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Rebecca Martin: Paradox Of Continuity

By Published: December 25, 2006

AAJ: There's a few tunes on there where the instrumentation and the arrangements create a real sense of drama—parts entering gradually as the lyric reveals itself, more instruments coming in. I like that a lot.

RM: That's beautiful, right? That's the sensitivity of the musicians. That's all at work. That's what I mean. They're listening to the lyric and the melody and reacting to it. I think [drummer] Darren Beckett is fantastic. I think I was really lucky to have worked with him at this time because I love his work here.

AAJ: Darren Beckett?

RM: Darren Beckett, with [bassist] Matt Penman, who just played perfectly on this record. Matt's heavenly to play with. He's like Larry in that way; very supportive, melodic and sensitive. He's also a terrible poker player (laughs). I'm joking. He's actually a terrific poker player. I just like to psyche him out for the next game. He's good at keeping people in as they're winning. He's a bit like Las Vegas—good at keeping you in until he's taken all your money.

AAJ: There's one last thing I wanted to talk to you about. You live here (Kingston, New York) now, right? I've spoken with other people, artists and friends, that have lived in NYC for a while and like it but for a number of reasons have wanted leave there; some wanting, or having to leave, while still needing to work there. I also know a lot of people that have a hard time getting work there trying to be artists. It can be a difficult situation in the city just in terms getting gigs and pay; real-world, crass, nitty-gritty crap like that. I'm just wondering if you have any feelings on the city in general. On living there and maybe if it affected you.

RM: I think it's really important to be in NYC if you're a musician because there's so much going on. It's a great place to go at some point in your development if you want to raise the level of how you're playing because you're in this great musical environment. There's always great stuff going on, which is really inspiring.

It's difficult for everybody. But the balancing act for me is that there's just no other place like it to really get better. I'm so grateful for my time in New York because it really kicked my ass. Without it, I don't know if I would've found this path that I'm on now that I love. I might've found something else. But who I was before New York and who I am now, it's so different. I'm more focused on the work that I do. Earlier on I loved to sing and write but it wasn't very focused. I really believe that being in New York helped me get my act together.

AAJ: Yeah. It seems there are so many people there that are very focused and at a really high level that if you're not really focused and working really hard as well, it's going to be difficult.

RM: I think that's a mistake people make though. I think if you think that way going into New York then you're probably not going to have an enjoyable time. You've got to go there because you want to learn, not because you want to be the best or compete. If you diminish the level that you're at because you're comparing yourself to whoever; Kurt [Rosenwinkel] or [guitarist] Ben Monder, or whoever, that's really not the point. Because comparisons generally tend to either diminish who you are or elevate who you are. That's what I think of comparisons.

You just go to learn and you hang as long as you feel like you can hang. I couldn't hang for more than ten years. I was done. I was fried. That it was it for me. I was cooked. I just don't like living like that. After a while living in a small space and being up in the air in an apartment and going outside and always being surrounded by people and this energy that's chaotic, after awhile I just said, "Okay that's it. No more. I'm done. But I was there for ten years and that's what I needed.

I don't think people should be discouraged if they're not part of a scene. You know, you've got to make a living. But not necessarily always at doing what you love. Not at first. I don't know how everybody finds that. It's definitely a unique thing; everybody's path [to] figuring that out. But, you've got to go in open and excited to be a part of stuff and be committed to working harder at what you love and being less interested in comparing yourself to what somebody else has or what someone else is doing. That's not productive and that's not really about the music anyway. I know that can't be helped to some degree but you've got to be conscious of that stuff in order to get to your own voice.

Everybody's got their own voice that's important. Whether you change one person's perspective or a million peoples' perspectives it's all pretty major. But if you change one person's way of thinking, just by accident, just being honest and sharing? Well, my life means everything to me so if somebody changes my thinking in any little way that's with me for my whole life, that's major. You don't have to be Gandhi to do something really good.

I hear that a lot. I hear a lot of musicians get discouraged about New York because it's too hard to get gigs or they're not being welcomed into a certain scene that they're trying to get into. That's frustrating as hell. But if that's where you need to be, you've got to figure that out. That's part of the lesson; figuring out how to be as productive as you can without losing your focus with all the other things that actually don't really matter [or] affect the music. But I don't know how people figure that out. It's definitely challenging and I [still] struggle with it too. You figure it out.

Right before I signed with MaxJazz I had three jobs after all the stuff I'd done. I was working three jobs in 2003 because I had to pay the bills and I wasn't doing it with music. Using different skills of mine to make money. That's not easy to do but that's what you've got to do sometimes. But I was always grateful that I had the drive to write songs because that's who I am.

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