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Some artists hit your radar like a meteor and just as quickly veer off into the void. Others craft ‘hits’ that become mainstays of media and memory, and so remain, ever fixated, tied to a time and place, maybe even to a moment in each of our lives. And some create music that, as good as it is on first release, doesn’t reach it’s full expression until there is some passage of time; some period of percolation, where it breathes, becomes distilled in its own juices and resonates against your singular life experience. The Motels, one of the original LA based ‘new wave’ bands of the late 70’s had a sound that definitely reflected a moment in the history of popular music. Unlike many of their contemporaries however, The Motels have sustained a notable career producing new material of consistently high quality, touring and evolving topically, musically and artistically.
Martha Davis, Motels founding member, musician, composer and vocalist extraordinaire is performing in what promise to be two diverse and significant local shows this week. For those that haven’t kept up, Martha has not only been playing 70 plus shows a year with The Motels, she has also produced a terrific solo album (2008’s ‘Beautiful Life’) a very nice collection of singles, and she is currently working on a jazz inflected album looking for an early 2015 release.
Wednesday December 3, at Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz in Bel Air, Davis, Hawkes & Jourard LLP, will be offering up what should be ‘an experiment in aural pleasure’ for all. For those that have stayed abreast of Davis’ career you know her writing has kept pace with the times. For some artists it is the fire of youth that inspires and ignites their creative and performing passions. For others it is a fire in their souls – and they remain relevant throughout every decade towards which they turn their focus. Martha Davis has a furnace worth of life and commentary on it. The idea of Davis, along with original Cars keyboardist Greg Hawkes and Motels keyboard and sax player Marty Jourard performing Davis’ most recent material is instantly intriguing. Really looking forward to their debut performance in what promises to be a special Los Angeles occasion. (And, for those who get it . . . Herb Alpert knows a little bit about sexy female singers!)
Then, on Friday December 5, Molly Malone’s will be presenting the final 2014 performance of Martha Davis and The Motels. Greg Hawkes will be joining Martha and Marty for that show as well.
For me, they both have MUST SEE written all over them
JE: You have such a breadth and depth of musical interests and talent. How do you decide which creative ideas work best with all the genres of music you are able to work within?
Martha Davis: Basically, I don’t have much choice in any of my creative ideas… The muse squad busts in with concepts or whatever new genres they’re interested in… They back me into a corner and don’t let me leave till I’ve satisfied they’re needs…
JE: Did the arrival of MTV effect your approach to writing and or performing?
MD: I don’t think so, I’ve always tried to write cinematically. I did learn very quickly that they were very different processes. The first time you go in front of a camera, using the exaggerated gestures of live performance, you can be in for a terrible shock!
JE: How has the process of maturing impacted the subjects you examine in your composing?
MD: At 63, drama is lessened, the lusting for it, over. That allows more freedom and the ability to pay greater attention . . . a perspective that encompasses all around you,. Greater insight, good stuff for songs, all becomes interesting . . . in other words . . . it’s a good thing.
JE: What advice would you give to artists who are just getting started in their careers?
MD: Love it, work your ass off, know you will fail and feel broken. If you really want it you have to get up and try again. It’s not for the faint of heart. But it’s the best most beautiful challenge in the world. The rewards to your heart and soul, immeasurable.
JE: How has interpreting songs from some of the very best of American composers influenced your own writing?
MD: Listening to music is often as raw and real as actual experiences . . . Music, I’m convinced, alters us, opens us. I have been listening to music since I was a small child, when I came in contact with my mothers amazing and wacky record collection. My first love when I was tiny was Igor Stravinsky. All of it has infiltrated me – and makes me easy prey for the muse squad.
JE: Was there a specific point where you recognized you had a real talent that was different from just having an interest in art / music?
MD: I don’t think I can pinpoint it, because I think it’s always been there. I’ve always been curious. Born that way . . . I think curiosity is what makes an artist. Wonder, searching, trying to find something new, it’s a quest. When the quest takes over your life, when you have no choice . . . you’re pretty much there. Where ever that is!
JE: Do you find you have one large audience for the different musical projects you undertake or is your audience segmented among Motels fans and jazz fans?
MD: I think there’s a good intermingling and cross-pollination. The thing is, it’s all down to songs. Are the songs good? Do they resonate? It doesn’t really matter what genre if the song is strong. Also, I think as you get older you’re open to a more eclectic musical pallet. It’s kind of like food – we get more adventurous. And now, this girls got to get back to rehearsal!
JE: Thank you Martha – can’t wait to see what are sure to be two terrific shows this week in Los Angeles.
For Wednesday’s Show (Davis, Hawkes & Jourard): Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz Bar
For Friday’s Show (Martha Davis & The Motels with Greg Hawkes): Molly Malone’s
Martha Davis and The Motels website.