New London, Connecticut crooner Daphne Lee Martin is, in every sense of the word, true to her craft. The singer/songwriter who dabbles in bits on country, jazz and pop, is one of few artists we’ve come across that lives, breaths, eats and sleeps music – from her vinyl record shop, The Telegraph, to her life of song writing, musical collaborations, and live performances. Martin herself, as much as she’s immersed in her craft, has a difficult time describing her songs…but her description is best nonetheless:
“I feel like I sound like a filthy martini two thirds of the time, and satin sheets the other third. If you figure out what genre I am, please tell me, because I never know what to tell people when they ask about it. I feel like the kid that uses all the wrong colors in the coloring book; black lemons and purple grass, yellow elephants and green bricks.”
Music came early for Daphne, and she released her first record along with her mother and sister at the age of 17, as the trio the Windlasses. Shortly after that, Martin found herself in NYC with the Folk Music Society of New York. After gaining fantastic experience on the giant soundscape of the Big Apple, Daphne took to the water, sailing around the world on ships using music as a means of teaching sustainability, environmental science, and the importance of traditions to the communities of the future.
Martin’s story continues, when she finally landed in New London, playing with bands such as Raise the Rent. Today, she is standing on her own following the release of her debut twin records, Moxie and Frost, and continues to work on a fresh collection titled Fall On Your Sword. The album isn’t due out until the Fall, but Daphne has stayed our appetite for new music for now with a fresh cover of “Reciprocity”, from Loudon Wainwright III’s 1976 record, T Shirt. You can listen to the song by clicking over to http://daphneleemartin.com/, but we still wanted to get into the details of the upcoming full collection.
Martin told us more about Fall On Your Sword, saying “This is the first record I have written as a whole. I sat down with my drummer and worked out some beats I wanted to start from, and I decided on some pieces of literature I wanted to base those songs on. It took almost two years to shape them all out. It’s a completely different kind of writing than the lightning strikes kind of stuff I have done before, with each song standing very much on its own. My records have been criticized in the past for being disjointed, more like collections of songs than albums, and I wanted to see if I could build something with lyrical and melodic threads, songs that are all part of one larger piece.” While we’ll have to wait for the new album, you can catch Daphne on tour nationally starting in a couple weeks. Don’t hesitate to make your way to a show. Prepare yourself for all that is to come, by reading on for all of the answers to the XXQs below.
XXQs: Daphne Lee Martin
PensEyeView.com (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what makes you stand out from others in your genre?
Daphne Lee Martin (DM): I feel like I sound like a filthy martini two thirds of the time, and satin sheets the other third. If you figure out what genre I am, please tell me, because I never know what to tell people when they ask about it. I feel like the kid that uses all the wrong colors in the coloring book; black lemons and purple grass, yellow elephants and green bricks. If I had to choose a box, I’d have to say Singer/Songwriter but I lean heavily on country, pop, and jazz influences. I just hate boxes. I want to do it all, and I’ve only just begun! The quotes that have made me smile in the past were Charleston City Paper called me “Torch Folk” and some vinyl seller on eBay labeled my album “Raunchy Cabaret Pop”. I can live with both of those.
PEV: What kind of music were you into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?
DM: My first big concert in a stadium was The Cranberries with Toad the Wet Sprocket in support. It was incredible. I wanted to be Dolores. And I wanted to write like Glen Phillips then, so that concert was pretty mind-blowing to tween me. I grew up on oldies radio, lots of the pop of the 50s and 60s, old (real) country, and of course the local Appalachian stuff, lots of Old Time music, ballads, hymns, and a healthy dose of the sensitive 70s songwriters like Neil Young, Jim Croce, David Gates, and James Taylor. My mom couldn’t stand playing anyone around the house whose voice wasn’t silky, so folks like Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan were adult acquisitions.
PEV: What was it like trying to break into the music scene when you first started? What was your first show like?
DM: I don’t really remember a first show, per se. I’ve been performing informally since I was a kid, and since music has always been a social thing for my family, it seemed as perfectly natural to do it with a microphone and stage as wicker chairs on the porch. Breaking into the “scene” was a similar experience; really just a natural extension of what was already happening. Like I hatched in the estuary and just grew and swam out to deeper waters.
PEV: What can fans expect from a live Daphne Lee Martin show?
DM: It all depends on the show. Sometimes I’m able to bring a band out with me, and sometimes I’m all by my lonesome. So you’ll hear different parts of the albums based on the players that can roll with me, lots of backstory, and very often a surprise collaboration with a local musician. Every show is an adventure.
PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage to perform?
DM: Who’s my anchor? There’s almost always someone in the crowd that I can come back to and make eye contact with that is genuinely into what’s going on and they anchor me. I try to find that person early on in the set and make musical love to them. Also, is the organ too loud (laughing)?
PEV: What is the best part about being on stage in front of an audience?
DM: Stories. For as different as we all are, music has this way of finding us all in the same stories. Moving and thinking and feeling together. I love that most of all.
