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Rebecca Martin: Paradox Of Continuity

By Published: December 25, 2006

AAJ: I notice that in certain lines, parts of a tune, or a certain phrase you'll change—and this is my personal perception—you'll change the texture of your voice to impart a certain sentiment in a particular part of a phrase. It seems relatively consistent to me that it happens, so I'm assuming it can't be a coincidence that the quality or texture of your voice switches in certain phrases and that it's intentional.

RM: You know what? It happens a lot. It actually surprises me when it happens because I don't think it's the way I speak. I'm not trying to do that. But I know what you mean because it happens and it feels like the right thing. Somehow the phrase has a little extra length that's not really sound it's more texture. Maybe it has to do with really trying to connect with the lyric—in that moment that's how I'm feeling somehow. Maybe the way that I communicate through voice, through sound/song is consistent just like the way I speak is consistent. But they're very different things. I'm not really sure what that is actually and it's not like vibrato or something intentional where you just start doing it and suddenly you've got a vibrato. I'm pretty sure vibrato is intentional.

AAJ: For me, what I'm noticing isn't the same every time either. There's a couple different things that are hard to put into words, the change in your delivery. But it feels really natural and fits with the lyric.

RM: Well that's nice to hear, John. I really think that when I'm singing or speaking they're very similar. Except that when I'm singing there's something that automatically connects to some other thing in me or in something that communicates a certain specific way. Maybe this is a good way to describe it: When I'm speaking I'm more in my head thinking about what I'm going to say, how I'm going to say it. But when I'm singing there's some of that going on, but they're just two different ways of communication. It could also just have been picking up sounds and influences from musicians I've played with over the years. That's very possible. I just don't know. But it's not something that I've got the time to think about when I'm singing. I'm sure of that.

AAJ: So how was {New York club] Banjo Jim's?

RM: It was really great. I was there for a week. After playing at The Vanguard every night I realized how good that is for the music, playing two sets a night continually for the week. By the time you're halfway through your week the music is getting somewhere. In the singer-songwriter world these days, unless you're on tour, you get to play once a week at best. But not even that every month. You might choose a month and play every week and then that's it. So you have to wait six days in between each gig to make music. It's a bit constipated actually.

Part of the reason I wanted to play every night is that we're so far from the city and it's a big schlep for us to organize the baby, the animals, and the whole thing. It's easier on me to go in and do a week for a lot of reasons. So it was really fun. Every night I played [at Banjo Jim's] with a different chordal player or horn player: Peter Rende on Fender Rhodes, Ben Waltzer on Rhodes again, then Chris Speed on clarinet, who I've known for a long time. He plays in that group called Human Feel with [drummer] Jim Black. He plays with a lot of folks. Great musician, oh my god. They're all great musicians.

AAJ: So was it the two of you plus a bassist?

RM: Larry playing bass and a drummer named R.J. Miller I've been playing with lately. He's really talented. He's also from Maine just like me. We met in the city. He's a lot younger. Super talented guy. He's come to New York and he's going to be a busy cat one of these days.

AAJ: Well he was busy last week.

RM: Yup, yup. I'm going to keep him busy too for a while. He's a very supportive and understated drummer. A special musician. All of them are. And playing with Larry is heavenly. He makes everything sound so good.

AAJ: Yeah. He's a special bassist. No doubt about that. It must be great because of the relationship you two have.

RM: It's wonderful because we both want to play together. We really enjoy it and we can also be together and we can have our son with us. It's an opportunity for him to play so differently than how he normally plays, with real structured short songs, which is a challenge unto itself. And the parts he creates are amazing. So it was nice [Banjo Jim's].

AAJ: Were you playing some of your new songs there?

RM: Yeah. All of them.

AAJ: So the music for them is obviously written already as well. Are they like those on People Behave Like Ballads, where you pretty much wrote both all the music and lyrics?

RM: Yup.

AAJ: I don't remember where I read this, but I thought I read where you mentioned something, and this was surprising to me, about the melodies dictating your lyrics. Is that how you usually go about that?

RM: Every time.

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