Walter Martin sums up his creative aesthetic quite plainly on the title track of his upcoming third solo album, when he sings, "My kinda music/I didn't choose it/It chose me."
"That is a key line," Martin, of Jonathan Fire*Eater and the Walkmen, tells Billboard about My Kinda Music, due out May 5. (The track "Trip on a Ship," featuring Laura Gibson, is premiering exclusively below.) "I decided I wanted to do everything very differently from what I've done before. I decided to follow my most natural instincts and see what I came up with. There's still a part of my brain that just likes operating like that. I get to follow my silliest impulses, and it's really therapeutic for me."
That whimsical nature has earned Martin a reputation for making what he calls "kids music," a term he both embraces and balks at. "I think everybody who makes kids music has some sort of catch phrase they use for it," explains Martin, who has three- and four-year-old daughters. "I don't really like kids music. I don't love doing kids shows, for some reason. It's not really my bag. I really like playing the stuff for adults. It goes over well live with adults. This is the kind of music I listen to at home at night. It doesn't feel like it's just for kids to me. And I don't understand why there isn't more music like that. It sounds very natural to me, very normal -- but sometimes I step back and it's like, 'Holy crap, this is some weird stuff I'm doing!'"
"Trip On a Ship" followed Martin's usual pattern of finding "little musical ideas" to build from. "It was almost, like, very unconscious," he recalls. "The rhymes fit together so well and it just came together." Meanwhile, Martin heard Gibson's music when he was on tour through Portland, where she's from, and squirreled her away as a potential collaborator. "I just though her voice was really charming and great, very distinct," he says. "I just sort of cold emailed her and she was very receptive. She came to our studio (in Brooklyn) a week later. She's so nice, and she's been so great and supportive."
"What a delight to sing this song! I went in to Walt's studio on a grey, rainy New York day, during a tough week, towards the end of 2016," Gibson recalls of the experience. "I was so heartened and warmed by the tune. Equal parts clever and sincere; light, but also deeply wise, it gave me a much needed skip in my step."
Martin plans to support My Kinda Music with some shows in the New York area and in Washington D.C., but there are no plans for a full-scale tour yet. He's working on more songs in the meantime any return of the Walkmen, which has been on hiatus since 2014, is unlikely. "I think we're done," Martin says of the group, which released seven studio albums between 2002-20012. "We still see each other all the time, actually. But we did it for a long time. Everybody at this point is very happy doing stuff on their own. Maybe in, like, 10 years we'll do something, but I wouldn't be surprised if we don't, either."