'The Very Fabric of Songs: Revealed'
Singer/songwriter Charlotte Martin got her start singing opera while attending Eastern Illinois University in the late '90s. Her father was a respected professor in the music department, and naturally Martin followed his footsteps. She'd been playing piano since she was a little girl and her childhood was surrounded by music.
While attending school, Martin experienced "real life," from living with her goth roommate and dealing with typical college-like drama to the tragic suicides of two close friends. Martin turned to music for solace. She desperately wanted to make music into a career; therefore, a whirlwind move to Los Angeles seemed like the right thing to do.
Martin eventually made a record, One Girl Army, with producer Tom Rothrock (Badly Drawn Boy, Beck, Elliott Smith), but it was never released. Before 2002 came to a close, Martin got her own studio and recorded a new batch of songs with Ken Andrews (Air, Pete Yorn). The melodic dreamscapes of In Parentheses arrived in August 2003 and Martin's bright voice drew comparisons to Fiona Apple and Kate Bush.
Dates with Howie Day and Damien Rice also coincided with the release of the EP. On Your Shore followed in 2004, Veins in 2005 and now Stromata here in 2006.
Chatting recently with Charlotte, and noting that it seemed that she has fought hard to be where she is today, I first asked her to explain just what happened at RCA, Test-Drive Records - and how she came to form her new record label, Dinosaur Fight Records? "I was signed to RCA records in early 2001 and released 2 projects, 'In Parentheses' and
'On Your Shore'. From 2001-2003, I didn't record or do much for the
label. There were several regime changes and no one was there long enough to sink their teeth in and get to know my music."
"At the same time I was trying to find my sound and write songs. Figuring out my voice as a writer and performer coupled with the label changes were very frustrating. I wanted to leave in 2003 but I found a champion who had recently been hired to RCA. He understood my vision and songs, the gates opened and I began recording and touring for 'In Parentheses'."
"A year later I released 'On Your Shore' unfortunately, the release of 'Shore' coincided with the merger of Sony and BMG, so the promotion of my album got lost in the shuffle, and that wasn't the only thing lost. Many people who I knew lost their jobs, it was a very unstable time. So I left the label in January 2005 and began working on my next album...which out of those recordings came the 'Darkest Hour' and 'Veins' EPs."
"While I was writing and experimenting for 'Stromata' I decided to release the 'Veins' EP mainly online through my own personal imprint called Test-Drive Records, though I never sought to have distribution. In the process of shopping the 'Stromata' songs to new labels I was very uneasy about signing again with a new label. I was terrified of being sat on, or being lost in the shuffle...so I decided with the help of my husband (Ken Andrews) and my managers and friends to form Dinosaur Fight
Records together. Our label signed with Fontana Distribution. So I
have the best of both worlds...the backing of a label with some
promotion, but control and say over what happens and when it happens
with my music.'
"There's a lot of love and care here, and we are
dedicated to developing true artists. For the first time in my life, I
feel like I'm artistically and professionally standing on my own two
feet, with the help of course of everyone at Dino Fight."
Where did that label name originate also?! "Ken and I love the dinosaur fighting scene in King Kong!"
Your new album title 'Stromata' is very original to say the least,
so I'm wondering what it means and if it originates from a more
personal standpoint? "'Stromata' has a few meanings but the one I loved was 'the framework of an organ or cell'. It's the glue that holds cells together, the unseen force that holds people together,
memories together and weaves the fabric of my fear and phobias while
at the same time keeping my faith mixed in their somewhere. there is some force that is connecting me to God and her to me, and me to you and you to them and us. The disruption of that makes me insane. I'm obsessed with it. I'm way too analytical for my own good. I need to get out
If there was one track on this new album that truly encapsulated
Charlotte Martin at her musical and lyrical finest, which one would it
And whilst we're revealing things, we hear you also got married (to
your longtime collaborator, Ken Andrews) ... congratulations, but does this mean all those love struck young men / fans out there have to stop fawning all over you at shows now?! "Thank you very much. I think I fawn over my fans more than they fawn over me. We all have an understanding. It's a mutual obsession I would say."
Listening to your lyrics, it seems that you are very unafraid to
tackle most walks / thoughts of life ... but is that true? Are there indeed elements in life that you wouldn't sing / open up about so freely, perhaps? "I've sung about everything in my life that has happened in some form of another. Whether I wish to point out what it is I'm talking about and where it lies in each song, well that's a bit touchier. I will never talk about the meanings of certain songs because it's
"I am generally a happy person except when I'm not, and
when I'm not, it's a very dark and scary situation. I think about
medication sometimes and I do wonder how that would affect my art. It
would be too painful to really truly talk about "Civilized" or
"Stromata" in plain terms. I want my listeners to have their own
relationships with the songs and usually the song meanings change
after touring them. I learn something new about them over the years.
"Up All Night" from 'On Your Shore' is a painful song, but it sounds
like a love song. It is about love, but not the kind of love I tried
to cover it up with.'
Do you have a funny, possibly embarrassingly story you can tell us
that may have happened to you on this road to stardom?! "Someone dyed my hair grey on tour. Well a salon. It was not supposed to be grey or purple or silver. It was supposed to be blonde. I was very embarrassed and kept checking my hair in different lights. Then, of course, I wanted to shave my head. Now I'm over my hair! I wear it up all the time now!"
Knowing you have an Opera degree, I was wondering if the big,
operatic stage would be anything you would ever fall back on? "I thought about doing a record of arias at some point. It would take a
long time to get in shape to sing a whole show of opera. It's not exactly a career you fall back on...I might teach though. I still think about graduate school. My whole life has been immersed
in music, whether it was opera, school, or the record business...I am
so lucky. I am glad I am able to do something I have loved so much my whole life."
What '80s (and possibly cheesy!) song would you love to cover today
if asked ... and why?! "I've covered a few 80's tunes... "Just Like Heaven" by the Cure, "The Promise" by When in Rome, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division.though none of these songs are cheesy to me. They are sacred!"
Lastly, I like Penguins ... do you?! "Yes. Absolutely. I like honey roasted peanuts as well.'
Thanx again for doing this for us today, and we wish you all the best
for the future "Thank you."
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of V-Day Booklet, an AUTOGRAPHED 'Stromata' promo postcard, and some pin badges, just answer this easy question: Charlotte's song "Beautiful Life" appears in what hit computer game expansion pack?!
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these great AUTOGRAPHED prize packs! Just send us an e:mail here before October 15th with your answer and the subject title 'CONTEST: CHARLOTTE MARTIN SIGNED STUFF' to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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