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Acoustic through and through

If playing "instruments" made from Legos and banging household items together is music, then Jakob Martin was a musician at an early age. "I was one of those kids who was trying to turn everything into a musical instrument," says the 27-year-old Los Angeles singer and songwriter.

Martin's mom gave into her 3-year-old's pandemonium and bought his first guitar from a rummage sale. Soon after, Martin made his songwriting debut — "a very horrible song," titled "Very First Sheep." It wasn't so much a song as it was a phrase repeated over and over again, he says.

"I've always loved putting words and music together, and it was something I was doing even before I realized I was songwriting," says Martin.

Despite his early affinity for music, Martin did not pursue music seriously until after college. In 2005 at the University of California in San Diego, Martin entered a campuswide talent competition on a whim and won first place and a cash prize.

As he reflected on his unexpected victory, Martin says he began to wonder: "Huh, maybe I could actually do this." He has been touring ever since.

Martin will perform a free acoustic concert, accompanied by pianist David Yuter, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17, at the Bear Creek Park Amphitheater, off Siskiyou Boulevard and Highland Avenue, Medford.

Martin's latest album "California Songs," released in June, is his fifth recording in five years as a professional musician. The album, produced by Dan Diaz of Hypothetical Studios, started as an EP but grew into a full-length compilation.

"I see this album as an exploration of all that lies beneath the surface of California," says Martin

Musically, the album, which features only the stylings of Martin with percussionist Diaz, leans more toward rock than the folk sounds that characterized Martin's earlier recordings. Nonetheless, elements of folk, blues and rock appear throughout Martin's largely acoustic repertoire.

Lyrically, Martin practices a folk-style of writing as he weaves stories through the texture of his music. His themes vary from personal experiences such as loss — his mother died about seven years ago from cancer — to falling in and out of love.

Martin's rock side reveals itself musically.

"It (rock) is about being dynamic and gritty and being able to express a wide range of feeling through the music," he says.

The blues, which appear more in his live performances, come through in his instrumentation and vocals. Martin incorporates guitar, piano and harmonica into each of his performances.

"Every instrument opens up a different language within the context of writing music," he says.

Although guitar was Martin's first instrument, piano has formed the cornerstone of his most recent recordings.

"I'm going through a piano phase right now," he says.

Martin says he learned harmonica as something to occupy his time on the road. He points out that with a harmonica harness, it is a hands-free device.

His concert in the park is free and will be the last in the 2011 State Farm Summer Concert Series. Call 541-774-2400 or see www.jakobmartin.com.

After his mother's death seven years ago, Jakob Martin says his songwriting became a deep and personal outlet. - Photo by Colin Stark