R&B Songwriter Andrea Martin Sings For Herself
You may not know Andrea Martin, but you probably know her work.
In fact, you may know her work better than you even realize. She's one of
the few singer/songwriters who can proclaim that she scored three platinum
(1 million copies sold) top-10 singles before her first album ever came out.
Along with her songwriting partner Ivan Matias, she's written such R&B hits
as En Vogue's "Don't Let Go (Love)," Monica's "Before You Walk Out Of My
Life," SWV's "You're The One" and "I Love Me Some Him" by Toni Braxton.
With the release of Martin's solo debut, The Best of Me (Oct. 14),
the Brooklyn, N.Y.-born and -raised artist is ready to formally introduce
"I was happy doing what I wanted to do, but I just wanted more," the
24-year-old Martin said, adding that she thought it was time to go beyond
writing hits for other people. "Ivan Matias was like, 'You've got to do
this if you want to do it. Put your mind to it, go to showcases, and it's
going to happen.' "
The road to her own record deal was paved with the demo tapes she sent to
Arista Records for other artists. Keith Naftaly, Arista's vice president of
A&R, said he could remember hearing Martin's voice on her demos and being
instantly attracted to what he called "the real Gladys Knight vibe she had,
something you don't hear so much anymore in R&B."
When it came to signing the singer to a deal of her own, Naftaly found
himself becoming a strong advocate for Martin in the face of some doubters
who he said strictly considered her a songwriter. But Naftaly thought
Martin's talent as a writer was a point in favor of giving her a deal of
"She's a self-contained artist with incredible songwriting skills," Naftaly
explained. "So many people get the gift of singing but can't write a song.
That's not the case with Andrea."
Naftaly also said that he was attracted to the reggae spin she was putting
on her R&B songs and that her songs would play to both pop and R&B audiences.
"[She's] unique enough to stand out and to break out," he said. "At
the same time, she had just as much urban credibility as R&B, crossover and
pop credibility. It's all there."
According to Martin, she was aiming for a sound on The Best of Me
that could appeal to R&B and pop audiences, her rationale being that her
songs had found success with other artists who used that same formula. For
Me Return The Favor" (RealAudio excerpt), don't sound far removed
from an En Vogue song. But the dancehall-reggae breakdown on the song's
radio mix may throw off a few listeners, especially since Martin doesn't
hand over the task to a rapper. Rather, she performs it herself.
"I really wanted to do the reggae chant myself, because I wanted to show
people that I was more than just an R&B artist," Martin explained. "It ...
puts you into another world, which is cool."
The remainder of the cuts on the 11-song album constantly blends genres.
Rock-guitar and dancehall-reggae breakdowns are laid over a slinky
funk-groove on "Share The Love"; acoustic guitar meets gospel-blues for
"Steepin' "; and Fugees kingpin Wyclef Jean produces a cover of folkie
Tracy Chapman's "Baby Can I Hold You" with a lazy reggae vibe.
Why would someone so excited about finally being able to release an album
of her own choose to cover a song? For Martin, it seemed like fate. Both
Naftaly and Matias suggested covering the Chapman tune within days of each
other. But Martin also did it, she said, because she understood that not
very many people would be aware of her previous successes.
"I watch movies, all right? And I don't really care who the writer is,"
Martin said. "It's just like whoever the star is, and you don't really get
into their background until they're a star like Leonardo [DiCaprio].
"I wanted to do it [so] if I went gold or platinum, I could explain to
people ... that I used to do writing songs for so and so, but now I'm doing
my own thing."
Martin continues to write for other artists, however. She's currently
working with Matias on composing songs that may be used by R&B diva Whitney
Houston on her next album.
"I just want to reach out," Martin concluded. "If [The Best of Me]
isn't a hit, I just want people to remember the album. I'm happy that my
songs were successful, but it's a little different this time, because it's