This Musical Life profile was originally published on July 7, 2017.
In 2013, Aaron Lee Martin left for a most unusual recording session. Martin's friend and fellow musician Danny Brewer had a cabin in the remote woods of northern Georgia. He wanted to know if Martin had any interest in making a record using solar power.
“I scheduled a block of two weeks to go out there and record with him,” Martin says. “We’d record from 9 or 9:30 in the morning until maybe 3 in the afternoon. We’d take a break for lunch break for 30-45 minutes. Once the battery would run out on the solar panel, once the cloud coverage and tree coverage was out of the solar panel, we’d take our laptops out to a generator, charge them, take another break and then record another three-four hours into the night.”
Martin recalls the isolation of the studio quite well. “If you stepped outside you maybe heard a plane ever like once every four hours,” he says. “It was just nature. You had to cook your food over a fire, set up the whole hobo dinners. You just took time with the process, which I really enjoyed.”
The result of those sessions is the seven-song album Learned Behavior. In addition to wanting to present the best material he could to his audience, Martin had at least one other goal. “I wanted to meet that happy balance between live and produced [sounds],” he notes. “My favorite albums are the ones that are really raw, you can feel all the things happening in the room.
MewithoutYou is a really good example off the top of my head. I’ve always loved that band and I love it because I feel like, if I close my eyes, I’m in the practice space. There’s such a live feel but very well-produced and polished at the same time.”
Martin's known for his emotionally charged songs and says that although he writes from personal experience, he's cautious about writing songs that will connect with his audience.
If there’s one quality consistent quality to Aaron Lee Martin’s music, it’s his emotional transparency. He says that how he’s feeling in the writing process ultimately steers a song to its completion.
“As I’m writing sometimes, I think, ‘Is it overly sentimental? Is it kind of on that weird, personal line where maybe people won’t be able to relate to it?’ I never have a gauge on it, so I just have to be true to … One if I write a song I feel like I should play it and I’m gonna play it and if people like they do. If not, maybe I keep that one for me. Though, honestly, I try not to do that.”
He adds, “The other is, if a song makes me emotional, if as I’m going through the writing process I find tears streaming down my cheeks, I kind of use that as a tiny gauge that maybe it can tap into some deeper emotions that someone’s going through.”
Aaron Lee Martin celebrates the release of Learned Behavior on Thursday night with a live show at Abode Venue with Jenny Wood and Twin Cities.