Rebecca Martin: Here, the Same, But Different
RM: My mother was searching for an outlet that would allow me to grow as a singer when she came across "The Outlook Recording Studio". I began going for voice lessons and soon it became this great opportunity to record. Conni, the co-owner of the facility was very supportive of my singing. I was surrounded by musicians and sessions consistently. I started spending more and more time there as a teenager, of course, and made several recordings by the time I was 16. I have never been intimidated by the studio as an adult, and I believe that being exposed to one at an early age was responsible for that.
AAJ: Yeah, most people don't have a comfort level at a studio until after they've gigged and had bands and everything else.
RM: I watched the studio evolve from 16 to 24 tracks, using Studer/Trident equipment. It's gone digital now, which I know is the going trend, but a shame. I will always appreciate that I grew up using tape. I was able to get to a deeper appreciation with my first real studio experience having Joe Ferla at the helm. He engineered the first Once Blue Record back in 1995 (there were two, a second recording by Steve Addabbo in 1997), and my first solo recording, Thoroughfare in 1998. Joe recorded Middlehope to tape as well.
AAJ: Ok, now wait. How did you get from 9 years old in Maine to Once Blue? Did you just do music forever?
RM: I have.
AAJ: Did you ever go to music school?
RM: Yes, at the University of Maine in Augusta to study Jazz Performance. After a year there, I was ready to get to New York. I eventually came to the city by myself. I found an apartment in the Bronx and landed a production job at MTV.
RM: I was in an art-punk band that played in rock clubs throughout New York City. I was the background singer and keyboardist...not much of a keyboardist.
AAJ: So where were you playing? Like CBGBs?
RM: Exactly, CBGBs and Woody's , an assortment of rock clubs. I had to be in the city to do so and had to find a way to support myself. On my way to NYC from Maine, I had a short stint at SUNY New Paltz studying film production. At MTV, I began in the graphics department as a production coordinator, and later moved to on-air promos in the production management department. I met Jesse- Jesse Harris within a year or so of coming to New York.
AAJ: Did you start working with the band right away?
RM: No, we were a couple first. For six months he accompanied me on guitar. I hadn't heard much of his music until about a month after we were already together. I went to hear him play at the Ludlow Street Café, and I have to admit I was a little nervous. I was waiting for him to begin with a friend, and whipped around so quickly when he started his set. I 'd never heard anything like it. It took some time before we wrote together. One of our first collaborations was "I Haven't Been Me" which I feel is the signature song on the very first Once Blue record.
AAJ: Care to comment on his new record for Verve?
RM: It's a great record. There are two songs that I listen to over and over, "I Wish I Were a Bird," and "I Have No Idea." The other record of his that I enjoy is his first with the Ferdinandos. It has his version of "I Don't Know Why" and another called, "It's Alright to Fail". What a lyric, so absolutely penetrating and sad, which is my favorite kind of song (laughs).
AAJ: Penetrating and sad is just wonderful, which your stuff gets to as well. How do you get the Once Blue CDs now?
RM: It was re-released by EMI Toshiba in Japan. They've included 9 extra tracks to the original record, which are the rough mixes of the second record. It's still hard to find, but it's out there.
AAJ: I saw you guys play in Harvard Square.
RM: Anthony Wilson was on that gig...
AAJ: He's with Diana Krall now, right?
RM: He is. I loved working with him. In Once Blue he was very part-oriented, as well as being a great improviser. He would come up with guitar parts that could define the song. He's a good friend of Jesse's from way back. I believe they met through a connection at Bennington College.
I want to say something about Once Blue, because so often people ask me about it. I'm really proud that I was a part of that music. Once Blue was a definitive moment in my music. Crossing paths and collaborating on a regular basis with Kurt Rosenwinkel, Kenny Wolleson , Jim Black, and Ben Street had a big influence on me. Talk about good timing. With Jesse, I was writing melodies that were uncompromised. And lyrically, what we were coming up with was the most poetic writing I could ever have hoped for. The melodies dictated the lyrics. That is true with my own writing today.
AAJ: That's a different approach than the norm, isn't it?