There’s a female artist on the rise who isnt your ordinary, sleazy, cheesy pop star. She does not have background dancers. She does not employ pyrotechnics during her stage show. In fact, she does not even have a record deal. What she does have is talent, business savvy, and the ability to do whatever she damn well pleases. Her name is Martha Redbone.
Martha Redbone has been in the music making business for almost 2 years. She got her start working with George Clinton & the P-Funk All Stars. She was doing some illustration work on George Clintons 1996 release T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M. (The Awesome Power of a Fully Operational Mothership), which lead to her recording vocals for the legendary Clinton. It was a learning experience that helped her and musical partner Aaron Whitby craft their 2002 release Home of the Brave. But don’t expect to see Martha performing on BETs 106 & Park. The world may not be ready for what this sister of funk has ushered to the table. With eclectic joints like “Free” and jovial songs like “Vineyard,” you will wonder why she remains unsigned.
Admittedly, Martha is a hands-on kind of woman. She works the sound board when in the studio, she does her own marketing, answers her e-mails from her website, and does her own styling. When AHH Alternatives caught up with Martha she was rocking a loud, funky outfit that accompanied her outspoken nature.
AHHA: What would you classify your music as?
Martha: Well, according to todays format, I consider it soul music because music labeling has so many formats other people are dictating what our music is. So I think its all a bit of a mess. Media is trying to imply that any music that is black is hip-hop or R&B. R&B isnt just Aalyiah and Ashanti. R&B to me is still Otis Redding, Donnie Hataway, Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu, and me. There are guitars and stuff like that to and a lot of times when people hear guitars, the media tries to call it alterative music, alterative to what?
AHHA: So do you find that a big problem when you are trying to put your self out there?
Martha: No, cause I realize that these record labels are drowning in there own mess. They dont know what is going on, they put all these labels on things and throw it at the wall and they dont know how to work music anymore. Theyre dictating to demographics, they look at charts and numbers and not what people want to hear. Im on the road, I been on the road for about a year and a half with my album. Im unsigned, I have my own label, I produce my own record myself, I wrote all the songs with my partner and weve been on the road and evidence to me is the numbers of people who are out there wanting to hear music from someone totally unknown. People are so starved to hear real soul music. We play from here to California and when u go there its amazing. I had no idea that people would turn up in such large numbers. We are on a lot of college and independent radio stations, were on over a hundred of them and thats just with me being on the phone and sending out packages. I dont have management, I manage myself, I dont have marketing, I market myself. No, I’m not playing in Madison Square Garden yet, but you know I’m still playing in Joes Pub. All these other people play Joes Pub with major record deals, so Im doing the same gigs that theyre doing. I played in Village Underground in New York; I played in the House of Blues.
AHHA: Thats big in the south. A lot of artist will put them self out first before they even think about a record deal. A lot of people come to New York looking to get a record deal first.
Martha: Yea, sometimes they have to be careful not to get their priories wrong because you dont make music for a receipt and if your doing it because, if your thinking in back of your mind, you want to be on MTV or BET. You know if you want your face on there. Theres plenty of people who when you turn the TV on, there face is everywhere and you look at there bank account, they dont have any money. They have the fame and the glory, but at the end of the day, if theyre not up on their business and they have nothing to show for it. I have a lot of friends, 7 or 8, who have major record deals, and only one person has made it to the stores. At one point, when I first started I was looking for a major deal, but when I saw how they want to you in a category,
then that person working your project losses their job, and then everyone else wants you to be like last week news. Everyone wants to make his or her music like last week number 1. I never been like that. Even when I was a kid, I wasnt like that. So that wasnt going to work for me anyway. I write my own material and write for other people to.
AHHA: Where do you want your career to go in the next 5 years?
Martha: The same thing with a bigger house.
AHHA: How do u incorporate your Native American heritage in to your songs?
Martha: Well Im not waving the big flag. I thought it would be nice to honor both my parents in my music and I talk about my life and stuff. I didnt do it on purpose. We have one of the dancers on stage with us. When people listen to music they often forget where it coming from and there really a few acts who really show where they are coming from like earth wind and fire was always calling to Africa and I want to do the same thing.
AHHA: What is in your CD player right now?
Martha: Buddy Guy’s “Sweet Tea” album. You got to hear that album if u havent heard that album.
AHHA: Will any of that Buddy Guy sound leak on to the next CD?
Martha: Yea, cause I like to believe what I hear. That why a lot of todays pop music washes over me. I dont believe any of it. I dont believe these people. Thats why I love what I hear in the street. We just opened for Donnie and I believe him. I believe what hes singing. He an amazing little guy. Like what hes singing bout “Im happy to be nappy.” He says something about welcome to the colored section sign your name on the black list. That turns me on. Badu turns me on. I dont believe Ashanti. I dont believe in Mya, I believe they beautiful women, but go be a cover girl – get off the charts. Your wasting time and space and your bring down our music. I believe Beyonce. Mya youre beautiful and youre a great dancer but you cant sing and your not singing about anything we havent heard before. Inspire me, turn me on or get out of the way.