Charlotte Martin dances past "Needles" to a happy ending
After suffering from intercostal neuralgia, a nerve disorder that left her incapacitated for much of the past year, singer/songwriter Charlotte Martin is ready for the happy ending.
She's celebrating in early 2011 with two releases: her new album, "Dancing on Needles," is due in stores Feb. 1, and the birth of a new baby in due mid-March.
"I'm giving birth to a baby, giving birth to an album," Martin told SoundSpike.
Produced by her husband Ken Andrews, formerly of the alternative rock band Failure, the rapturous album traces Martin's struggle with the disorder. She first noticed symptoms in July 2009, when her then-newborn son, Ronan, slept on her body.
"I slept with him for the first year in the same spot, his head on my left shoulder," said Martin, who is expecting a girl this time. "About a year later, I got some numbness in my back. It was off and on for awhile. I thought, 'Gosh I should probably get him off my body now.' But I continued to lift. He's a big boy and I'm not a big girl.
"One day I remember doing a set of push ups, and something just snapped, and it went from numb to pain [in October 2009]. It was a really confusing, painful journey trying to figure out what exactly it was. You'd be surprised. There are a lot of doctors that didn't know what it was. They really thought it was muscles or tendons. But I've got this burning shooting thing happening. It continued to get worse. It was really awful."
Now her disorder is "pretty much healed." She has a tiny flare here and there, but it took almost a full year for her to feel better.
"Being in that kind of pain, it messed with my body in other ways and all the intense drugs I was on for the pain, it messed up my body hormonally," Martin said. "I'm healing from getting off all that medicine. But the actual injury is so much better. It's 95 percent gone, which is a miracle. I was told two years and it took about a year."
But during that painful year, she continued to write. Unable to stand or sit at the piano for extended periods of time, Martin was forced to write and record the album in pieces.
"Pain has always inspired my writing throughout the last 10 years," Martin said. "But with this kind of pain, I would have to work in brief moments of lots of Vicodin and Percocet. Once one would kick in, I'd slap a Lidocaine patch on my back. This is before I even know it was neuralgia. I'd get it and write a song. There would be no editing, no mulling over it. 'I think I have something to say right now. I'm just going to get it out. If it's good, great. If it's not, great.'
"I wrote not very often. It took awhile. Sometimes it would be a song a month. Sometimes it would be a song every two weeks. My husband, who's a producer, ended up doing a lot of the production. This is very much his record as it is mine, whereas in the past I was really involved in the production -- every little drum sound -- especially on my last album 'Stromata.' I programmed a lot of that record. I just couldn't [this time]. I was too messed up."
So instead, she e-mailed everything to Andrews, who has produced Beck and Pete Yorn, and he took the helm. "When I started to get better, I started to overdub and really sing songs," Martin added.
To celebrate the release of her album, the very pregnant Martin will perform three shows in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles in January. (See itinerary at right.)
"Well, for right now, my OB has let me out of my prison to do a few shows in January since I'll be near major hospitals," Martin said, with a laugh. "I think he's going to go to the L.A. show just in case I pop right there on stage, which would be funny."
As for touring in the long term, she's playing that by ear.
"I'm due in the middle of March," Martin said. "We'll see where the record's at. I think I could do a short run with a newborn. Ronan started traveling with me when he was about 4 months old. I had to have help, but he's been to the East Coast twice. It does tend to get more difficult the more mobile they are. Having an 18-month-old in a van -- that was interesting. He did really well. I could not do the shows I did before I had a kid, where it was back to back craziness. We had to have days off. We had to go to the zoo, stay in nice hotels. But this is my happy ending."