Nestled in a music practice room at Eastern Illinois University, Charlotte Martin wrote some of her first songs as a songwriter — learning how to find her voice.
Martin, now an RCA recording artist, has performed sold-out shows throughout the world alongside big names like Liz Phair, Pete Yorn, Damien Rice and Jason Mraz.
A Charleston native, Martin will be coming home Friday, Jan. 17, to play professionally in front of friends, family and mentors for the very first time.
Even with all her accomplishments and adventures, Martin, 37, admits she is nervous to play in front of the hometown crowd, which helped her grow as a performer and writer.
Throughout her years at Charleston High School and EIU, Martin grew up within the confines of EIU’s music department with her own father working as a music professor.
“Some of my fondest memories are at Eastern,” she said.
She remembers spending many afternoons with her vocal instructor, Jerry Daniels, who is now the chair of the department. During those sessions, Daniels helped teach her the importance of lyrics.
Before college, Martin always viewed music much like how an athlete views a game—as a challenge—where Martin pushed her voice as far as it would go. “In college, my music become less about the technical and more about having something to say,” she said.
Sheltered in the music rooms of EIU, Martin began her quest to express herself through music. In the beginning, Martin said, most of her songs were terrible, but she eventually came into her own as a writer. Overall, Martin’s lyrics tend be dark, she admitted, but they always have a thread of hope.
“I am a melancholy person, but I have a thread of optimism,” she said. Martin describes her songs as “classically, complicated pop songs.”
She will debut her new album -- called “Water Breaks Stone” -- at Eastern. This new record focuses on her 12-year relationship with her husband and producer, Ken Andrews.
Throughout her songwriting career, three elements of Martin’s life have always been too personal for her to write about: her relationship with her mother, a miscarriage and her husband. In this album, Martin said she touches on this more personal material.
The album also focuses on her survival of a spinal disease and how it affected her relationship with her husband.
Other albums by Martin are “Dancing on Needles” (2011), “Reproductions” (2007), “Stromata” (2006), “On Your Shore” (2004) “Piano Trees” (2009), “Test-Drive Songs” (2002), “Mystery, Magic and Seeds” (1998).
Martin said she feels like she finally is coming into her place as a singer. “I remember Jerry Daniels telling me opera singer’s voices start to peak in their 30s,” she said.
Throughout his 30 years of teaching at EIU, Daniels remembers Martin as one of his students who was artistically exquisite. “I have had the opportunity to work with some special students like Martin,” he said.
After graduating college, Martin moved to Chicago for a while to “make it” as a performer, but ended up moving out to Los Angeles. For a year, Martin hid in her apartment and wrote song after song. Eventually, Martin said she made friends and connections and eventually landed a show which lead to another show, and so on.
“If you continue to make good music something will happen,” Martin said.
Martin’s sold-out performance will at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Black Box Theatre in the Doudna Fine Arts Center.