All Songs Considered Blog
8:41 am
Thu April 19, 2012

One Song In Two Days: Cat Martino's 'I Promise'

Originally published on Thu April 19, 2012 9:52 am

When I first saw Cat Martino, she was in Sufjan Stevens' band, performing in what is honestly the best concert of my life. I was with a bunch of friends that knew her and her music and there they were shouting her name at the top of their lungs. I later saw her as a one person band in Washington, D.C., looping and singing her own quieter songs.

The Philadelphia-based web video series called Shaking Through documents the recording of a single song over the course of a few days. It's a partnership between Weathervane Music and WXPN, and it's where many of us first heard and saw Sharon Van Etten and her song "Love More."

Cat Martino sang with Sharon during that session, and now she's just finished her own Shaking Through session with her friend Sufjan Stevens. The song they've made is called "I Promise." The video is directed by Peter English. I asked Cat Martino to tell us about this nerve-wracking experience and its beautiful result.

I met producer Brian McTear when Sharon Van Etten invited me to record "Love More" for the first ever Shaking Through Session. I loved the experience and right away got the idea of the project, helping emerging artists get a chance to see their vision through.

I felt a kinship, and soon returned to mix my forth-coming record "Yr Not Alone". We kept in touch, and Brian invited me in March 2012 to record my own Shaking Through Session, and I brought my friend Sufjan Stevens to be a session player since we had a good studio relationship and I knew we could play most of the instruments. Brian suggested Christopher Powell of Man Man and we had the recipe for a great session.

I was excited about the opportunity. But I was not sure what song to record. I sent Brian (McTear) 15 demos and he cut to the chase. He chose the song I was dreading to write. The one that was REAL for me. I knew he'd pick it and threw him the other ones as decoys.

Writing the music to "I Promise" was inspired — but the lyrics were difficult to finish. My friend, (songwriter) Marissa Nadler, helped me a great deal as I was unsure and sent her demos on email the day before. She encouraged me to go forth and be raw and honest, speak from the heart. I felt like I was on a tightrope, revealing a lot, but I pressed on in finishing. I knew we would be filmed and I was under the gun, and didn't want to blow it! I envisioned the skeleton of what I wanted the song to sound like, leaving plenty of room for spontaneity in the studio.

At first I was confused having cameras watch such an intimate studio experience, one that is usually womb-like for me. But I dove in, exploring sounds and ideas like a curious child. As Jon Low mixed our tracks, I knew was being changed, released, lighter and freer. I also felt incredibly supported by the entire team from Weathervane and Shaking Through, and all my fellow artists that had my back during this session (Sufjan, Christopher & Marissa). And I realized during the recording/filming that if someone cares enough about my work to have a camera on it for 48 hrs. then it must mean something to someone! I drove the 95 N back to NYC fulfilled and fully supported as an artist and a human.

Other Cat Martino music can be found here and the song itself can be heard on this bandcamp page.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.