A member of the cult-favorite '90s act Jonathan Fire*Eater and the acclaimed 2000s indie band the Walkmen, as a solo artist Walter Martin writes charming, life-affirming songs that bridge the gap between music for children and adults.
On "juvenile" albums like 2014's We're All Young Together and 2017's My Kinda Music -- both of which won Parents' Choice awards -- he celebrates the joys and wonders of life in ways that resonate with the young and the young-at-heart. His albums for adults, which include 2016's Arts & Leisure and 2020's The World at Night, tackle subjects spanning art history to mortality with a light-handed wit that places him in the tradition of master storytellers like Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman.
Martin grew up in Washington, D.C., and began playing with the rest of Jonathan Fire*Eater while still in high school. Throughout the band's career -- which culminated not long after the release of their major-label debut album, 1997's Wolf Songs for Lambs -- Martin's Farfisa organ stylings helped define their unmistakable sound. After the group disbanded in 1998, Martin, guitarist Paul Maroon, and drummer Matt Barrick built Marcata Studios, a rehearsal space/recording studio in Harlem. They also played for a short time as the band Today Okay before connecting with former Recoys vocalist Hamilton Leithauser and bassist Peter Bauer to become the Walkmen in 2000. From there, the band released a string of well-received albums, including 2002's Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone, 2004's Bows + Arrows, and 2012's Heaven. After completing their touring commitments for Heaven, the Walkmen announced they were going on an "extreme hiatus" in late 2013.
The following year, Martin released We're All Young Together, an album inspired by fatherhood and the innocence and mischief of early rock & roll. The album featured cameos by Leithauser as well as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O and members of the French Kicks. Martin returned in 2016 with the cozy Arts & Leisure, which drew inspiration from art history, architecture, and his youth. For his second "juvenile" album, My Kinda Music, Martin teamed up with Laura Gibson and the National's Matt Berninger.
On his next album, Martin worked with members of Fruit Bats, French Kicks, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah; the results were 2018's Reminisce Bar & Grill, a set of darkly humorous songs about marriage and fatherhood. In 2019, Martin contributed the song "Do-Dilly-Do (A Friend Like You)" to the film Missing Link, which won the award for Best Animated Feature at the 2020 Golden Globes. That January saw the release of The World at Night, which featured tributes to his father-in-law and his former Jonathan Fire*Eater bandmate and close friend Stewart Lupton, who died in 2018. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi