The Argotist Online
Charlotte Martin is an American singer-songwriter who, over the course of her career, has recorded with both major and independent labels, performed sell-out shows to international audiences, and shared stages with the likes of Liz Phair, Pete Yorn, Damien Rice, Jason Mraz and many others.
Her albums are: Mystery, Magic & Seeds (1998), One Girl Army (2001), On Your Shore (2004), Stromata (2006), Reproductions (2007), Piano Trees (2009), Dancing on Needles (2011) and Hiding Places (2012). On Your Shore and Stromata received mainstream commercial releases.
music has been licensed for a many television shows, including So You Think
You Can Dance, which regularly features her song ‘The Dance’ during the
show’s opening. Details magazine called her ‘a seductive performer’
and ‘a skilled lyricist who writes with surgical precision’, and Performing
Songwriter described her as ‘a born storyteller and affecting vocalist’.
Q: Do you think of your lyrics as poetry?
A: Yes. I actually do. I spend a lot of time writing down lists and pages of broken thoughts/ideas. I've been doing this since I started writing music 14 years ago. Since I almost always start with music first, it's important to me to have my homework done lyrically. As the music comes together and takes a song format or starts to section, I then begin thumbing through my lists and start to piece together the words. I sometimes take one phrase from my book and write the rest off the cuff. Other times, I find the entire lyric in my lists. I call these lists Word Trees and I have over 23 books of them. When I go to heaven, I thought about leaving them to my children but some of the books are very very dark—so I may just leave them to friends or listeners. We'll see.
Q: Do you think it is important that songs rhyme and if so why?
A: It totally depends on the music in my opinion. Most of my songs have some rhyme to them, but not always. In the verses of ‘Language of God’, I don't do too much rhyming. It was more important for me to express the meaning than it was to find a perfect rhyme. It sings a little bit awkward but I think I managed to still make it work musically.
Q: Do you think song lyrics must conform to recognised song structures such as clear rhyming schemes, choruses, refrains, hooks and bridges or that songs can also be like free verse?
A: Again this depends on the music and how it's structured or unstructured. If you have clear sectioned musical ideas, then I think there needs to be clear sectioned lyrical ideas. Most of my music tends to be structured... even the most complex compositions. I tend to like order.
Q: When you read poetry in school or elsewhere did you recognize any connection to the music you enjoyed?
A: I've always been a big reader but I didn't get into poetry all that much until college. We were forced to learn the meanings behind the songs we were singing in foreign languages and a lot of times those lyrics came from old poetry. We would have to translate and then write out meanings so we would understand what we were singing. My coach hated that deer in headlights look on singers faces when they would be singing in French or German. I got interested in reading poetry for enjoyment during that period in school.
Q: Was there anything about poetry in books that influenced your songwriting?
A: I read a lot for enjoyment so of course it found it's way into my music here and there.
Q: Why do you think songs are more popular with people than poetry is?
A: Well music is engrained into our lives constantly. You can't walk into a grocery store or drugstore without it. You can get it anywhere at anytime for free now. It's just more accessible.