The Windy City – Chicago, IL – is known for three major contributions to our collective culture, after the cement shoes, and that bovine-induced fire: Sports, Comedy and (of course) Music. Your girl in Music is suspicious of any Chicago native who isn’t enthusiastic about at least 2 of the 3, one of which must always be music (duh). The birthplace of Smashing Pumpkins, our favorite indie label Expat Records and home to Lollapalooza, Chicago is one of the most influential US cities contributing to today’s good music. So when we heard that our Chicago favorite, the infinitely talented Martha Berner was back on the scene we were beside ourselves at the chance to talk to her. Below, Martha shares some thoughts on the new album, Fools Fantasy, her new band, The Significant Others, and music in all its glory (ie Music + Moxies trademarke queries on gunpoint karaoke and guilty pleasures).
What is your favorite part about being you?
Wow, big question. I guess, as I get older, I’ve come to really appreciate the opportunities I have been given through music. Not everyone gets to share thoughts and ideas through music and performance. It’s not always easy, but I try not to take it for granted.
What first drew you to music?
The sense of community it creates amongst friends and strangers. I was drawn to the way music connects us.
Share your earliest music memory.
My earliest music memories are with my parents. Both had a deep appreciation for music. These memories range from watching my father sing and play guitar in church, or observing my mother’s deep connection with music and the way it nourished her (spiritually and emotionally), to sorting through my father’s old classic rock 45’s in the basement. Music was always celebrated in our household.
What have you been doing since the release of ‘…this side of yesterday’ six years ago?
Since my last release, I’ve been playing live with the new band and working on bringing this project forward. Getting the band together, the Significant Others, and allowing us time to really grow as a unit has made a really positive impact on the new album. I also spent time living abroad, in Thailand, where I worked as a writer and editor for a publishing company, and continued to write and play music. I love to travel, and living abroad is hard for me to resist.
How have you grown as a person or artist that makes you most excited for your fans to experience?
The new album really showcases the songs interpreted as a group, as a band. In the past, I was more of a solo artist. Bringing my songs to a group of musicians who I felt shared a common vision was, for me, the most important next step. I enjoyed challenging the songs, as I knew them, and opening myself up to new directions and ideas. To find a group of talented musicians and feel comfortable saying to them, “Hey, let’s let you do what you do best”, is just the beginning. To then find a common vision, allowing every member to feel like they are able to take the direction they envision, can be tricky and not easy to accomplish. But we did accomplish that. I know that each member is equally excited and satisfied with the work they put into this record.
What are your goals for this album?
My goals for this album are the same as for any album, really. You want it to be heard and appreciated, perhaps even loved, right? Ha ha. Ultimately, whatever I can do to keep loving music and putting out albums – that’s the goal.
What is your fans role in your day to day as an artist?
In today’s music especially, fans play a huge role. The whole industry has centered itself around the fans. From social media like facebook and twitter, to live shows – the whole thing is nothing without the support of the listener. Fans play a role in every day. Who am I reaching out to, if not the fans? And it’s great to hear from fans or see activity happening around your music. It inspires me to keep going. It’s about connecting.
Tell me about your most memorable show or moment on stage.
My most memorable show/s have taken place while living abroad. There’s nothing like trading songs in front of a campfire in the middle of the mountains, no electricity, with a group of individuals with whom music is your common language. For me, the people of Burma have always embodied the spirit of music in a way that gets to the root of what music is for.
What inspires you in the day to day?
The day to day is what inspires me. It’s the little things in life. A great cup of coffee or tea, loved ones, a good book. And don’t forget food and drink!
What is the strangest thing that’s ever inspired a song?
Sitting in my totaled car after being hit by a train. The accident inspired two songs, actually, and was a bit of a lifesaver. I thought to myself, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming [today]. “ I had been feeling very depressed for some time and the accident opened my eyes to the reality that every day is a new day, and you never know what’s about to happen. And that’s a good thing!
Give me some insight into your music + songwriting process.
In the past, I’ve mostly put songs together all at once, so to speak. Find a chord progression I like, and then put a melody and lyrics together as I move through the song, making decisions about new chord progressions, melodies and lyrics as I go. However, that’s really begun to change for me. I’m now thinking mostly in rythms and am doing a lot of lyric writing separately. Then I experiment with putting different ideas together and observe how they change each other.
What is the most ridiculous gig you’ve taken on as an artist/musician?
Well, that has got to be the time I played a fashion show in Thailand, dressed in traditional Thai garb, singing folk songs in honor of the King’s birthday. It was great. I walked the runway and everything!
Whats next for the band?
The band and I are excited about the release of our new album, Fool’s Fantasy. We’ve got a new music video on the way and are looking forward to upcoming CD releases and getting the word out about the new album.
You’re forced at gunpoint to get your karaoke on; go!
I’m horrible at karaoke! My best performance, however, was probably Paradise City by Guns ‘n Roses.
Name your Guilty Music Pleasure
We highly recommend you check out her new album Fool’s Fantasy, out today, December 13, 2011. Before you do, you can listen to and download the track “Cry” off the album for free here.