A true New Englander returns

Although dealing with personal travails, singer/songwriter Kristi Martel perseveres with new tour, album

by Tony Giampetruzzi, associate editor
In Newsweekly 2004 New England Pride Guide

Returning to New England from a 13-year stint in California was a bittersweet experience for Kristi Martel.

"I just moved back to Rhode Island in November. I had always missed the seasons despite some great friends and some great teaching jobs. I never really felt like I was home," says Martel, a native of Melrose, Mass., who will be performing at the Boston Pride Festival on June 12.

"I craved the traditions of New England, the buildings, and the seasons."

But there was something else that Martel needed: solace. Last August, her life partner committed suicide, an event that changed Martel's life forever -- and gave her pause.

"It was a huge loss because we toured together. And, it was a terrible situation because her family and friends were nasty. They came and took a lot of her stuff, and they were able to do that because I had no legal rights to any of it. It's the typical story, and a perfect example of why we need to take this marriage issue seriously."

When all is said and done, Martel is glad to be back in Rhode Island where she is able to spend time with her grandparents and other family members. She is also able to tour again and recently released her first full-length album, "The Mule."

"The album is about carrying stories, and the mule is a carrying animal, so I thought it made sense," said Martel, who has released a series of other EPs.

"Most of my music deals with women's issues and queer issues. I wouldn't really say that it's mainstream stuff, more or less avant-garde pop. I guess I don't really know where I fit in."

Martel says that her influences are varied. As a child she grew up listening to Prince and Kate Bush and, she says, her hero was Cyndi Lauper. She studied music at Bard College in New York and went on to get a graduate degree from Mills College.

Since then, Martel has taught, toured, written, and wowed audiences throughout the U.S.

"Kristi Martel is a breed unto herself in the world of singer/songwriters. She sounds like no one else," wrote Patrick Arena of Outvoice. "Unafraid of the quirks in her character, she mines her inner conflicts in an unembarassing and daring way. Her musical vocabulary is wild and varied without ever being beyond control."

And Songwriter and Pianist reports: "She grins when she sings. Watching her perform, it's impossible not to get swept up in the sheer joy of music -- in her deft piano playing and soaring, soul-rhythm-and-blues voice, love emanates from every note."

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