October 26, 2011
Daphne Lee Martin, of Raise the Rent
, is a free spirit
harboring a wise soul and a genuine smile for everyone she greets. Her lyrics
and voice have been enchanting folks all over the country and New London is no
exception. Recently, the lovely Daphne took time out of her busy life to answer
a few questions for WailingCity.com.
WC: So let’s talk
about Daphne Lee Martin. You grew up in a very musical family and you even
performed together. What was that dynamic like?
I was lucky
enough to have parents who were both musically inclined, and there were
instruments and records around all the time. When I was 8, my mom caught me
singing along to "Chapel of Love" and I had just intuitively started
singing harmonies without really knowing what they were. We started singing
together, old country and folk songs and when my sister was old enough, she
joined in as well. We did that off and on up until I was in my early 20s, but
we all grew up and moved apart, it's tough to keep a group together from 900
miles away. We still have a good time singing songs on those rare occasions
when we're all in the same place; it holds a really neat nostalgia for us,
almost weepy at moments. And now that I have a baby nephew, the whole family is
surrounding him with music. He'll probably blow us all out of the water!
WC: You were born
in Ohio and wound up traveling all over the country performing but obviously
made New London your home. What is it about NL that drew you to ultimately
I moved to
Brooklyn in my teens and started performing at open mics, in the subway, at
folk clubs and doing living history interpretation for South Street Seaport
Museum. I was really star struck by the boats and maritime music, it was all so
romantic that I signed up and ended up working for over three years on various
schooners, teaching environmental education based on Pete Seeger's Clearwater
program. It was a nice hand-in-hand adventure with some music mixed in. I ended
up on all 4 coasts of the US for chunks of time, playing sporadically, but I
never got to develop anything or work in an ensemble and eventually I really
ached to get myself into a place where I could knuckle down and do music more
seriously. I'd had friends here in Connecticut at Mystic Seaport who had been a
big part of my life through the maritime music community and a few of the
schooners I'd worked on had stopped through New London for OPSAIL and Boats,
Books, & Brushes. The crew had stumbled into the Dutch Tavern and checked
out places like the Hygienic and the town seemed to have the most beautiful
potential. Then I saw my house, and I couldn't sign the papers fast enough.
Some people look their whole lives for that place they can really call
"home", whether or not they were raised there, and New London is it,
it's home for me.
WC: I’m sure
New London, having such an amazing and diverse music scene, didn’t hurt. What
have you observed about it in your years here?
New London is
absolutely chock full of brilliant artists: visual, performance, con... errr...
ha ha! The music scene is of the caliber of a city like Omaha, Portland, even
Austin, a real music destination. Our biggest problem as a scene is that we're
all far too comfortable here, and we seldom get our acts on national tour
routes to help spread the gospel of New London to the rest of the country. We
like playing in our back yard, and though the enthusiasm in the scene has ebbed
and flowed over the years, I've seen a huge sea change over the last couple of
years with bands beginning to look at music as their business, as an actual
career rather than a side project. Bands are developing websites, producing
albums, and reaching out for more recognition in ways they hadn't in years
before. And if that keeps growing the way it has and we get some bands on the
road, New London will be a household name across the land in no time. That's
one of the most unique things about the scene; we really are all in it for the
community. And more and more, acts that might never have mixed are
collaborating to innovate some sounds that I think will make us an even more
interesting group of musicians. I have a remix coming out with my western swing
album that leans on dub and includes Erik Lamb rapping; it doesn't get any more
collaborative than that!
WC: That sounds so
interesting and I can’t wait to hear it! Ok, are there any local groups/singers
that you're digging right now?
I'm really into
those rappers at the moment; their energy is so fresh and positive. Their
lyrics are really well thought out, the music is hypnotic and fun, and they're
the hardest working promoters around. I hope the rest of the scene takes note
of these cats: Erik Lamb
, Skobie Won
, Poe Swayzie, Camacho
, and their crews. On
the Americana side of the scene, I'm really impressed with what John Fries
been up to. He's not only working hard, but I think he's finally shaped his
sound and his band into one of the tightest, most pro acts in town. And of
course, my two favorite songwriting mentors endlessly amaze me: Jim Carpenter
& Chris Castle
. My one request: more chicks! Anybody want to start a girl
rock band with me?
