that out even though I wasn’t a fiddler in the complete sense of it. I knew I could learn the style,” Martin said.

She began searching for audition notices and found one for a band in Atlanta, which turned out to be Connor Christian and Southern Gothic.

She met with them, auditioned, and it was a perfect fit.

“Connor’s voice and the instrumentation, it just grabbed me. I could tell there was so much potential,” Martin said. “That was three years ago, and we’ve been together as one band ever since.”

Martin’s tour schedule is packed with concerts – at least two a week for the next month – from Georgia to Missouri to New York. And each concert is a high energy experience, she said.

“When people come to our live shows they can’t help but be drawn in to the excitement of it,” she said. “We bring it and work really hard to make it and experience so people can forget their mundane lives and just be there and experience the music.”

The band plans to keep that pace up throughout the summer, “touring the country and working our tails off,” Martin said, as they promote “New Hometown.”

In between concerts, Martin relaxes at her home in Fort Mill and reconnects with her husband. She’s learning to ride horses, she said, which gives her a rest from being immersed in music, and continues to worship at Forest Hill when she is home.

The transition from being performing at church weekly to performing at festivals and concerts has given her space for her spiritual life to become more “vibrant,” she said.

“There’s not as obvious a spiritual element to music when you play a song about a breakup, but even though there is a separation between music and my spiritual life, now I have to figure out how to keep it alive and be passionate about both. It’s being a follower of God outside of church walls,” she said.

The album is available on itunes and connorchristian.com.

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