Honesty in the Music is Martha Davis’ trademark
By DONNA BALANCIA in Los Angeles — Martha Davis of The Motels said while the 1980s were fun, she works hard to create new music today and keep up with the times.
“Of course the 80s were great, but it would be silly to try to recapture the past, wouldn’t it?” Davis asks as she casts her famous green eyes over to Marty Jourard, the sax player who’s been by Martha’s side since the band started.
Marty smiles and nods, and goes back to polishing his saxophone. From all appearances, Martha Davis and The Motels — one of the most influential bands of the last 30 years — are enjoying it all.
Backstage, before her show at Los Angeles hotspot, The Mint, Martha is happy to talk about the road her band has traveled. The Motels toured the world, performing their hits, “Only The Lonely,” “Suddenly Last Summer,” and a host of others. Her passionate voice comprised the soundtrack for a bevy of 80s youth angst films, most of them starring Molly Ringwald.
But for the Patrick Nagel-esque beauty who never wanted her face on the cover of her albums, her work is about today. When asked how she stays so young, she points to the other band members in the room, most under 30. “Look at them. That’s how I do it.” Marty gives a wink.
Martha Davis and The Motels Carved out their Credo
“The record company was ready to kill me for not putting my face on our covers,” Martha said. “But I wanted our music to be the focus, not my looks. I wanted it to be about the music.”
It’s been a wonderful journey for Martha, who has brought her bands around the world since the early days of performing at Madame Wong’s in Los Angeles, the hotspot that gave rise to some of new wave’s most notables: Oingo Boingo, The Police, Black Flag, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
But underneath the facade of bright colors, puffy hair and checkerboard Vans, The Motels were carving out their credo to stay true to their music.
It has worked.
“Back then I never thought I’d still be performing today,” Martha said. “I never thought about anything, we were kids, we never thought about tomorrow.”
Her new band has been with her longer than the original group. The Motels recorded three albums and were around eight years. She’s been with the new band for 12 years and Martha Davis and The Motels is planning a European Tour and a new album.
While the music business today is immensely different from how she came up, her advice would still be the same.
“The first rule is, “Write, write, write,” she said. “Don’t worry about what you look like. It’s important to learn your craft.
“And there’s something to be said about making music with other people,” Martha said. “Today, you can take your computer and go in your bedroom and make music. And while that’s great, there’s something special about putting together a band … Taking the odd jobs to keep it going and getting together with people.”
See Martha Davis and The Motels perform “Only The Lonely” at The Mint
Martha said social media is a great gift, but there was an excitement about the “guerilla-style” promotion they used to do.
“We would put up the posters around town and then run from the cops when they chased us away. It was fun.”
As her band is a mix of veteran performers and younger up-and-comers, so is her audience mixed in age, Martha said.
“We get all ages, but there is a fondness for the eighties, or as we call them, the ‘Won’t Go Away-tees.'”
There is a new album coming, the name of which hasn’t come to Martha just yet. But the crowd that packed the house at The Mint Tuesday night got a sampling of some of the new tunes.
“We like to try out new things,” Martha said. “And that’s what it’s all about. You have to do what you love, and be honest with yourself.”
Donna Balancia is the producer of California Rocker and East Coast Rocker. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org