WC: So, you happen
to be married to Mr. Rich Martin who has been a vital part in helping to grow
and promote New London’s music scene through out the years and is a highly
talented musician in his own right (Low-Beam, Brazen Hussy), what kind of role
has he played in the creation of ‘Dig & Be Dug’?
inspiring songs to tweaking art files for the replication company to helping
nail down PR and radio campaigns, he's been there for it all. There's no way
this scene would be what it is today without him and his ventures (Hygienic
, The Telegraph Recording Company
, T.A.Z.) and a few other key folks in
town, especially Sean Murray (The Oasis Pub
, I AM Festival
, Whalie Awards
Meghan Killimade (WailingCity.com) trumpeting the art that the whole town
produces. I could say clichéd stuff like 'thank goodness he keeps my head on
straight' and 'I couldn't do it without him', but honestly, none of us could!
He really kicks ass.
WC: What can fans
expect from ‘Dig & Be Dug?’ What kind of inspirations were you feeling when
you wrote most of the songs on the record?
The songs came
from all over, some from the old days, and you can still hear some of Phil
' influence on how I wrote them. There's a lot of nostalgia on this
record, childhood memories and family members appear in a bunch of places.
Especially my grandfather, Carlo. My mom's dad was quite a character, rough
around the edges and full of folk wisdom. He's become my favorite muse and
“Saratoga Rain”, which is based on a Langston Hughes short story, is all for
him. Most of my songs grow out of some kind of literary reference, I read
fanatically. “Me & My Boots” is based loosely on James Thurber's ‘Is Sex
Necessary?’ “Pull My Daisy” is something of a schoolyard rhyme run through the
beatnik ringer. I've always wanted to cull down some of the old forms, to
re-invent traditional music so that it stays alive in new shapes.
This being the first real record we've put out, we fell into
the trap of spending way too much time in the studio working out arrangements.
But at the end of the day, going about it that way forced us to all look very
hard at the sound we were trying to create and it wound up being pretty unique.
I always knew I would want it to be a cross-over record- appealing to both
roots music lovers as well and more pop minded people. It was mostly our
producer, Jim Carpenter's vision that whittled down a lot of wild ideas into a
cohesive album. But needless to say, I can't wait to get cranking on the next
WC: We have to
mention Raise the Rent’s Kickstarter campaign. How did it feel to have so many
of your family and friends and fans go online and donate money to support you
guys to have this CD made because they love your music?
It's a pretty
amazing feeling to have that much support after really only ever-playing live
shows for these guys. They believe in it enough to chip in to be part of our
first recording. Usually what happens is that people fall in love with music
they've listened to over and over on a CD in their car or their iPod, but we've
never been able to offer people that before and still I have people come up to
me and sing me back my choruses- people are paying attention to the live shows.
It's the best feeling in the world, and we're so grateful. That's why we're
developing so much more media to go along with this album, to thank you
everybody for showing us so much love. There'll be that remix with “Sexual
Healing”, Hatch Show Print posters, tees, and a series of music videos as well
as a special mixtape of songs by other members of the band (we're almost all
songwriters) to give everybody some fun stuff to dig on while we work on the
next one. Not to mention vinyl! Blue vinyl at that! Big thanks to everyone that
made it happen!
WC: Ok, so very
last question, to all the singers and bands and musicians out there who want to
make it in this town, any words of advice for them from one of New London’s
Believe in what
you do enough to work as hard as it takes. Think of it as a business, one that
needs your constant care and attention, reasonable goals and pure motives. Be
ego-less and realize that the only way to "make it" is to make it
happen a little more and a little better every day because you believe in your
art. None of us are going to make a million dollars at this, and none of us are
any more valid than the others. Remember that it's our job to be the
storytellers, the dreamers of dreams if you will. Music is what makes bad
situations bearable, helps us fall in love, gets us through our workdays and
our tragedies, reminds us of things that are true, and things that aren't.
We're the vessels; we're here to make everybody else's lives better. It's a
tough way to make a living, but it's one of the most beautiful ways to spend
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