'The Beautiful Life of Charlotte'
It was only four songs in length and built on delicate piano-based arrangements, but Charlotte Martin delivered 2003’s In Parentheses with electrifying intensity. Provocative and intimate, the EP offered a keyhole peep into her recorded diary and garnered rave reviews for its confessional storytelling, emotional resonance and mesmerizing vocal melodies.
If In Parentheses served notice of Charlotte’s arrival, then the stunning new full-length record On Your Shore (RCA Records) confirms that she’s here to stay. The album delivers on the promise of its predecessor with achingly beautiful meditations on faith, hope and love.
Meeting up with Charlotte just an hour prior to her stage time on the Detroit leg of the ‘Chicks With Attitude’ tour, eating food and drinking red wine she introduces herself to the tape recorder as ”Ms. Mozzarella Stick”!
Whatever happened to your One Girl Army album … and will it ever see the light of day?! ”RCA have it, but RCA didn’t make it. I made it on a little Indie label. It was my first record deal and it was really heartbreaking in the end. I spent a year making the record and then had a tour booked. RCA signed me with all this already in place and were excited that I had this record in the can, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
How did they tell you that your album wasn't going to come out? ”The thing is when a record doesn’t come out it takes several months to figure out that it’s actually not gonna come out. You don’t just get a call one day. You get the feelings though,” she wryly smiles. ”The label went under and so the next process is trying to find a label that would pick it up. But, I’d already signed to RCA and RCA didn’t really want it ‘cause I didn’t make it for their label. So, it was like trying to find a home for an orphan child on a record label.”
Will it ever see the light of day? ”I hope not,” she replies quickly and adamantly, ”It doesn’t represent what I do now.”
Your ‘debut’ album, On Your Shore sounds very personal … as if some songs were written from your own diary? ”Well, it is. I’m a pretty intense, thoughtful person the songs kinda kept me from going under, if that makes any sense. Just like my shows do. But what’s so interesting is that some of the songs, especially the ‘Rain’ song – which is like two, three years old now – I’ve had five versions of it and written different lyrics! And now that it’s in the can it has a whole new meaning.”
Which songs are close to your own heart from the album and why? ”One would be ‘Steel,’ just because of the lyrics and the music. It’s kind of very dark and it’s almost defiant. It’s kinda me telling myself that I’m not gonna go over the edge emotionally. That’s why I say the lyric, ‘I’m steel. I don’t feel.’ But, I really do,” she wryly smiles again, ”I’m just twisting the knife. There’s another one on there called ‘Madman’ that I wrote when I thought I was going crazy! My relationships are pretty intense and a lot of people can come in and out of your life and change that relationship. But, it just makes you crazy!”
Where does the album’s title originate? ”I’m obsessed with water. It’s weird, because I really don’t even go to the beach that much! I kinda grew up with this tiny little pool that my parents had in their backyard. It was about three feet deep and twelve foot around and was one of those above-ground things. I lived in that pool. I was just always into lakes and oceans and swimming and all that stuff. The album's water theme was by accident though, because I wrote twenty poems for the album and the ones that made it – the ones that seemed to make the most sense – were the ones about water. Almost every song has some reference to water. Drowning, or rescue, or lifeboat, or floating, or anything related to weather and water.”
Do you keep a day-to-day diary? ”I don’t, but I did. I don’t write ‘Dear Diary, …’ because I think it’s lame, for me, but I write down thoughts a lot. “
Have you a recurring dream? ”This week I have, yeah,” she gently giggles. ”But, I can’t tell you!”
Yes, you can! ”I can’t!”
Er, YES, you can!! ”NO, ... I can’t!!”
Come on, throw a dog a bone here, will ya?! ”Well, okay, …, well, I’m not the person IN the dreams,” she first states adamantly again. ”It’s about a man. I don’t know who the man is, but I’m assuming it’s my boyfriend, and it’s the week we first met. Like, over and over and over and over! But, we were so into each other that we had to get wasted to like handle it! Like we’d drink bottles of Jack [Daniels] just to be able to handle it!”
Are you the kind of girl that just can’t stop writing … and if so, have you already started work on your sophomore album?! ”The new album’s ready,” she instantly retorts back, smiling broadly. ”The new album was done before this one and I’m starting to do demos for it when I get home.”
Any album title you’re flirting with for it? ”Right now it’s Redeemed. This one is more about Earth. There’s a song I wrote for it called ‘Ground Can Break’ [which contains the lyric], ‘In my desert there’s a Spring sometimes’ ... and so it’s a bit weather and Earth.”
Tell me more about your work for RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) ”I had my music introduced to a lady called Kelly Bevis and she works for RAINN and she got really, really into it and invited me to be their spokesperson for their RAINN sub campaign. Which is all about making the RAINN network and hotlines available and to teach girls how to be smart on dates and such.”
And what about this now infamous McDonald’s TV ad that you did … in Spanish! ”Well, it wasn’t in Spain! It couldn’t be THAT cool! I needed money and I needed cash in a way that was really hurting. I hadn’t gotten signed yet and I’m no actress, but it was around the time of the strike and it was a chance to pay my rent for five months!”
Wow! That was one heck of a paycheck! ”Nah, it wasn’t that much … I just lived cheap,” she laughs. ”So,they just hooked me up, but I don’t think that it ever really aired. Maybe once or twice. I looked like on-the-go Barbie … it was terrible! I had yellow and pink rubber bands in my hair like a Rainbow Brite doll and a crop blue T-shirt and little knickers.”
So, just how does one go from being a Miss Teen Illinois to a successful musician?! ”Ms. Teen Illinois was ten years ago!!”
Yes, but that wasn’t the question now, was it?! ”No, it’s not,” she playfully screams back into the tape recorder. ”I don’t know. Little steps. I have a strange support group,” she laughs looking around. ”I’m in a 12-step program, you know. From the Vaseline and the tit taping and the whole other stuff! Nah, I had to just get out of my town and you know what, it DIDN’T get me out of my town! For about three years I was still there so I eventually got myself out of the town. I don’t know if it was for this. I don’t know necessarily what I’m looking for. I think I’m looking for the connection. For the musical connection, for the road connection, for the studio connection.”
Final Fun Four:
How long does it take to wash, dry and style your hair? - ”About ten minutes,” she states matter-of-factly. ”I swear to God.”
When not on tour what would your average Saturday night consist of? - ”I would probably go to Mel & Rose, my favorite wine store in LA and get a really, really nice bottle of Pinot, then I would stop off at P.F. Chang's and get Gung Pow Shrimp, and then I would come home and order on Pay-Per-View, ‘Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ … as I’ve accidentally deleted it three times already!”
Are you really a ‘reformed Goth’ as your press-kit makes you out to be?! - ”Nu-Wave is more the term and I don’t know if I’m reformed. I like dark music, a like dark literature, I like dark art. My interests are definitely dark.”
Finally, describe yourself today in just three words - ”I can’t breathe!”, she laughs, her eyes bulged wide, one hand still gripping her glass of red wine, the other lovingly nursing the remains of a mozzarella stick.
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