MARTIN COURTNEY – MANY MOONS
Martin Courtney has made a name for himself as singer and song writer for indie dream boats Real Estate since 2009, Ritual chat to him about his debut solo record Many Moons out now on Domino Records.
Many Moons is your first solo record outside of Real Estate, what made you decide to embark on this project at this stage of your career?
Basically, the timing just worked out right. I had done some loose jamming with Jarvis Taveniere (Woods) in the past and we had a couple song fragments but once I got started working on the most recent Real Estate record I was too busy to keep that up. Once that record was ‘in the can’, I started talking to Jarvis again about playing music together for fun. We refined the ideas we had been working on, I finished them as songs, then we went into a studio Jarvis was working out of at the time with Aaron Neveu, Woods’ drummer and started recording. It was never going to be a solo record but as the project progressed it started making more sense to call it that.
Did you want to explore new musical or lyrical ideas outside of the band?
We were definitely trying to think of ways to not sound like Real Estate. Some of these songs were written in a different style from what I had been used to in the past. Lyrically and musically, I was trying to be more straight forward, in a classic pop way. I wanted to write more simple, less personal lyrics but they still ended up being rooted in my own experience.
Are the songs on this record more personal to you than those written as a group?
Well, in Real Estate we don’t sit around writing as a group. Usually I’ll bring a song in and we will work on the arrangement together. The lyrics are always done solo though, so it wasn’t much different in that regard.
Were you able to explore themes you were unable to before?
Only insofar as I had new life experiences to write about. I felt the same amount of freedom to write about whatever I want in either project.
The backing band you brought in for Many Moons is a modern psychedelia dream team of sorts boasting Julian Lynch and members of Woods and Real Estate. How do you feel they helped shape the record?
They would probably find it hilarious to be called that. Really the only solid ‘band member’ on this record is Jarvis. He produced, played bass, and worked on the structures and arrangements with me. His style had a big effect on this record. Julian is awesome but he lives in Wisconsin. He was just visiting one day that I happened to be recording and he came by the studio and played a guitar solo, and a keyboard part, and sang backups on the song ‘Asleep’. His backwards soloing is great though, and he added this sort of dissonant organ chord during that section that I never would have thought to play. Matt Kallman (Real Estate) played keys on about half of the record, but we brought him in towards the end of the process. Again though, his playing is perfect and the record would definitely not be as good if he weren’t a part of it. He especially shines on the intro and outro of ‘Northern Highway’.
The string and flute arrangements are a pleasant addition to your songwriting. Did you enjoy experimenting with new instruments and recording processes?
Yeah, that was one of my favorite things during the making of this record. I loved writing the string arrangements. It was like putting a puzzle together, trying to write parts that would compliment the songs and fill a gap, but also harmonize in an interesting way and not be too obvious. The day we recorded those parts was really fun. I’d like to work with other instrumentation more in the future.
Can we look forward to another Martin Courtney release? Will you use the same band, or create a new line up of rotating players to give each project a different identity?
I really don’t know. I’m sure I’ll work with Jarvis again at some point, but I really can’t say if I’ll ever make another solo record. I guess it just depends on if the timing makes sense and I have the desire.
Watch the video for Northern Highway below.