Liberty Press Volume 8, No. 8 © April 2002
Brave Enough review by Julie Greco
"I was doing my dishes and listening to Kristi Martel's new cd Brave Enough, when all of a sudden I hear the lyric:"your big black rubber dick."...Honor, the song with the infamous lyric, was just one of nine really good songs on this cd.
Martel...is a very gifted musician with a fun and funky cd that also offers poignant lyrics and smart composition... The songs on this cd run the gamut from up-tempo jazzy ditties about relationships to smoldering bluesy songs that deal with heavier issues. But the great thing is Martel's voice is able to weave its way into the music and it never sounds out of place.
See You Sweet, Hands, and Fly have some of the best piano playing on the cd. They're complicated, forceful and emotionally charged compositions that are the perfect accompaniment to Martel's powerful voice.
It's not all piano though. The song Through the Door brings drums to the forefront. It offers a driving beat that really appeals to the drummer in me. The last song on the cd, Give, is one of my favorites. It features a strong bass guitar and more drums that give the song a real jazzy sound.
The song Promise is another great example of how Martel balances her voice and her music. This is an awesome song that features just Martel and the piano. The song conveys a barren desperation that comes through in her voice, her piano and the lyrics:"Be real and raw and feel something now."
The inside of the cd cover has a note from the artist: "play this thing loud, we danced to make it." Well, I took her advice...and I think she's got a point. It's even better loud." --Julie Greco, April 2002
Liberty Press Volume 8, No. 8 © April 2002
Kristi Martel up close and personal by Julie Greco
I had a chance to catch up with Kristi and chat with her about her upcoming trip to Kansas and her new album.
Liberty Press: Have you ever been to Wichita before?
Kristi Martel: No. I've wanted to because I like the name. So now's my chance!
LP: Do you find that it's complicated being a bisexual in the music business?
KM: Probably only as complicated as it is anywhere else. People often think there are only two camps and they often assume which one I'm in. All the labels are tricky and incomplete descriptions of any of us. So being on stage in queer venues brings certain assumptions and being on stage in supposedly straight venues brings others. Maybe the part of my work that has to do with publicity makes it a little more complicated? Being public in more ways than just walking down the street means people are trying to figure me out more of the time but usually I don't label myself at all. I just be in the world as I am.
LP: When did you start playing music?
KM: I was singing before I could talk and making up harmonies to songs I liked soon thereafter. I had guitar lessons at six and piano lessons at seven.
LP: How would you describe your musical style?
KM: The hard question! Words from experience articulated through spectral vocals and rhythmic piano? Is that style? The style is like a mix of Kate Bush and Throwing Muses and Diamanda Galas and Nina Simone and Prince. Many people say I sound like Tori Amos, but I think it's more the piano than the vocals and definitely not in the words. Or, more journalistically, I'd say it is jazz-influenced alternative rock, but since it's piano based, people don't associate it as easily with rock. It's not folk, but it has the folk in it.
LP: Seeing that you run your own label, do you find it hard to strike a balance between music and business?
KM: YES! Ever since I started booking national tours I have written fewer songs. I am hoping that the longer I do it, the better I'll get at tipping the balance more and more toward music-making. Or, I'll get somebody else to do the business.
LP: What was the best part of making this album?
KM: The people and dancing to my music during the sessions. I was blessed with such a talented crew in such a beautiful studio. I was thrilled to work with such a fabulous producer and musicians and to use such a beautiful Steinway grand for the cd.
LP: What was the most challenging part?
KM: The long hours! Due to my tight budget, we recorded all the piano parts in one 16-hour day and recorded all the vocals the next 16-hour day. My arm practically fell off and my throat got tired. Then the producer mixed the whole thing in the next two 16-hour days! We were quite depleted by the project's end.
LP: Do you have a favorite song on this cd?
KM: I am fortunate to say I love them all! I am particularly fond of Through That Door though.
LP: What's your writing style?
KM: Do you mean what is my process of writing? Every song is different, but the most common pattern for me is to write words down when they come, and then to add a melody and piano part to that afterwards. I do edit the words to work with the music, but mostly I work the music around the words. I have written music in so many different ways though. I have scored out music that I created through the voice to someone else's poetry (Denise Duhamel) for five voices. I have used computers to layer and process sound for dance. I have written words with a complete melody in tact all at once. I'd love to write music for film!
LP: Where do you get the inspiration for your lyrics?
KM: From my experiences. From conversations and memories. Sometimes from walking by the ocean and insomnia!
LP: What are your musical influences?
KM: Prince, the Beatles, Kristin Hersh/Throwing Muses, Billy Joel, Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, Bobby McFerrin, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Ani DiFranco, Beethoven...
LP: Who's your favorite Brady? Yes, as in The Brady Bunch. I have an intricate psychological theory regarding people and their favorite Brady character.
KM: My first thought is that I don't really have a favorite, because I was never particularly fond of the characters even though I did watch the show for a few childhood years...But, upon talking with my girlfriend about the matter, I think, in fact, my favorite is Alice, the housekeeper.