Openly gay Sydney singer-songwriter Liz Martin — perhaps best known to queer listeners for her collaborations with DJs such as Paul Mac — abandons the electronic sound of her earlier works with her newly-released third album, Dance A Little, Live A Little.
But just because the synths are gone, doesn’t mean Martin’s making sedate coffee-shop muzak. Dance A Little’s mix of classy pop and gorgeous ballads take inspiration from everything from glam rock to New Orleans big bands.
“What made it really interesting for me this time around was playing with such a wide variety of musicians, many of whom were friends,” Martin told the Star Observer.
“There are a bunch of jazz musicians on there, a gypsy violinist — they all seemed to get where I was coming from and brought different influences to the album.”
There’s even a David Bowie cover, with guest vocalist Mr Percival joining the singer for a jazzy take on Sound and Vision.
“I love David Bowie and I love the song, but more than that, the lyrics matched my mood at the time I wrote these songs. I had some [hip] surgery that was meant to have a six-week recovery period, and it ended up being five and a half months.
“The lyrics are all about sitting and waiting for creativity to fall on you, which I did a lot in that time.”
Martin also lost her father to cancer during the writing process. It’s interesting that out of what must have been an incredibly difficult time came some very positive, life-affirming songs.
“My dad’s way through [his illness] was so peaceful and loving — he gave so much in that time and he was very generous with himself. It made me realise a positive outlook is important. I didn’t want to get down and miserable.”
That realisation seems to have freed Martin creatively — she took the plunge and posed nude in the ocean for the album’s sleeve artwork (“I’m typically a large-T-shirt-wearing girl, so it definitely took me out of my comfort zone”), shot by friend Paola Talbert.
She also maintained a positive disposition on the sometimes-tough life of an independent artist, saying the creative rewards far outweighed the financial difficulties.
“You’re not working for the man. You get to have relationships with your fellow musos in a really lovely way without being told what to do. Financially, it makes no sense,” she laughed.
“But creatively, it’s beautiful. For instance, this album’s very different from my previous records, which were more electronic. Independent, I’ve got that freedom to move and bend my sound.”
Helped, no doubt, by the fact that Martin lives in a 28-strong artistic commune in Sydney’s inner west.
“I’m surrounded by artists and musos and dancers. It really normalises the creative lifestyle.”
info: Liz Martin launches Dance A Little, Live A Little (Vitamin Records) on Saturday, April 9 at Notes in Newtown. Visit www.lizmartin.com.au