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Singer Christina Martin in her Mazda3 at Point Pleasant Park in Halifax, NS.


She's new to the music scene, but Christina Martin already has a few awards under her belt.

She won the 2009 East Coast Music Award for Pop Recording of the Year for her CD, Two Hearts. That's in addition to two Nova Scotia Music Awards last year: Female Artist Recording of the Year & Pop/Rock Artist/Group Recording of The Year.

Now, she's is in high demand; her concert schedule is jam-packed. When touring, Martin drives to her gigs in a 2004 Mazda3 sedan she bought last summer.

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"I was driving an old Toyota Land Cruiser and that's not one thing you can really tour in.

"I needed something, but my options were limited because I didn't think I could get financing. I didn't have the money. I went through a company that sells and finances used cars.

"I went to the lot with my boyfriend at the time, currently my ex-boyfriend, and he co-signed for me.

"I wanted something I could tour with that was safe and not too old because I didn't want to put too much money into it. Something that was reliable and good on gas.

"They had a few Mazdas, selling at a fairly good price. It was a pretty quick decision. I was so excited that the financing was approved - I quickly picked this one before anyone had a chance to change their mind," laughs Martin, whose unique blend of folk and rock is reminiscent of Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris.

There's nothing fancy about her Mazda3 - it's bare bones, in fact. "It doesn't have any features other than AM/FM radio. It doesn't even have a CD player.

"It's a standard - I do like that. It's good on gas. I feel comfortable in it and it's spacious," says Martin who performs this month in Montreal, Wakefield, Que., Kingston and Toronto, including a free concert at Yonge-Dundas Square on Oct. 14.

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"If I had the money, I would add rocket boosters," she laughs. "No, you know what I would have? An automatic door lock - because it costs $100 to put in.

"Everything is manual - the doors, the windows, there's no A/C. There's nothing lazy about this car - it takes manpower to move. It's very minimal, which is kind of cool because I like the old stuff."

She's not kidding. Her first vehicle was a 20-year-old Volvo station wagon. "Once again, my options were limited.

"I was living in Austin, Tex., and I didn't have any credit or money. Through the grapevine, I found this guy who worked at a Volvo dealership and on the side he sold and fixed up old Volkswagens, BMWs and Volvos. I connected with him and he financed the car for me.

"It was a great car. One time, the transmission blew and he fixed it for really cheap."

Like the Mazda3, the Volvo was pretty basic. "Everything was manual. It didn't even have a radio - it was gutted out.

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"The only thing I hated about it was the leather seats because in Austin it's a little hot. I would be driving around in my bikini with a towel on the seat because it was so hot. There was no AC either," says the native of Halifax, who heads back to her hometown at the end of the month for a whirlwind tour of Nova Scotia with dates in Yarmouth, Wolfville, Bedford, Pugwash and Halifax.

When purchased, the Mazda3 had 80,000 kilometres on it; now it has 140,000 km.

"I tour a lot now. My U.S. tour was a great road trip. I was alone for most of it - the combination of listening to music and writing songs while you're driving and seeing all the new places - New York City, the New England area, Virginia, Tennessee - are absolutely beautiful. Those are good memories."

On the road, she often listens to Tom Petty, Wilco or Elliott Smith. "If I'm driving to a show, I'll listen to Loretta Lynn.

"I don't listen to myself - that's weird. I really prefer solitude before a show - no music at all. I let my mind float around."

The Mazda3 represents the current stage of her life. "It may reflect the place that I am in my life right now. I want stability, security and safety. I'm trying to be smarter about my money.

"I'm a very organized person and I think the Mazda has a nice, organized clean look about it. Inside, my life might not feel so organized, but on the outside I keep things looking as nice as I can for as affordable as I can," says Martin, whose debut CD, Pretty Things, was released in 2002.

Unfortunately, she has had one minor mishap with her Mazda, but it wasn't her fault. "My boyfriend's cousin … backed into my car.

"I parked in back of his car and we were going to take his car to the liquor store. I said, 'Will do you need me to move my car so you can back out?' He said, 'No.'

"But he hit it anyway. He scraped the left side of his car against the right end of my car. He stopped and, out of sheer panic, went right back over what he done. …

"So I have a little dent, but it doesn't look that bad," she laughs.

Martin has no plans of parting with her Mazda3. "I plan to run it into the ground - until it can't run any more. I'm not planning on selling it."

Although she does want to add the power door locks.

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About the Author

Petrina Gentile is an award-winning automotive journalist - one of the few women who cover cars in Canada. Her life revolves around wheels. She has been writing for the Drive section since 2004. Besides auto reviews, she also interviews celebrities like Norman Jewison, Patrick Dempsey, Rick Hansen, Dean McDermott, Russell Peters, and Ron MacLean for her My Car column. More

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