Charlotte Martin

even more artist reflections

more Charlotte Martin:
Interview (On Your Shore) (Dec 2004)
Interview (Veins | Live) (Nov 2005)
Test-Drive Songs (2002)
In Parentheses (2003)
On Your Shore (2004)
Veins (2005)

reviews and interview © Russell W Elliot and Jamie Field 2005
images © Erin Russell 2005 | used with permission
formatted for 800 x 600 or larger windows
last updated: 26 August 2005

First interviewed at Musical Discoveries in December 2004 to support the release of her most recent full length album On Your Shore, Charlotte Martin has continued to draw significant attention from the media and has expanded her fan base with a headline tour earlier this year. Her album On Your Shore was clearly the most ambitious project she has done to date. Critical acclaim for the project has been echoed worldwide.

A tour-only EP entitled "The Darkest Hour" was offerred to fans at her sold-out concerts. We caught up with Charlotte at the conclusion of her tour to further explore her background, songwriting influences and to learn more about the EP. Read the results of this extremely insightful interview below. Browse our December 2004 interview for further information and additonal photos.

  Charlotte Martin
photo: © Erin Russell 2005 | exclusive to Musical Discoveries
click on image to visit Charlotte Martin's website


Musical Discoveries: At what age did you know you wanted to be a musician? And were there any other career ambitions while you were growing up--astronaut, hairstylist, dominatrix?

Charlotte Martin: You know, the only thing I ever pursued with all seriousness was music. I had a vast imagination growing up though. Let's wind back the memories here and see.

I was a serious school teacher until I was twelve. I had a classroom in our garage, file cabinets and a desk--the whole thing. I played teacher like I was a teacher. I taught everything from English to Driver's Ed. I also ran my own catalogue business for a few years. That was a big mess. I wouldn't let my mom throw away any of her mail order catalogues. They would pile up in stacks in our living room. I had a fake old phone and a lot of index cards I remember. It was border OCD organized for a little girl who was just playing after school.

I played mommy a lot. I had so many dolls it was stupid. I remember being obsessed with cabbage patch kids. I loved the smell. I brought Gabby, one of my favorites, to LA with me when I moved. She has two teeth and bangs. I want to punch her. Then I played pageant for awhile, which would attribute to my masochistic tendencies with food in my early teens. I had tinfoil tiaras. You want to punch me.

My mom also really enjoyed me playing waitress with all her china. You know, then I played a librarian which is one of the reasons now I have an abnormal amount of books. I loved the stamping. I loved the way library books creaked. The public library in Charleston, Illinois is haunted.

Most of your early musical training and performance work was in the classical field, especially opera. Did you make a conscious decision to move away from that to where you are now or was it one of those things that just metamorphosed naturally?

Oh honey, it was far from natural. A friend of mine sent me an article about how a lot of 'modern' day rock/pop artists seem to be toting this 'classically trained' banner. I really enjoyed the article because it's really hard to tell who has had real training in the sense where they studied pitch memory, languages, all period composers and their compositions, techniques, score analysis.

I am trained in opera, but I don't think it helped me compose or learn my style. I had to unlearn a lot of my vocal techniques because I felt I sounded outdated, like a bad bad show tune. I had a strong voice, but I had spent years singing this repetoire that didn't have anything directly to do with composition. I am sure it influences me in ways.

Now, I could have elected to study composition, but I am glad I didn't. I had to learn that all after college, by trial and error. By my ear. I always relied heavily on my ear in school and wasn't the fastest sight reader nor the fastest in my counterpoint class. I think that protected me from becoming to set in the ways of my studies.

I know trained musicians that can't compose. My father is one of them. He's a tremendous oboe player. A monster of a musician. I know many singers who say they've been trained by taking one voice lesson. "Trained" is a very widely used term nowadays. It doesn't really make someone a good composer or musician. I don't think Robert Smith went to music school. But who can top the Cure. No one.

I guess I am just saying I respect musicians on both sides of the fence. I don't care if they took lessons from their cat. If they make good music they make good music, ya know?

That was a rant. A long long rant.

You mention your father as a musical influence. Did you always have parental support in your musical ambitions or did they see it as teenage rebellion, something they hoped you'd grow out of?

