Martin Courtney

A New Phase

Jan 06, 2016 Photography by Ray Lego Issue #55 - November/December 2015 - EL VY
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The passage of time has a particular habit of finding its way into the music of Martin Courtney. Across the three albums he has released thus far with his band Real Estatestarting with the group's 2009 self-titled debut, to 2011's Days, and last year's Atlasthe New Jersey-raised frontman regularly expounds on the memories of the beautifully mundane. Sitting in the shade of a beechwood tree, floating in an inner tube, aimless drives through green aisles, walking on decomposing leaves, staring at shadows on sidewalksCourtney has a knack for understanding it's the little things that can best convey something temporal and true.

As skilled as he is at capturing time, however, it was having time to kill that allowed Courtney to produce his debut solo album, Many Moons. "I don't want to say it happened by accident but the idea of making an LP, that wasn't what I set out to do," he says. "It was just to do something else I guess. It was basically for fun. The whole time in my mind I was just like, 'Oh, I'll make this record and put it out under the radar, maybe it will do well, maybe it won't. It doesn't really matter, and maybe I won't tour or whatever.' And it just got a little more serious as it progressed."

With the help of Woods' Jarvis Taveniere, serving as the effort's bass player and producer, Courtney sporadically developed the album between Real Estate's recording and tours behind Atlas. While Many Moons still exhibits much of the familiar clean, jangly guitar pop listeners would expect from a Real Estate album, there are flourishes of experimentation, including the use of orchestral arrangements and three-part vocal harmonies. "It was such a different experience because it was so low stakes," says Courtney. "We really were doing it in our spare time. I think that kind of freed up the vibe a little bit. With Real Estate and Atlas we spent eight months writing songs, we traveled to Chicago, we recorded the record spending two weeks in the studio there. It was a much more concentrated, intense kind of experience, and that leads to a certain type of result. And I think it's just different types of working. With this record it was like, 'We'll get to it when we get to it.' At a certain point it was like, 'Are we ever going to finish this thing?' I'm almost surprised that there's even a record to show for it because we could have easily recorded five half-songs and gotten busy with other things."

Among these other things was Courtney's newly designated role as a father, something that provided plenty of inspiration to Many Moons. "[Having a child] was kind of the major factor in my life at that point. The interesting thing is that I finished writing every song for Atlas before my wife even got pregnant. That didn't contribute at all to the last Real Estate record, the idea of being a dad. And then I didn't start writing these songslyrically especiallyuntil after I found out I was going to be a dad and then became a dad. This record was sort of written throughout that whole time, through pregnancy and then after [my daughter] was born. One song, 'Vestiges,' I'm talking about the things I see around myself, my world where I live, that are obviously remnants or leftovers from say 20 or 30 years ago, and then wondering what will be the version of that for my kid when she's my age. What's going to be left over from now."

With the record finished and some small supporting shows in the works, Courtney says he'll naturally be turning his attention back to his primary musical outlet in the coming months, writing new material. On previous Real Estate records he admits he spent a lot of time fretting about whether or not a song was good enough. In that regard Courtney hopes the vibe of Many Moons carries over at least a bit. "This was a little more mellow," he says. "It wound up being a nice learning experience."

[Note: This article first appeared in Under the Radar's November/December Issue, which is still on newsstands. This is its debut online.]




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