Empire State Express
Empire State Express is a rock power trio hailing from Chicago, with Chris Steele on vocals and guitars, Tim O’Donnell on bass and Derrick Martens on drums. Their music combines whipsmart songwriting with high-energy, neo-classic rock & roll in a series of controlled explosions. ESE’s first EP, “Land Speed Record” harnesses the band’s core momentum, taking the listener on a joyride through the city’s darker quarters.
ESE has recently been featured on Radio One Chicago (WLUW 88.7FM), reviewed by SouthSide Chicago and appeared on Rock Chicago (CANTV, Channel 19)
Chris Steele, a native New Yorker, began plunking out songs on piano when he was a kid, though it wasn’t until he picked up a mike and a guitar that he found his true partners in crime. Songwriting influences first included Nick Drake, Elliott Smith and Damon Albarn–expanding over time to include wide-angle rock and alt-country (Wilco, Broken Social Scene, A.C. Newman, Ryan Adams), and more stripped-down acts such as Spoon and The White Stripes. It was through Jack White’s music in particular that Chris wound his way back to Son House, whose song Empire State Express gave the band its name.
Tim O’Donnell is a native of Chicago and a veteran of the Chicago blues scene. He spent three years playing with Sammy Fender and the Blues Masters. He has also performed with Lil’ Ed, Jimmy Johnson, Felix Reyes, Michael Dotson, Charlie Love, Tom Hollond and many more.
In the rock scene, he has toured with Deep Cricket Night and played with Chris Forte and the Forte band. Every summer Tim is a music instructor at CampJam USA, working alongside artists including Jim Peterik (Survivor) Peter Strout (Sheryl Crow, John Mellencamp, Don Henley) Carmine Appaci (Vanilla Fudge, Ozzy Osbourne, Rod Stewart) and Jeff Carlisse (‘38 Special)
Derrick began playing drums at the age of 8 in the elementary school concert band. He started out on just snare drum but when he was 12 he got his first real drum set, and started to pursue a life in music. Fast forward a few years and Derrick had experience playing in jazz bands, marching bands, concert bands, steel pan calypso band along with his local garage bands. After high school Derrick moved to California to attend the Musicians Institute in Hollywood Ca. There he studied under some of the greatest professionals in the business, and was exposed to wide variety of music ranging from, Latin, R&B, Jazz, Funk, Rock, etc. After graduating from school, Derrick moved back to Chicago to pursue a career in music, and he’s been rocking out ever since.