My mom and dad always supported my music and my choices. They weren't too keen that I was moving so far away from them when I did, but they supported it nonetheless. My mom always has notes for me though. I always listen to her notes, although I don't always obey.

Tell us a little about some of the artists you've shared a stage with like Liz Phair and Howie Day. Have you picked up any tips from them, either passed on, or something that you've seen that you've brought into your own performances?

I have learned how a lot about the many different vibes and colors that come out of the live show. Opening for Howie Day and Liz Phair are two totally different animals. Liz doesn't take any shit. She is the woman in charge, off stage and on. She's very professional and I respect the way she runs her show.

Howie really gave me my first start at opening in front of big crowds. He was very very cool. He picked me for his tour off of my first EP "In Parentheses" which someone gave him. It was really humbling and cool to have a musician like Howie back me up when I first started touring nationwide. I adore Howie's vocal effects. I like vocal effects.

Do you generally find other artists supportive, or is there a healthy sense of competition among you?

I have a good network of artist friends that support each other. Terami Hirsch and I have always supported each other. We have talked each other through a lot of projects. We have genuine respect for one another.

I am close with many people who have played the LA circuit over the years. Every once in a while there is a bit of competition I run into. It always makes me sad. I want to shake these people and tell them there are enough ears and there is room for all kinds, versions, influences, differences in music. Give and it shall be given unto you. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Not step on your neighbor on the way up. It just doesn't work that way in my book.

So what was the tour like? How did you cope with "life on the road"?

Well, this was too short a tour. It was really overdue. I was planning on headlining right after my album came out. Then again inMarch of this year but it didn't happen. I just bit the bullet and did it. I needed to do it, for all the fans that have been coming to see me the last several years play a 25-minute opening set. They deserved to have a real show. That's why I did it. For both of us.

I had my man on the road and my good friend which made it much easier for me than normal. I have had several different crew over the last couple of years and it was nice going out with people I was so close to. It certainly never got lonely.

Do you have any plans to tour abroad?

I do. Malaysia, Belgium, England, Scottland, Japan, Iran, Austria, Germany ... Italy ... more and more and more.

Who picks out the clothes you wear for your gigs and photo shoots?

It depends on the photo shoot. I have had many stylists. There was one I loved particularly--Rita. She was quite awesome. She is the reason I have jeans that fit me and that I will wear forever. It depends on the picture and the point of the picture and the photographer ... the clothes do. My own style is pretty non-style. I have a thing about covering myself. I like layers. I like blazers. I hate most shoes. I'm weird. Not a big clothes shopper, although I do like to shop before tours. I like wearing things I would only wear on stage.

I go through phases. I went through a poncho phase, blazer phase, scarf phase, tunic phase, skirt over jean phase, skirt over pants... that was last tour). Eeeee!

The hair doesn't change though. I want to cut it but I can't bring myself to do it, especially since Shakira wears extensions.

What did you have in mind when you recorded the "Darkest Hour" EP?

It's new studio material but the songs themselves have been in waiting mode. many of my songs are. I write too fast for my releases. that is a problem, but I'm not complaining.

The Darkest Hour
The Darkest Hour EP
Image © Test-Drive Records 2005

Can you tell us about some of the songs?

I never knew what to do with "Chasing A Shadow." That song has helped me get through some rough times. It was always too important to me to be released in the wrong way. "Darkest Hour" is a song I wrote about a year ago and only played live. That one was a lesson song as well. All the songs on the EP were composed during some dark times. Hence, the title.

"Judas," is by Depeche Mode. That song really ministered to me when I was suddenly realizing the magnitude of which one of my close friends had betrayed me. I had to record it. I played it live a lot in the Fall of 2004. You can't outrun betrayal, but you can sing through it.

"The Flood" is the instrumental opener. I think it set up the mood for the EP. There are many colors in this EP, but none of them are orange or bright purple. They are deeper greens, midnight blues ... silvers, browns ... the colors of prozac in the first 4-6 weeks. The vibes of side-effects.

The material appears to span your repertoire. How has your work evolved?

Deep breath, let me try to get this correct.

