Walter Martin is a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist best known for his work with rock 'n' roll bands The Walkmen (lyricist, co-writer, multi-instrumentalist 2000-2013) and Jonathan Fire*Eater (co-writer, organist 1994-1998). In 2014 he launched a solo career with the release of We're All Young Together, a critically acclaimed and award winning children's album. On January 29, 2016, Martin released Arts & Leisure, a new album of original songs for adults. The album received much critical acclaim and has been featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR's All Things Considered, Pitchfork and SPIN.
On May 5, 2017, Martin is releasing My Kinda Music a new album intended to be listened to while making pancakes or driving on family car trips.
About the other solo albums:
On January 29th 2016, Walter Martin released Arts & Leisure — a collection of songs that take inspiration from Martin’s years of world travel as a musician, his younger days working in art museums and what he refers to as his “shaky grasp of college art history.” The inventive use of drums and percussion, conversational lyrical approach, and trademark vintage instrumentation that Martin brought to the Walkmen are employed to wondrous new effect on his first big production since the band split. Martin’s years of behind-the-scenes writing seem to have been the ideal staging ground for this inspired new chapter.
Martin’s solo debut was 2014’s much-loved kids’ album We’re All Young Together. This unexpected departure served as a palate cleanser for Martin after years in bands and, surprisingly for Martin, the album found miraculous success. As he explains, “I was about to apply for a job at Kinko’s or something and then suddenly all these great things started happening with the kids’ album.” The album won a Parents’ Choice award and its songs were featured in two major advertising campaigns — one for iPhone and one for Android. Additionally, the album produced a longstanding #1 single for Sirius XM’s family station and was embraced by national press outlets including NPR’s All Things Considered, NPR’s Morning Edition, The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today and Spin.
But most importantly, Martin credits We’re All Young Together with helping him find a way to write songs that made sense for Martin himself to sing. Martin explains, “Through writing songs about rattlesnakes and chimpanzees, I figured out how to write lyrics that express my inner self in a voice that’s indistinguishable from how I naturally talk and joke around. Thankfully I was able translate it to non-animal subject matters.“ After years writing for what he refers to as the "collective personality” of his previous band, Martin now finds himself writing for a personality that is all his own — one characterized by a unique blend of absurd humor and sincere emotion. “I’m no good at talking about the art I like but I feel like these songs express in an unfussy way some things that I like about certain artists and ideas.” Arts & Leisure was originally conceived as an “art- themed comedy album” but after two years of writing and rewriting, the album developed into something far richer. Martin explains, “I wrote all these funny songs and I got sick of them. Then I wrote all these serious songs and realized they were boring. Then I broke my back writing a two minute song about Alexander Calder’s miniature circus and I thought it was perfect — it was whimsical and weird but also had personal ideas about art tucked in there that gave it the depth and warmth I was looking for. So, lyrically, that was the starting point."
But the lyrics are only half of the story. The rich analog sounds, playful instrumentation and bittersweet melodies that fill this album are some of the most charming and original of Martin’s career. Performed and recorded almost entirely by Martin at his vintage-gear-filled Brooklyn recording studio (with a few outrageous performances by Walkmen drummer Matt Barrick) and primarily mixed by producer Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, The Shins) Arts & Leisure’s wide-open sound serves as a showcase for Martin’s true multi-instrumentalism. He moves easily between drums, guitar, upright bass, piano, trombone, organ, mandolin, xylophone, slide whistle, glockenspiel and just about every noise-maker and percussion instrument you can imagine. Martin jokes, "If you’re in bands for almost 30 years, you eventually figure out how all the instruments work.”
Whether he’s making prank calls from the switchboard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, admiring the high-back chairs in a tearoom in Glasgow, or casually dismissing all eighteenth century European art during a museum visit, Martin’s stories have the familiar warmth of a conversation with an old friend. These songs feel as much like a collection of personal letters as they do a rock ‘n’ roll album. While offering a perspective that is distinctly modern, Walter Martin’s Arts & Leisure is rooted in an old tradition and serves as a reminder that there is still sublime power in the marriage of great music and great storytelling.
—Barbara Kowalski, New York City (January 2016)