Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sunday Spotlight - Rebecca Martin

I know the Sunday Spotlights have been few and far between the last few months, but it hasn't been from lack of effort. Unfortunately, many artists and bands have other, more important things to do than share their thoughts with me. That being said, Rebecca Martin was gracious enough to take the time to do just that, and talk about a track from her latest release, The Growing Season. I'm particularly thankful for her time as she's the mother of a three year old and an active member in her community forming a neighborhood civic group (

The track she opened up about it titled The Space In A Song to Think, the lead off track from the album. Besides having a beautiful title, it's one of the best cuts from the album. Without further ado, on to the song. As is usual, text in red is Rebecca's and questions in black are mine.


The Space in a Song To Think: Lyrics

The Space in a Song To Think is a tune that came out of a series of disputes with people that I was intimately involved with, and who’s perspective I respected at that time. What struck me, and became the idea for this song – was finding myself in these arguments that were seemingly unnecessary – as we saw things in the same way. But the way we communicated due to being informed by our experiences made it seem not so. ‘The glass is half empty – or half full’ is a very curious and humbling idea to contemplate. Furthermore, if we are patient enough to sit in what is uncomfortable before we are to speak on it – we will find that as much as we identify with the next person, we are ultimately and utterly alone in our lives. A fact that is unnerving for us all.

I’ve read some journalists interpret the tune as being a bit of a sarcastic play on the way that my music is perceived. I am often asked what ‘genre’ I see my singing in - and I am quite adamant that these genres are marketing tools and have nothing to do with the interpretation in my singing – or the lyrics and songs that I write. I understand why that conversation persists. But it’s not my intention to relay my experiences through song in that simplistic way.

The Writing Process

I find that I write the very same way from song to song. The harmony and melody come – and the words are all gibberish at first, to create sounds to support the melody line. Phrases eventually come that start to make some sense – and from those phrases, a sentiment helps support the lyric. ‘The Space in a Song To Think’ was written over the course of about two weeks. It came swiftly which is not always the case.

The Recording Process

I work very hard to create a whole structure in every song that I write. The strength of that structure dictates the bands performance. It is rare when that changes during a record date (though there are tunes on
the Growing Season that ended up being different then how they were originally written due to Kurt Rosenwinkel’s work as producer).

And three additional questions:

1.) It's hard to believe that the song (The Space In A Song To Think) came out of disputes. Listening to the entire album, it's hard to imagine you arguing with anyone, it's so calming and level! Anyway, it's a beautiful metaphor that you craft, the idea of a space. Concerning the unnerving revelation of being alone, do you not feel that deeply loving and genuine relationships eliminate that ultimate aloneness that you mention?

For me, a song is the balanced end result of all things flowing and/or challenging. The calm that you hear in my records is the art in making records, where the listener gets the very best of me. Taking all that is chaotic, confusing, lonesome, disappointed – the gamut – and making it round. Capturing all that in a jar. That is a song.

As for the idea of deeply loving and genuine relationships. I’m not sure if that exists in such a simplistic way. Some people wish and want that kind of love in their lives so badly that they can trick themselves into thinking that’s what they have and even impose that on others.

I’m thinking a lot about not personalizing my experiences and relationships to see how that feels, and it’s not a comfortable spot. There is a sense of control by attaching yourself to something. A person, a belief, an idea... whatever. It can give one a sense of belonging and sometimes, false meaning. I don’t think anything can take away the feeling of being ultimately and utterly alone. Not if you are really conscious and aware, and those who are the latter are most likely not bothered by that fact.

These are some of the ideas that I’m working through in my current songs. Your question is timely, but I’m afraid I haven’t any concrete answers.

2.) Since your last album, you've had a son (who's now almost three). Being the father of a four year old, I know the obvious practical changes that your life takes, but how about on a deeper level musically? Do you feel that this album "sounds" different because of your son?

Having Charlie in my life has created such a big change. You hear this from parents before you become one, but I had no idea that it would be... this profound. This enormous. The singing in ‘The Growing Season’ has an ease and a more relaxed quality to it then any of my past recordings. A bit like I’m not hiding behind the singing any longer – and it’s easy to do. You hear a great deal of hiding in singing today. Simply put, one of the wondrous parts of becoming a mom is that there is a settling. A surrender. I’m thankful for it. But the practice of all these new things I’ve only just begun.

3.) In the early 90's you and Jesse Harris formed a band together (Once Blue). I believe that it was the beginning of both of your professional musical careers, no? The two of you have gone your separate paths, and have both been successful in your own ways. I know that he co-wrote one of the tracks on your new album (Talking). Do the two of you keep in touch much? Ever reminisce or think "what if we had stayed together?"

Yes. We found each other in NYC. I from Maine, and Jesse from Manhattan. It’s funny how people are focused on ‘Talking’ as if it’s a full circle for Jesse, Kurt and I. No one ever asks me if that is true. They have just assumed it.

‘Talking’ is one of the oldest songs in my catalog, which just wasn’t ever recorded in the way that I wanted it. It was the very first song I wrote on guitar, before I was even playing regularly back in 1997. Jesse collaborated on the bridge way back then... so it was not a reunion as I think some believe it to be. It’s just an old song that fit perfectly in my new ones.

Jesse and I were together for four years writing songs. You can imagine that that means there are a lot of tunes from that time period. I haven’t recorded them all, and look for projects that suit those in line. Perhaps for several more recordings, you may see one pop up here and there. We haven’t written anything new since 1998.

As for do I reminisce about the ‘what if’s’? I used to. I consider Jesse to be the very start of my true creative process. I had been singing all of my life, but in search of the words and melodies in me. He and I together quite organically realized that good stuff. We grew up together in some magnificent ways.

Ending the first anything is tough. Today when it comes up either in conversation or in my private mind, I’m just grateful. That’s what’s left. Time and space does that.


As hinted at above, the album conveys a calm steadiness throughout that obviously comes from experience (both musical as well as worldly). Below Martin's regal voice of womanly wisdom lies instrumentation that hovers on the edge of imperceptibility yet still contributes to the overall texture. This is an album of contemplation, one for playing at quite moments. Enjoy the following sample.

Visit her website, her label Sunnyside Records, and become her friend on MySpace.

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