Charlotte Martin Biography
It was only four songs in length and built on delicate piano-based arrangements, but Charlotte Martin delivered 2003’s In Parentheses with electrifying intensity. Provocative and intimate, the EP offered a keyhole peep into her recorded diary and garnered rave reviews for its confessional storytelling, emotional resonance and mesmerizing vocal melodies. Details described her as “a seductive performer” and “a skilled lyricist who writes with surgical precision.” The New York Times and The Boston Globe praised her riveting live show, and Interview called her “an impressive newcomer” with an “unforgettable display of emotions.”
If In Parentheses served notice of Charlotte’s arrival, then the stunning new full-length record On Your Shore confirms that she’s here to stay. The album delivers on the promise of its predecessor with achingly beautiful meditations on faith, hope and love. “It’s a record about rescue and finding peace from within,” says Charlotte. “I wanted the songs to be completely honest and real, which made the writing sessions pretty intense. Staring down the darkness isn’t fun, but it’s part of the healing process.”
Behind her piano, Charlotte lays herself bare, confronting old ghosts (“Haunted”), parsing conflicted feelings for long-term love and a lust for someone new (“Madman”), and struggling to hold onto some slender sense of self (“Something Like A Hero”). On Your Shore’s emotional centerpiece is the powerfully raw title track, in which she pulls herself from the wreckage of a failed relationship (“When I was melting in your hand you didn’t understand/You slip through me like grains of sand you still don’t understand/Overboard I’m thrown out to see what you are and what I mean to me”).
Among the album’s many highlights are rapturous lead single “Every Time It Rains,” which Charlotte describes as a song about “lying on the couch and wanting the world to go away but finding the voice inside that tells you to shut up, get off your butt and be thankful for what you have,” and the big, tom-tom-drums-driven “Limits Of My Love.” “That’s probably the most upbeat track on the record,” she says. “It’s a happy and hopeful declaration of love.”
The warmth and clarity of Charlotte’s sumptuous vocals match the emotional complexity of her lyrics, alternately rising and falling with passages about love and fear, longing and regret, joy and rage. She’s defiant in “Steel,” lonely in “Your Armor” and soars over the supple grooves of “Up All Night.” The musical backing—most of which was recorded live and features bassist Justin Meldal (Beck, Macy Gray) and drummer Joey Waronker (Nelly Furtado, Air)—is deceptively simple, but equally impassioned and filled with beautiful, bittersweet melodies and creamy textures. Charlotte co-produced the album with Ken Andrews (Pete Yorn, Year of the Rabbit). “In the studio, I’m usually in one of two modes: Either I’m very self-deprecating and think that everything I do sucks, or I think everything I do is right and all your suggestions suck,” she laughs. “Somehow, Ken manages to make it all work and keep me challenged at the same time. He’s pretty amazing.”
On the surface, On Your Shore is catchy and compelling and swims in lush, piano-drenched balladry. But those who remember how to really listen to an album will also discover an artist determined to broaden her range by digging deeper. By taking a fearless and open-hearted approach to songwriting, Charlotte transforms the personal to the universal, making On Your Shore a shared and moving catharsis.
A classically trained vocalist since the age of seven, Charlotte originally planned for a career in opera before going to college and discovering the Cure, Joy Division, Kate Bush and Depeche Mode. “I got into all that stuff really late because I’d been focused on an entirely different style of music,” she says. “I was in choirs and doing two operas a year. Then I heard Disintegration by the Cure and it was like a whole new world opened up.”
Over the course of the past few years, Charlotte’s paid labor-intensive dues on the Los Angeles club circuit, garnering a loyal local following among fans and critics alike. She hit the mainstream last year with In Parentheses and supported the EP with tours opening for Howie Day and Damien Rice.
Picking up where its predecessor left off, On Your Shore is the sound of an artist mining new emotional territory and making music on her own terms.
“We’ve all experienced loss and pain and abuse and neglect and rejection and been spit on and made fun of because of what we look like and who we are,” says Charlotte. “I want this record to give voice to those people and let them know that they’re not alone. I had some very specific things I wanted to say on this record. It isn’t background music.”