The Golden Years
By Laura and Dan Martier
“I’ll stick with you baby for a thousand years. Nothing’s gonna touch you in these golden years.”
– David Bowie
Depending on who you are and your perspective on life, the term golden years could be attributed to any number of time periods in the lifespan of a person—twenties, thirties, forties. Even though it is most commonly associated with the latter years of one’s life, it’s all relative.
Being in a relationship for 30 years can sometimes feel like a thousand. A long-term commitment to someone or something through the ups and downs and ebbs and flows of a lifetime can be challenging to explain or understand in a world of instant gratification and yearning for new.
This year I joined forces with my partner of 32 years to create an album of music comprised of material written and performed by only us. What’s remarkable about this project to me is that it is new and unlike anything we have ever done before, mining our personal landscape and transforming it into a body of work.
Why did it take 32 years? How come we never did this before?
I’m just as curious about the mystery of my own life’s unfolding as I am about all of the stories unfolding around me: the people I encounter, the physical landscape, the subtle energies surrounding me like wind and the flight of sea birds.
I thought it would be fun for my partner, Dan Martier, and I to pose five questions to each other regarding this recent creative output in our working relationship and see what happened. We came up with our own questions without discussing them beforehand and then emailed them to each other.
For those of you who have ever ventured out to listen and support live music on the Outer Banks in the last two and a half decades, there is a good chance you have heard at least one of us. We have been together for 32 years and making a home and music here for the last 26. Laura has had a very diverse career in music ranging from BSide to Elizabethan Dinner Theater and Patsy Cline to Room Full of Blues at the old Rundown Cafe and a very serious jazz recording and performing career. I have played drums for too many bands to mention spanning most genres, but the last eight years have been dedicated to putting some serious time in on the road with Dave Matthew’s guitarist Tim Reynolds in the band TR3.
Along the way there has been some teaching, classical projects and cabarets. Together or apart we have been engaged in making music and sharing our passion with so many talented others. Then in 2013, Laura picked up the guitar, something she hasn’t done since the seventh grade, and yet another ensemble was created this time with just us. We named our project Birddog because Laura has been nicknamed Song Bird for many years and I have indeed been called a dog once or twice, in a sort of loving way, of course.
As a guitarist Laura has great natural rhythm and if you ever heard her voice you would know the definition of sweetness. I feel like I bring a strong background within the groove on a small drum kit and I love nothing better than to sing harmony. In Birddog, I sing on many lead vocals and that has been surprising to the people I have been playing for all these years who have never heard me sing.
On all of our gigs we are asked just about every night if we have a CD. That encouraged us to record our first release, Open Air, which began as a way to generate additional income at our shows, but in the process it became more. The result has been crazy good. The CD was released in June and is also available on iTunes, Spotify and our very first website, birddogduo.com. The reviews have been positive, but the best review is when someone comes up to us and says, “I have your CD in my car on repeat” or “Great driving music!” That’s when I know we struck a chord or created something that people can receive. I think that may be the real reason we do what we do.
Dan’s questions for Laura:
Dan: What is your expectation for Birddog? Where do you see Birddog in three years?
Laura: I don’t have any expectations. It’s more like excitement for what could be. The fact that I can hold this recording in my hand and know that it was created in collaboration with you and that it is totally our own personal creative expression makes me feel so hopeful. In three years I intend to be writing more, playing mostly original music and touring the world.
Dan: Would you consider making Birddog a larger band?
Laura: I think about that and can imagine other musicians playing with us and hearing our songs on a larger plane, so to speak, but there is something so pure about two people making as much music as they possibly can using what they have; in our case, it’s two voices, drums and a guitar.
Dan: Is it easier to work with just your partner or difficult?
Laura: For me it’s easier because you are so nice about setting up and taking down all the equipment and you wake me up from my nap before the gig!
Dan: Has Birddog changed the way you approach other projects?
Laura: Yes. It has encouraged me to go deeper into my creative process with everything I do as well as to make the engagement of that process a necessary part of every day.
Dan: What do you like best about Birddog?
Laura: The creativity, potential and fun. The fact that we have created something together that not only expands the field of our partnership and our love for sharing music through performing, but also our love for each other.
Laura’s questions for Dan:
Laura: After 32 years of collaborating with me musically, what motivates you to continue growing and changing?
Dan: What keeps me motivated is the way it feels to work with you. I love the blend of harmonies. I know how professional you are and I think as always, the communion between us and the listeners is verification. This is a feel-good motivation.
Laura: How do you visualize yourself in 10 years?
Dan: Better than I am now. I see other bands from the seventies still playing and getting better. I see people like John Scofield and Bill Stewart and so many more just get better with time. I hope for me this is true.
Laura: Is there something that has been a constant for you in our 32-year partnership professionally? Personally?
Dan: There has been a constant in our partnership. That constant is showing up. Being there. And a harmony, not just in music.
Laura: What else do you imagine us doing together professionally that we haven’t done before?
Dan: I see us taking our duo to some bigger venues and warming up for larger acts. I see us being called on for movie soundtracks, for sure.
Laura: Any words of wisdom for people in long term partnerships professionally and/or personally who are looking for inspiration?
Dan: Well it can really be rewarding to play music and work with your love. I will say as in just about any successful band there is a love between the players. It really is true for me. It’s the only way I can go fully into the mystery of music. There is trust and giving and receiving and a love. To have this with your true love is a double down!