Walter Martin (USA)
Walter Martin (USA)
January 29 2016 saw Walter Martin, co-writer, lyricist and multi-instrumentalist of The Walkmen, release ‘Arts & Leisure’ - a collection of songs that take inspiration from Martin’s years of world travel as a musician, his younger days working in art museums and what he refers to as his “shaky grasp of college art history.” The inventive use of drums and percussion, conversational lyrical approach, and trademark vintage instrumentation that Martin brought to The Walkmen are employed to wondrous new effect on his first big production since the band split.
His solo debut was 2014’s much-loved kids’ album ‘We’re All Young Together.’ This unexpected departure served as a palate cleanser for Martin after years in bands and, surprisingly for Martin, the album found miraculous success. As he explains, “I was about to apply for a job at Kinko’s or something and then suddenly all these great things started happening with the kids’ album.”
Most importantly, he credits ‘We’re All Young Together’ with helping him find a way to write songs that made sense for Martin himself to sing. Walter explains, “Through writing songs about rattlesnakes and chimpanzees, I figured out how to write lyrics that express my inner self in a voice that’s indistinguishable from how I naturally talk and joke around. Thankfully I was able translate it to non-animal subject matters.“
After years writing for what he refers to as the "collective personality” of his previous band, Martin now finds himself writing for a personality that is all his own—one characterised by a unique blend of absurd humour and sincere emotion. “I’m no good at talking about the art I like but I feel like these songs express in an unfussy way some things that I like about certain artists and ideas.” Arts & Leisure was originally conceived as an “art- themed comedy album” but after two years of writing and rewriting, the album developed into something far richer. Martin explains, “I wrote all these funny songs and I got sick of them. Then I wrote all these serious songs and realized they were boring. Then I broke my back writing a two minute song about Alexander Calder’s miniature circus and I thought it was perfect—it was whimsical and weird but also had personal ideas about art tucked in there that gave it the depth and warmth I was looking for. So, lyrically, that was the starting point."
Whether he’s making prank calls from the switchboard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, admiring the high-back chairs in a tearoom in Glasgow, or casually dismissing all eighteenth century European art during a museum visit, Martin’s stories have the familiar warmth of a conversation with an old friend. These songs feel as much like a collection of personal letters as they do a rock ‘n’ roll album. While offering a perspective that is distinctly modern, Walter Martin’s Arts & Leisure is rooted in an old tradition and serves as a reminder that there is still sublime power in the marriage of great music and great storytelling.