“It was still rare to see ‘out’ queer female musicians in the mainstream, even in the early 1990s”
BY ELEANOR NOYCE, IMAGE BY MARTHA D. LEWIS
Martha D. Lewis has been making music since the 1990s. Collaborating as part of musical duo Martha and Eve, the pair built up a fanbase of LGBTQI women. Her latest solo album, All That You See, arrived on 8 April 2022.
DIVA: All That You See is out now – congratulations! Could you tell me a little bit about this project?
This will be my sixth album, and my third as a solo artist. Between 2018 and 2020, I had written around 30 songs. I decided that it was time to make a new record with this new direction of an indie jazz singer songwriter vibe. I called my long-term collaborator Nick Cohen, and we then narrowed the song selection down to sixteen tracks. I’m very proud of the sound and very grateful to all the amazing musicians that have helped me to create this album.
DIVA: Could you tell me about the tracks on the album? What kind of narrative are you hoping to channel with this project?
The album began with a very strong narrative pull towards social commentary. I was midway to writing the songs when my soulmate of 30 years – Debbie Dickinson – passed away unexpectedly. This loss was devastating to me, and I thought I would never write or perform again. A year later, I emerged from a very dark place of major grief and started to write some songs about loss and finding hope again. Personally, ‘A.I.Man’ is a standout song for me. It’s all about how humanity is creating its own expiration.
DIVA: You’ve been active as a musician since the 1990s, working with the likes of Eve Polycarpou. What inspired you to start performing music? Who are your biggest musical influences?
The most significant influences on my musical career were the women who pushed the boundaries of gender expectation. Karen Carpenter was my first influence. I’d never seen a female drummer who was also lead singer before. Coming from my Greek background where my destiny as a girl was pre-determined to be a wife and mother, Karen showed me that women from other cultures were not restricted by their gender. And with her androgynous image and outspoken political edge, Patti Smith shattered the boundaries of art, genre and gender.
DIVA: The music scene has changed a lot over the years, and LGBTQI representation in the music industry has come a long way. What was it like performing in the 1990s as queer musicians, particularly queer female musicians, were growing in visibility?
It was still rare to see ‘out’ queer female musicians in the mainstream, even in the early 1990s. The success of artists like Joan Armatrading and Tracy Chapman was so massive and mainstream, and even though their sexuality was known, little was made of it. In 1993, sparked by the enormous popularity of the Vanity Fair cover pic of Cindy Crawford and k.d lang ‘lesbian chic’ was born and the trickle of queer female musician visibility into mainstream began. Enter k.d lang and Mellissa Etheridge who were out, loud and proud.
DIVA: What do your LGBTQI fans mean to you and how do you engage with your fanbase?
When Martha and Eve first came onto the music scene at the end of the 80s, there was a strong vibrant music scene full of women’s music festivals and LGBTQI clubs in UK and in Europe. That is where our core LGBTQI fan base was built. We were all so young and it feels like we’ve all grown up together. Those supporters still mean the world to us, and we love to engage and share those histories at our shows.
DIVA: What does the future look like for you? Have you got any upcoming tour dates/big bucket list things you’d like to achieve?
I’m excited about the tour for my album All That You See, which begins in Autumn 2022. I can’t wait to tour the material and be out in front of live audiences again. The songs and messages in this album are heartfelt and reflect where I am as an older artist. Eve and I are also planning something special for our 35 years of music partnership at the end of this year and into next year. My bucket list? I will keep on making music until I drop.
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