Like most local musicians, Angela Faye Martin has a day job. In her case, it’s at a library—which, upon listening to Martin’s music, seems an obvious fit. Authors and literary allusions pop in and out of her songs, which are often played and sung with a certain hush that simultaneously suggests an uncommon intimacy and the fear of getting shushed by the old lady at the reference desk. To Martin, the books that surround her 9-to-5 life aren’t just a paycheck; they are a compulsion and—more often than not—a muse.
“Literary figures and what they might think of this era haunt my thoughts,” Martin reveals. “I’ve felt some responsibility to my favorite writers for my love of writing. I also think it’s important to re-contextualize art figures into our time.”
The literary obsession that seems to drive Martin is also a success model of sorts.
“A good book drives you to your knees in gratitude when you’ve read it,” she says.
Martin’s own outlet, however, is songwriting.
“I’ve written songs since I was a teen and played with some good musicians before leaving songwriting and performing about 12 years ago,” she notes.
Ultimately, Martin’s departure from music for her other passion, conservationism, caused her to not only leave her roots in northern Georgia for the Western North Carolina mountains, but also turned out to be the source of an unexpected creative spark: meeting fellow singer/songwriter Thomas Rain Crowe.
“I learned a lot in doing [conservation work], but my path is back on music and writing now,” Martin reports. “I might not have met Thomas if it hadn’t been for taking that turn on the conservation path.” She recalls that she first encountered Crowe at a conservation roundtable hosted by a friend at Brevard College.
“I was impressed with his humble demeanor, considering his stature as a well-known author and poet,” she says. “He gardens and rocks, which is high in my book. He’s been a friend and mentor ever since we met.”
Crowe, who will be headlining a performance at The Grey Eagle, which also features Martin, is a local poet, publisher and recording artist who first made a name for himself as part of the so-called “Baby Beat” clique of poets in mid-‘70s San Francisco. It’s no surprise that Martin’s co-conspirator is also something of a bookworm.
But books aren’t the only things that tickle Martin’s fancy. Much like the music she creates, her inspirations as a musician run the gamut from jazzy standards to creepy lullabies to classic rock staples.
“Right now, I’m listening to a lot of Sparklehorse and Nina Simone,” she says. “But I grew up playing along to British-invasion rock.”
Although her influences are wide-ranging, Martin is her own artist. Her songs are instantly familiar, with occasional emotional arcs that seem to erupt from the speakers. More than just her voice and literary-leaning lyrics, her songs feature layer upon layer of observations, inside jokes and confessions. What’s more, her songs work as a time capsule of sorts, chronicling her journey in the most personal way possible.
“I just want to feel like I’ve expressed something that I can’t convey any other way,” she offers. “It’s an avenue for connecting with something that transcends time and certainly my brief existence.”
And you thought the Dewey Decimal System was complex.
[Jason Bugg is a freelance writer based in Asheville.]
who: Angela Faye Martin opening for Thomas Rain Crowe & The Boatrockers
what: Literary-minded folk music
where: Grey Eagle
when: Wednesday, Dec. 19 (8 p.m. $7. www.thegreyeagle.com or 232-5800)