Test-drive Songs is a demo. Although it's me demoing a lot of electronics. I had just learned protools and how to program beats. I was figuring out what effects I liked on my voice. It's not polished nor was ever meant to me. If you listen to that and then listen to On Your Shore, it sounds like the performances just got baptized or something. I did find a fondness of big sounding drums. Especially toms. Tom, tom, toms. And big bass drums.

"The Girl I Left Behind" has the biggest sounding loop I've ever found and the most obnoxious synth sounds. That's why I used them. I was way into this keyboard called 'Virus'. I used the hardware on all of Test-drive and a tiny little GA1 baby grand that I no longer have.

"In Parentheses" was put together during the recording of On Your Shore. "Monster" was a song I had demoed in my studio and programmed beats for and Ken helped me finish it. "Pretty Thing" was also recorded here. Well, parts of it were. "In Parentheses" was Joey Waronker and Justin Meldal and I starting to record On Your Shore. "In Parentheses" was looked at as the first real introduction in my career. By me, by the label, my managers, and others.

On Your Shore took forever. I took obsessive care in every sound, drum, ooh, plunk that made it to tape. Most of this record was recorded live at Cello Studios which sadly has gone out of business. It was the drum sound we got in that room. None of my drums or records will ever sound like On Your Shore. This room was magic.

Overdubs and guitars and extra layers were done back in Ken's studio and also my studio. Ken and I really wanted to kill each other during a lot of this process. We disagreed a lot. Now we agree to disagree. He didn't get hired because he was my boyfriend. He got hired by myself and RCA because we had come up with sounds and production that I liked and everyone else working with me at the time liked. Pain is good.

Can you relate your longstanding and intense passion for journaling to your songwriting?

It's not something I can control. It comes when it wants to come ... and it leaves when it wants to leave. Like a manipulative lover. Always playing hard-to-get.

What can you tell us about the messages you are trying to convey through your lyrics?

This is too large a question. Most every line is a message to someone. And many of them don't know nor will ever know. Now when I'm dead and someone opens up my journals ... it will be easier to find out the secrets in my lyrics.

What kind of reactions do your fans give you after hearing the material?

I don't know what my fans like until I play live ... everyone likes something different. Everyone hears different.

Please tell us about the two remixes on the EP you did with Ken Andrews.

Ken remixed "Limits of Our Love" while I was on tour. He sent me an mp3 of it and I loved it. It is not my usual vein. I thought it was a really cool take on the song and I loved the synths.

A man that can kick my head open with drums is a man that wins my heart. Ken and I worked on the remix of "Chasing the Shadow" together over several months. We had many versions ... several drummers, many many tries. I am happy to put this song to bed. There are way more versions of that song than I have released. We were talking about OCD right?

  Charlotte Martin
photo © Yariv Milchan 2005

What is the LADNA project all about?

LADNA is an all-digital band made up of members that have protools, logic or digital performer. We all have a way of recording digitally at home or in our studios, spaces, etc. There are about twenty members which were decided through invite only. It's pretty exciting. We have Sharky from Creeper Lagoon, Justin Meldal-Johnson, Brad Lahner from Medicine.

Matt Chamberlain just joined. The really cool thing is you can have Sharky sing a song over a piano riff I record here. We also are working with the drummer from Isis. Ken, Sharky, Brad and I are all singing. It's a mesh. Every song sounds so different. I would expect an album from this group some time next year maybe.

Tell us about how you got involved with Advent Rising and the song "Greater Lights."

I co-wrote the song with the composer and sound designer for the game. His name is Tommy Tallarico. We had a great time working together. Hopefully, we'll be doing other video game scoring together in the future. he's really opened up that world for me.

We understand you have a charity auction coming up.

This was the brainchild of Lisa, the young woman who runs my online world and publicity. She came to me with the idea to do a charity auction with Build-A-Bear. The charities will be announced very soon. I'm excited to be able to do something to help them. I'm hoping my fans get excited as we are about them and will help us raise some money for them.

What are some of your musical hopes and dreams for the next twelve months?

Finish next LP. Finish next EP. Finish LADNA. In that order.

Is there anything else you'd like to say to our readers before we call this a wrap?

This was such a lovely chat. Thank you for the nice interview. I really enjoyed your questions.

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