A decade later, back in Manhattan for a string of interviews prior to the album’s release Martin, now 43, is genuinely excited about the rehabilitated rail park on the High Line. While taking in the lush concrete surroundings, she refers to her involvement in community building, most recently as Executive Director of Kingston Landtrust, in a town an hour and a half drive north of the New York City that she calls home with husband, bassist Larry Grenadier and seven and a half year old son, Charlie.
Among the fascinating potential projects, she explains, are the beautiful but abandoned rail tracks that can be found all over Upstate and Western New York. Many are prime candidates for similar transformation. Martin “and many volunteers created programs and committees for rail trails, urban agriculture, African-American cemetery preservation projects, etc.” But politics, she says, makes an already enormous task of any type of redevelopment exponentially more difficult. Few seem to care about the tracks until someone else wants to use them.
What is required, she concludes, is a person who can get several different parties to support projects like these, often as a consequence of furthering their own unrelated or semi-related interests. That each is not wholly supportive is less important than the cumulative effort that makes the project possible and complete. “It’s not in the single voice, although a single voice can move mountains,” she later observes. “It’s the collective voice that’s right. It’s what's effective and dictates what and when things happen.”
Community work is only one of many different jobs she has had since moving out of New York City. “It was good for me. I learned a lot from them.” She doesn’t find it odd, for instance, that a creative person like a musician would admit to learning anything from cleaning toilets of a health food store.
The songwriter finds merit in any job and regards all types of work as a creative endeavor. “You can apply this to anything: the dentist, the garbage collector, the chef, the painter…A creative life means putting everything into it, even if it’s not your first choice. We don’t always get our first choice. But whatever it is, make a commitment, make a decision,” the singer advises.
Martin acknowledges, “It can be depressing…because of the expectation of what you think you deserve. And that initial process is tough. There is a period of kicking and screaming. Hopefully as you get older, that period gets shorter. And you move on and you learn.”
For Rebecca Martin her charming little boy Charlie, who has sparkling blue eyes and who marches with a cherubic expression on his face, has taught her the most. It was because of him that she engaged in community building in the first place. Her pregnancy brought an awesome juxtaposition of two seemingly opposite concepts of birth and death. She believes that that maternal understanding further heightened her instinct to protect.
Now she sees the world both from the eyes of a mother and a child. One eye seeks to push boundaries, the other wary that there are consequences of being on the other side. Still, she realizes that “nothing [I] say will teach the way what’s going to happen will teach. People find out their mistakes by cause and effect.” This is the kind of parenting philosophy she tries to practice with her beloved boy.
As a mom she feels there’s so much she could do to help Charlie. But like most children, he frequently pushes to explore the outcome himself. And although she wishes that everyone (including herself) would heed the warning of other people who have been through the experience, this mother accepts that the world simply doesn’t work that way. “If it’s not going to hurt or kill him, I let him try.” And so albeit with one eye always fixed on him, she has learned to trust and let go. It’s a lesson she also had learned many times before.
“She wanted to go it alone because she needed to
Under brick and mortar and stone the fisticuffs flew
From a sodden heart that’s beholden to no one…
“Foiled!” She cried.
“If only I could leave you all behind.
Up until now I’ve refused to fly or to take the fall for what was mine.”
I’ll be more careful the next time….”
- from Beholden
Change isn’t all about pain but rather merely a march of time like the changing of seasons. And sometimes even within that frozen minute between winter and spring, something wonderful blooms. Such was the case when Rebby met Larry.
The truth is, that they had met each other before. Like chorus on stage, each was aware of the other but thought nothing of it. Serendipitously, the band’s bass player was away one day and Larry Grenadier was hired as a replacement for a gig at J&R Music World.
“A musical band is like a dysfunctional family,” Rebecca muses. “So we were hanging out at a friend’s apartment for rehearsal and the drummer who is my friend made what he thought was a hysterical but inappropriate comment. I just thought to myself ‘I worked all my life for this? To be around these people?’ So I just sat out.”
Realizing her reaction the drummer quipped, “’Uh oh. I’ve embarrassed Rebby.’ All of a sudden here comes Larry who says, ‘Well you’ve embarrassed me, too. So you owe us both an apology. And that was it.”
Martin, not used to people standing up for her, was in awe. It was as if on cue Larry had stepped into the light and she was looking at him with a fresh perspective. According to Martin after that
exchange, everyone had gone off to the park. She, however, opted to stay behind, admitting to secretly hugging his bass that was on the floor. Following that evening she would try everything to get him to notice her. Little did she know he already had.
Photo by Pat Kepic
She thought he didn’t like her. He did. But she had just broken up with Harris and he didn’t know. He would eventually find out, but till then he would take a gentleman’s approach and let her be.
For their first date, she recalls going to see some art. They saw all of five pieces exhibited that day. Dinner was pizza. He brushed her arm gently. The conversation went well into the night, then fate took over.
Only four months later, Rebby proposed to Larry over waffles in bed. “Will you marry me?” she asked. “Yeah” was his response. “Call your mom and tell her then. Make it real,” she remembers suggesting with a laugh.
It hasn’t been all laughter, though. According to Martin, Grenadier and she separated for a year, a year after they were married. She supposed that it was because all happened too fast and, perhaps, they needed time and space for things to fall in place. It was another period of uncertainty; she was going her way and he on his. Once more, she thought it was over. Until one night while performing, she opened her eyes and there he was standing in the back, wearing his blue shirt, the light was on him again. He was back. They were back. And that was it. Two as one, once again.
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