Martha Davis (known for her work in and with the band, The Motels), has been creating and making music since 1971, so she’s seen a lot in her 40 years of being in the industry. While The Motels have been through a series of band changes over the years, Davis has been a fixture as the lead vocalist. The group has released their latest album, The Last Few Beautiful Days, near the end of March 2018.
The Motels released five albums on Capitol Records between 1979 and 1985, with two of them reaching gold record status, and heralding two top-ten singles “Only The Lonely” and “Suddenly Last Summer.” The band has released several albums since then, and released an anthology album If Not Now, Then When, which received critical acclaim and fan success.
The group is currently on tour, with more tour dates to be announced. Check them out here.
You play guitar on stage, but do you play any guitar on your new album?
I didn’t play a lot of … I mean, it’s weird, because I basically write everything on guitar, and then I’ll bring stuff in and we’ll sit around and everybody will work on the music and I’ll plop myself down and start working on the lyrics… I mostly play live, yeah.
Do you plan to play guitar maybe later on, on the next record, or get more into it?
Well, I don’t know why, it’s not something that I don’t want to do, it just sort of organically happens that way. Actually, I just got a keyboard, because I play keyboard sometimes, too. I write on them, but I don’t play them live on stage, and now I’m like because this new album has so much wonderful keyboard stuff, I’m like, I probably am needed more on keyboard than I am on guitar. So, maybe I should brush up my chops. So, that’s going to be my new task for me. I mean, that’s going to be nerve-wracking. Guitar is not nerve-wracking for me, but keyboards will be nerve-wracking, so I’m trying to give the old dog a new trick.
Does music inspire your art, or art inspire your music, or is it a combination?
Well, in terms of the video, I had some friends over that I hadn’t seen in a while, and I just showed them the video. Is that what you’re talking about, the artwork for the “Lucky Stars” video?
Yeah, that one, that set of drawings or paintings, whatever they are, I don’t know what to call them because I did them on a computer; they aren’t really paintings, even though I was using the paint program, but those were completely done for the lyrics, so I was doing them with the lyrics in mind.
But all art, I think all art is just basically out in the atmosphere. It’s just the whole, life is art, you know? It’s everywhere and what you have to do is you just have to allow yourself to be open and it’ll come like torrential rain. Whether it’s painting or writing music or just writing…I’ve started writing a television show with a friend, and it’s just like, that stuff is, it’s just all out there. I think my main rule of writing or creating is, and I don’t know if you can cuss in your magazine, but I like to say, “Just get the f*** out of your own way.” Don’t let your ego get involved, don’t let any of that. Just open up and let it come through you. There’s a lot out there.
I love the fact that your new CD is very nostalgic and kind of the fact that it’s a musical walk through your career and what you’ve done thus far. Did that organically happen or was it something that you had planned over the years? Because you’ve been creating music for a very long time.
Yes, I have. First show was in 1971. You know, this album, I mean, The Motels, at this point, when … This is an amazing, amazing band. Ask anybody. Ask the first guitar player in the first Motels that got signed to Capitol, and he’ll tell you, this is the best Motels ever. It’s a wonderful band. But I live in Oregon and they live in LA, so in terms of getting together and just knocking out an album, that doesn’t happen, because we write when we see each other, which is when we have gigs, which is not…we’re not on tour six months a year or anything like that.
So it took a while to do this album, just in terms of getting together, but the thing that’s interesting about it is the album evolved. The album did that by itself in the sense that when I first started writing, getting the lyrical ideas for it, I was going to do kind of a “this is where we are as human beings socially on this planet.” There’s a lot of things that are wrong. This is a song about greed, this is song about lust, “here’s a song,” you know, it was kind of like doing that, but I didn’t want it to be a pointing the finger, political kind of “this is what’s wrong,” so I made every song first person.
So, it was like me telling a story about…there’s a song that didn’t make it on the album called “Someone Kill the Gun,” and it’s a story about a woman who is basically insane and has an automatic weapon and goes out on a killing spree. So that song didn’t make it on the album but it was because I told it, first person,…you know what I mean? I’ve learned over the years that you can’t…political songs just make other people mad, but if you tell it like, “This is my story,” people can’t get mad at you. You know?
So, the whole record was going to be about these different…my takes on what’s going on on our planet today but told from my point of view. Then as I went on, I remember I was on an airplane, I was flying back somewhere and I was actually putting the songs in order, I was sequencing them, and I was thinking about me singing first person and I realized, most of the songs, I didn’t hear me singing them. In fact, a lot of them, I heard men’s voices.
The title of your new album, The Last Few Beautiful Days…where does the title come from, or what was the inspiration? Is it alluding that this may be the band’s last album?
No, it actually didn’t have anything to do with the band or me in that sense. It’s part … I wrote that song a while back, and I wrote it after I read this book by TC Boyle called “Friend of the Earth,” and it’s basically about climate control getting out of … just what we’re going to be. It’s a novel, but it was facing the peril of the last few days. Basically, I just had my publicist contact him and tell him that I want to get him a copy of the book because it inspired the title track. He also wrote “The Road to Wellville;” he’s a great writer, I love his stuff.
But yeah, I wrote that, as soon as I finished reading that book. I just went, “Wow,” and this song I wrote on piano, which is also unusual, and the song had been kicking around for a while and it actually was on this jazz album that I’ve yet to release. But when we started making this album, it wanted to be on this album, and so I went, “Okay if that’s where you want to go, you go over there and be there.” So, it started out being a statement about literally the end of the world as we know it because we’re getting there, ladies and gentlemen, by our own hand.
The Motels Studio Albums:
All Four One (1982)
Little Robbers (1983)
Policy (1987) – Martha Davis solo
…So The Story Goes (2004) – Martha Davis solo
Clean Modern and Reasonable (2007)
Beautiful Life (2008) – Martha Davis solo
Red Frog Presents: 16 Songs For Parents and Children (2010) – Martha Davis solo
The Last Few Beautiful Days (2018)
*Updated May 24, 2018