PEV: What is the underlying inspiration for your music?
DM: It’s better than factory work? I’ve never not made music. It wasn’t a choice, it just was. Inspiration comes and goes with moods, sugar highs, relationships. The muse talks when she’s good and ready. There are no rules except the rule that this is what I am, what I do. David Amram is one of my favorite writer/storytellers because when he describes music, he talks about things like the sound of the faucet dripping, or a motorcycle tearing down the street. Sounds that illicit emotion, tell a story. You can find rhythm and vibration in a lot of things if you’re listening.
PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out, do you ever look back on your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?
DM: Insofar as I like to remember people who have helped me along, yes. There are proud moments and moments where I know I didn’t give it my all, people I could have done better by and situations I should have/have not let happen. But like then, I’m pretty much always looking forward, and glad to have company along the way when the right people stick.
PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about you?
DM: Wouldn’t you like to know?
PEV: What happens when you hit a brick wall when writing? What are your methods to get over it?
DM: Funny answer first: Gin. And if that doesn’t work, more gin. Then I listen to Paul Simon and want to give up. Then I read more books and it shakes the whole thing loose. Real answer: There’s no end of stories to tell. I also do a lot of ‘living’ on the road, hearing different perspectives and while I do drink gin and read a lot, I find myself going back more and more to all the times I have been surprised or enlightened by someone I’ve met on tour or whose record ripped my heart out.
PEV: How do you think the industry has changed since you first started out?
DM: I own an old school vinyl record shop. And seeing the resurgence of vinyl has been heartwarming in ways I couldn’t have imagined. It’s really easy to get frustrated and say “well the industry is tanked” or “what are these kids listening to these days?” but on the ground, on an individual basis, that’s not what’s going on at all. People crave something REAL, something they can hold, remember, something that is more than a passing fad. That’s where the “industry” lost touch; they blow up a single and take the money and run rather than developing artists. Music is a shared experience, not a spoonful of whatever garbage they want you to swallow. The good stuff always rises to the top.
PEV: What can fans expect from your latest release, a fourth LP titled Fall On Your Sword? What was the writing process like for this album?
DM: This is the first record I have written as a whole. I sat down with my drummer and worked out some beats I wanted to start from, and I decided on some pieces of literature I wanted to base those songs on. It took almost two years to shape them all out. It’s a completely different kind of writing than the lightning strikes kind of stuff I have done before, with each song standing very much on its own. My records have been criticized in the past for being disjointed, more like collections of songs than albums, and I wanted to see if I could build something with lyrical and melodic threads, songs that are all part of one larger piece.
PEV: With all your traveling, is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?
DM: I would love very much to go outside the country, especially in Europe where some of my music has done really well. I’ve traveled sailing and just for fun outside the states, but never to tour. This Spring will be my first run in the American Southwest and I’m really excited to meet people there as well. Traveling has always been one of my favorite things to do; new places, weird stuff, great people. I want to do it all!
PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career?
DM: My fella is a rock star. Literally. He’s been musician most of his life and has done the touring band thing so he understands very well the demands of what I’m doing now. And he’s all in, just like me. We spent the first bunch of years together building up our home, our community and our record shop so that we could sustain working in music together for a long time without having to go get soul-sucking day jobs. And all of our real friends celebrate the fact that we’re giving this our all, some of them think we’re crazy, but hey…
PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?
DM: The occasional Netflix binge – just finished the first round of Empire. But when I’m home I’m always trying to get as much time as I can with friends. There’s such an amazing arts scene here and there’s always a gallery opening or poetry performance or play or festival going on, and I want to support all of it and see everyone. My fella and I also work with a couple of non-profit arts groups that put on large scale events around town, so there’s plenty to keep us busy there too.
PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration. Why?
DM: Tom Waits. I wouldn’t have taken the shape I did without his voice in the background. But if not Tom, I think Beck, because honestly that sounds like it would be the most fun a person could have with their pants on.
PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?
DM: There are so many good acts kicking around, slogging through the lower tiers of the business catching little breaks as they can. Every new city I visit I meet more of them. I’m crazy about what’s going on in the Philly/NJ scene right now; check out Ron Gallo and Francis Lombardi, each just fantastic writers with new projects coming out that are incredible. For live performance, the best thing I’ve seen in a long time is Tall Tall Trees – you won’t be the same after you see this show. And the East Nashville scene is making REAL honesttogod actual country music again, a breath of fresh air, and at the top of that heap in my opinion is Andrew Combs. His new album will be in my top 5 for a long time to come.
PEV: If playing music wasn’t your life (or life’s goal), what would you do for a career?
DM: Thought hadn’t crossed my mind. But it would have to be some other kind of art.
PEV: So, what is next for Daphne Lee Martin?
DM: Another national run of tour dates in late April and May, regional New England stuff and finishing up my alt-country record in the summer, releasingFall On Your Sword in September and touring again the rest of the year. Rinse, repeat.
For more information, click to http://daphneleemartin.com