The Seed

Post 3 of 8 :: Mixing Metaphors: One Artist’s Passage from Humming Child to Singer-Songwriter Recording Artist

Bev Barnett & Greg Newlon

Singing with Bev & Greg, Roudon Smith Winery, October 27, 2007

Bev & Greg spotted me at a church talent show when, having finally bought myself a guitar for my 40th birthday, I played and sang one of a handful of songs I had learned around the campfire – John Prine’s “Paradise.” They knew me already as a classical cellist with composing and recording experience. Not long afterwards, Greg called me and asked if I’d like to play a cello line on a song for their upcoming album.

Of course I said yes, and I made my non-classical recording debut on cello in their gorgeous and bittersweet (i.e. perfect for cello) song, “Eloise” from Any Doorway Will Do. It was during that recording session that Greg gave me a morsel I have pondered since and later became the subject of a blog post. The gist of it is that in order to do music well … anything really … you have to get over the fact that it’s you doing it. This is probably the most valuable thing I learned in my 2 years singing and playing with Bev & Greg over many shows, including several out of state.

There were so many firsts in my time with them: first time singing into a microphone, first time writing a cello part for a non-classical recording, first time singing backup, first time performing percussion, first time singing and playing percussion at the same time, first time getting paid to sing, first time traveling to perform music. I also learned how to write vocal harmonies, both in terms of proper pitching and proper musical arrangement, by listening to Greg’s painstaking work to write high harmony parts for me. This was the first time realizing that simply “pulling a harmony” on the fly is fun, but not always musically accurate or even advisable.

With this bucket of knowledge to draw from, I also became (and learned actually to believe that I was) a great backup singer. I learned how to blend, how to be present without upstaging the leads, and how to love every moment of being on stage and making beautiful music that moved people to grateful tears. Their music is that good, and the harmonies, so carefully crafted, are that sweet. You can see a selection of my favorite videos singing with them here.

I also learned from watching Bev sing. I had and to some degree still have insecurities about my singing, which are probably shared by other women who have the audacity to sing lead. My young female self ingested deep directives not to take up space, and singing lead is nothing but. Yet I watched Bev sing anyway, and beautifully. I asked her once when she realized she had a great voice. She laughed, then said she didn’t believe she could sing well until she was in her 40s. I took that to heart, and I credit watching Bev with planting a seed to try to write and sing my own music.

Later, after MapleDream (an original girl band I co-founded, the subject of an upcoming blog post) ended, and long after I sang my last show with Bev & Greg, Greg became a musical mentor to me. Over the course of about a year, he taught me about songwriting and chording, and he put several of my songs on solo guitar and thereby taught me how to do it myself, another subject about which I’ve blogged. In other words, he taught me how to be a solo singer-songwriter. Still later, it was Greg who, when I asked his advice about how to record an EP, steered me to Kenny Schick, my producer. Greg’s mentoring is tough and unvarnished, but full of a steady, encouraging love, and I am grateful to him and to Bev for everything they gave me.

To say that I owe Bev & Greg a lot is a massive understatement. I think it’s fair to say I positively would not be where I am today if not for them. Thank you, Bev & Greg … very, very much. And let’s sing again together sometime … I still remember my parts ❤️.


To learn more about Bev Barnett & Greg Newlon, please visit their website bevandgreg.com


My new album, THESE HANDS, is available wherever you like to buy and listen to music. Click the button below to listen to the album, and please consider a purchase if you like what you hear. Thank you!

The Question

Post 2 of 8 :: Mixing Metaphors: One Artist’s Passage from Humming Child to Singer-Songwriter Recording Artist

Michèle Sharik

Michèle Sharik is an insanely talented handbell soloist, which is pretty much just as amazing as it sounds. I once played (and recorded!) with her a piece that was commissioned for her called Relentless, which in the classical music world we affectionately call a “pan-banger.” In this piece, she plays two full 8-foot tables of instruments (handbells, chimes, percussion), while I simply play … my cello, but in highly unusual ways. You can find a recording of it … done playing together in one full take … here. You can also hear another recording I did with Michèle that I love love love, Gounoud’s Ave Maria, here. And just one more little gem I did with her on that album … La Paix by Handel here.

Playing Gounoud’s Ave Maria in concert with Michèle Sharik, 2007

I remember the first time she asked me to play with her in a concert … and offered to pay me. It reminded me of New Years 1984, when a highly attractive Canadian chatted me up in a bar in Brussels, Belgium. He was so good looking I was sure he was talking to someone behind me. In my defense, it *was* dark ….

That’s how it felt when Michèle asked me to be her cellist. I had never considered myself good enough at any type of music to be paid, much less featured. I remember the first time we performed Relentless together in concert … I laughed after the last note because I was so delighted that we had ended exactly together (it’s a tricky ending). I *think* she found that endearing since she asked me to play another concert with her shortly thereafter …

Michèle and I played several concerts together, and I was the featured cellist on the three tracks of her Chimera CD I mention above. My work with her opened the door to playing with Bev Barnett & Greg Newlon (the subject of my next blog post) and recording on their CD Any Doorway Will Do as well as other cello recording projects.

It may have gone no where with the handsome Canadian, but if it were not for Michèle’s surprising and life-altering question, I would not be where I am today. I am intensely grateful to her for asking.


To learn more about Michèle and her work, please visit her website thegoldendance.com.


To listen to and purchase Martha’s new album THESE HANDS, please visit her page on Bandcamp.com or click the button below. Thank you for visiting and reading!

The Call

Post 1 of 8 :: Mixing Metaphors: One Artist’s Passage from Humming Child to Singer-Songwriter Recording Artist

Classical Origins

I asked my then 10-year-old daughter what she thought after seeing me perform as a lead singer in an over-the-top costume cover band (the subject of an upcoming blog post). She was old enough to be able to process her mother’s doing something that outlandish, but fortunately not yet old enough to be mortified by it. She answered with the direct, clear-eyed honesty of her age: “You were doing exactly what I think you are supposed to be doing.”

Just like every girl growing up in the 70s (or so I imagine), I wanted to be a folk singer. My parents listened mostly to classical music, but also to Simon & Garfunkel and the Kingston Trio, and I knew every song in detail – melodies, harmonies, and lyrics. I also grew up around campfires where angsty college students with guitars – almost all of them young men – poured out Neil Young, Eagles, and America like water, and every girl in the fire’s glow lapped it up. That felt like the closest thing to real life.

Ballard High School Orchestra Rehearsal, Louisville, KY, 1981

At my house, however, music lessons were classical, and they started with the neighborhood piano teacher. By high school, I was playing piano concerti by Mozart and Beethoven. I also took up the cello in the sixth grade, and I was always the kid in choir that got the solos, so I started classical voice lessons in high school, with plenty of Caro Mio Ben and Sebben Crudele to feed the agony in my pubescent psyche.

My classical training was not what I had in mind back when I was singing wistfully around the campfire, but I am grateful for it because my it allows me to understand music and musicianship in ways that I would not otherwise. I even considered auditioning for music conservatory instead of applying to college, and for many years, I regretted not trying. Now that I am writing, recording, and performing my own music, however, I realize that this is where my heart was all along, and I wonder if conservatory might have steered me so far from this path that I may never have found it.

My daughter’s vision into my heart, even though my performance that day was far from perfect, reminds me that I am on the right track. Thank God I asked.


To listen to and purchase my new album THESE HANDS, please visit my page on Bandcamp.com or click the button below. Thank you for visiting and reading!