When it comes to music-industry indifference, a girl can only take so much. Last year, chanteuse Charlotte Martin (who appears in San Francisco on Tuesday) had most assuredly had enough. "Bongload was my first slap upside the head in this business," the keyboardist snaps, referring to the RCA offshoot label that commissioned, then failed to release, her 2002 debut, "One Girl Army."
"It was like, ‘Hi! Here you go, here’s your record deal, let’s make an album … oh, by the way — we’re done.’ ... We were so close; we were working on artwork, I had tour dates, I had a residency booked. And when it all fell apart, I had no idea what to do."
RCA proper stepped in with a promise to issue the follow up, but by then the die was cast. Martin, fresh to Hollywood from an operatically-trained upbringing in Illinois, thought of herself as a failure.
"When ‘One Girl Army’ got shelved, I had an identity crisis," she admits, speaking from the Southern California home studio she shares with her musician/producer husband, Ken Andrews.
"My second album was this open canvas, but I didn’t know what I wanted to sound like, so I’d turn in songs and they’d be in five different versions." When she finally finished "On Your Shore," she recalls being told by different RCA executives that she made an amazing record, but it was the wrong kind for the marketplace. She says, "I literally just got up and walked out."
Martin, 30, kept right on walking. She refused to give the company her next record, and instead booked three solo headlining tours, just to test the fan-base water. She was stunned by the sold-out response.
Reinvigorated, she self-released a "Veins" EP and a concert video, "Something Like a DVD," then launched her own imprint, Dinosaur Fight, for the new "Stromata" full-length CD. It finds her venturing into surreal new territory, even some beatbox-like syncopation. All thanks to hernew entrepreneurial freedom.
The best part of Dinosaur Fight, she adds, is that her co-execs, her hubby, her manager and her financial-whiz brother, truly "get" what she does as an artist. "They see the vision, they get my fans. And it’s taken me all these years to evolve to that."
She admits that it was easier to tour when she had the backing of a major label: "Now to be on the other side of that, it’s scary when you have to put your own financial ass on the line. We are literally living on the edge, constantly making decisions that are like stepping off into the void. But now I’m so proud that I can do this. I went out there with nothing and just went for it."
Where: The Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Contact: (415) 421-8497 or www.ticketmaster.com