"Every single part of me is a piece of somebody else," says the piano-playing chanteuse. From connecting her life's tales with her powerful lyrics, to her fans that see themselves in her songs, Martin is an extraordinary kind of songwriter that builds close ties with anyone who hears her music.
Evoking influences as diverse as Kate Bush, PJ Harvey, Sarah McLachlan, Fiona Apple, early Tori Amos and Joni Mitchell – but still very much her own musician – Martin's music is a telling snapshot of her life.
Charlotte's recently released RCA EP In Parentheses is such a snapshot. The four songs are emotional and captivating, a perfect introduction to Charlotte and a glimpse of what she has in store for us on her full length album, due out early next year.
A not-so-closet Goth with bleach-blonde hair, Martin has a knack for crafting emotionally-complex songs that continually flirt with pop structures. While her beautiful voice and piano-playing prowess offer an entrée into her music, it's Martin's uncompromising lyrics that keep you coming back.
Martin grew up in a small college town and dedicated most of her time to studying opera. She took piano lessons and eventually went to Eastern Illinois University, where her father is a music professor. That's when it all changed.
Martin moved in with a very-Goth roomie Raven (they're still best friends today) and went through several life-changing experiences. Beyond the normal college-age drama and relationship trials, Martin had two friends commit suicide in the same year. One was her then boyfriend's sister, who was also her close friend. The first song Martin wrote was for her funeral.
I didn't really live until I got to college, she says. "I had all of this stuff happen and found out that I had a lot to express."
Martin continued expressing herself and moved to Los Angeles to begin her career. However, it didn't go as planned. "I thought that I'd just move to LA, get signed and that would be it," she says. Martin did get a deal and recorded an album, ONE GIRL ARMY, with producer Tom Rothrock (Beck, Foo Fighters) for Bong Load/RCA. Sadly, it never came out. "I was naïve when I first got signed and felt like I needed a lot of people to help me. But now I know that I can just make music and put it out on my own. If you want to help, great. If you don't, great. The people will decide. You've got to take control and do it yourself." Now she stands stronger than ever before - both artistically and professionally.
Charlotte has her own studio and co-produced In Parentheses alongside Ken Andrews, who has worked with Pete Yorn, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and Jimmy Eat World, among others.
"Producing my own music changes the way I approach songwriting. I can do more and go other places," says Martin, who has expanded her sound with drum machines and more keyboards.
In Parentheses is also a showcase for Martin's writing skills. The title track, written in 15 minutes and one of her first endeavors, is a song of self expression that is deeply personal yet totally accessible. Your Armor, the single and standout track, and Pretty Thing both touch on the complexities of relationships and their transience, while Monster tackles the sometimes difficult task of showing your true feelings.
Martin's openness comes through in other ways than just her recorded music. A comic book junkie, Martin and friends have developed their own online comic for her website, titled 766 6th Street, after where she lived in college. It gives viewers a glimpse into her room - literally - and what's going on in her head.
"It's that whole thing where if you make fun of yourself, nobody can make fun of you," says Martin, who always keeps a bright sense of humor. "That's why the comic exists. It's just an opportunity to make fun of myself in the most awesome way."
During her live shows, Martin also gives her all. She attacks the keyboard, allowing her charismatic personality to take over the room with the same intensity as the topics she's covering. Martin uses her shows to further connect with her fans, keeping the evening conversational and often baring gifts for the audience. It's no wonder her shows have grown to become constant sellouts.
"I give away presents at my shows because I want people to keep coming back, she jokes. I don't know why, I just feel the need to give people presents. I think sometimes I freak out on my own fans."
Martin continues to connect with her fans - through her website, her live shows and her open personality, but mainly through her music. They're sure to follow.
"Some artists have changed my life. In the humblest way, I really hope I can do that for somebody some day, Martin says. I want to give my fans something special."
Charlotte Martin Facts