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Monday, May 5, 2014

EXCLUSIVE Q&A with Martha Redbone

In 2007, Martha Redbone was awarded the Independent Music Award for her album, Skintalk. Ms Redbone is one of the brilliant lights in the firmament of voices of the indie music business and is independent in spirit and artistic direction as well. She is not a flavor of the month. She is here to stay. It was my pleasure to be able to do this Q&A with her. Thanks to the artist as well as her publicist, Bernadette Quigley, who arranged this interview with me. 

DJ Buddy Beaverhausen: Martha, thank you so much for doing this interview with us. I'm thrilled your album, Garden of Love, is now nominated for Best Concept Album at the upcoming Independent Music Awards.  How do you feel about it?

Martha Redbone: It’s always an honor to be recognized for your work. This particular project is extra special because it was a sort of tribute to my family.

DBB: What inspired you to put the poems of William Blake to music? And to reinvent them as blues and honky-tonk and rock ballads?

MR: My partner Aaron Whitby rediscovered the book on our living room shelves and it immediately opened up to the poem “A Poison Tree”. He thought the poem was great and might make a great song. Then I checked it out and started humming a honky-tonk blues kind of melody and before we knew it we had a song. We flipped through a few more pages and found another. And another and so on. We ended up with about 50 poems we loved the language and imagery which described Appalachia and Black Mountain to me. The language reminded me of what I imagined my great-great grandmother might sing in church.

DBB: Garden of Love is your fourth album in 11 years. How do you think your music may have evolved over this time span?

MB: The music has always been soulful; this hasn’t changed. There has always been music played with real instruments by real musicians. The style has changed but it’s always been the roots of American music, be it blues, soul, rock, funk. All these things are Americana to me.

DBB: Who are the musicians who most strongly influenced you and your music in your life?

MR: This is always a tough one because there are hundreds. I can’t name a first person because they are equally important in my music influence, so I will say that my family has strongly influenced the music in my life. From the music in the mountains growing up in a Harlan County coal-mining family, to the sound of blues and soul music on the stereo my parents would dance to at dinner parties. Then my own personal influences.... I’m a singer today mostly because of two powerful women: Buffy Sainte-Marie and Chaka Khan.

DBB: Lady Gaga, Vampire Weekend, Beyoncé and you (among others) are on pop music critic Robert Christgau's Dean's List that was reprinted on the Barnes & Noble site. What's it like for you to find yourself in that company?

MR: To be honest, I think I help give those pop icons some credibility being on that list. 

DBB: I think you're absolutely right!

MR: Mr. Christgau’s a very intelligent man and I’m so thankful he got to hear AND ENJOY our album. If I were they, I’d be honored to have an independent musician with an album of William Blake poems set to music... once I’d figured out who William Blake was. Ha!

DBB: What was your experience working on this album with Nitty Gritty Dirt Band founder and GRAMMY winner John McEuen like for you?

MR: We had a blast on that album; the musicians were a dream come true. Byron House, Mark Casstevens, Debra Dobkin, Aaron Whitby, David Hoffner in Nashville and LA… and the background singers, Keith Fluitt, Mary Wormworth, Michael Inge, Ann Klein in NYC. We had the dream ensemble and it was a dream to record. John’s arrangements to our songs are simply gorgeous. Nicholas Sevilla is our mixing engineer who put the magic touches on the finishing and the guys who mastered it truly MASTERED it. John is a legendary recording and touring musician, he knows a lot about a lot. And he’s very funny.

DBB: As a Native American, did the voices of other women of Native American backgrounds ~ Buffy St Marie or Rita Coolidge ~ inspire you whatsoever?

MR: Of course, as I said earlier, I am a singer/songwriter today partly because of Buffy Sainte-Marie. I saw someone on TV who looked like my mother breast feeding her baby on Sesame Street and singing songs she had written about the injustices of the world, her culture, her homeland. Fearless, she walks the walk. I want to be her when I grow up.

DBB: Could you tell us a little about your growing up and what music you were exposed to in your home and throughout your formative years?

MR: Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Dolly Parton, BB King, Aretha Franklin, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, James Brown, The Staple Singers, Doobie Brothers, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac. The list goes on and on for childhood.

DBB: Besides the glowing review you received from Christgau, who once wrote for the Village Voice, the Village Voice recently wrote you were "poised to be Americana's next superstar." Are you prepared to take that mantle on?

MR: In the words of amazing musician friend Meshell Ndegeocello “Stars tend to fall, I’d much rather be a moon.” I couldn’t agree more.

DBB: The independent music business. There is a large and ever-growing market for it among the public in the USA and around the world. As an indie artist, what are your thoughts on this phenomenon? And, surely, there are advantages and disadvantages you experience as an indie artist. Could you discuss those as well?

MR: I’ve always been indie, from the very beginning. Never had a major record deal; never had the experience of a big machine working behind me. So I can’t speak on how that might feel. But my independent music journey has brought me so much joy, so much closer to the people, grassroots, has allowed me to become deeply involved with causes I believe in,’s Artist Against Hunger & Poverty program, ManUp Campaign, Bayou Healers Cultural Camp, The Great Anishinaabe Canoe Races, Dennis Banks’ Sacred Run. All these causes helping to preserve our culture and encourage community support. These are gifts that being an indie artist bring me.

DBB: Martha Redbone, again I thank you and wish you the best on your brilliant new album. Any last shout-outs to our readers around the world?

MR: Thanks so much for your belief and support of our music! As an indie artist we do not exist without you, so if you discover us and like the music, please help us out by spreading the word, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and any other social media outlets.

[Please check out the following link ~ Bj Buddy Beaverhausen  ]

1 comment:

  1. Great interview of one of our most talented modern vocalists.