Susan Marting hasn't always been a songwriter.
For most of her life, the 58-year-old Kirkwood resident was a stay-at-home mom who taught tai chi and stress management workshops. However, she had learned how to play the banjo in high school, and occasionally performed at family events. When her nephew was planning his wedding ceremony, he and his fiancee asked her to play at the reception — and sing, too.
“I was thinking, ‘What in the world should I sing at this Lutheran holy service with my banjo?’” Marting says. “I ended up writing this little song about meeting in the middle. My nephew and I sang it together and it was just so fun. Maybe a couple weeks later, I woke up and I had this thought in my head and a little tune, and I wrote a whole song about how it’s hard to change and we’re stuck with our habits.”
She hasn’t stopped writing since. Four years later, Marting has recorded her first album, a compilation of folk songs on topics ranging from the serious to the humorous called Burn and Sparkle
. (Check it out online here
.) She’s already working on two more.
“I’ve written, I think, well over a hundred songs in the last four years,” she says.
At first, Marting was writing purely for her own enjoyment, sharing her songs with family and friends. One of those friends had a son who was a student at the Extreme Institute, the program for aspiring record producers sponsored by St. Louis artist Nelly. For a school project, Marting’s friend’s son asked if he could record and edit six of her songs.
After that experience, Marting realized she could make a full-length album of her own. She recorded fifteen of her songs at a recording studio in Columbia, Missouri.
“My long-range plan is to make three CDs,” she says. “I keep thinking I know which songs I want on each CD, but then I keep writing another one and I want that one to be on it — maybe I’ll have to do more, I don’t know.”
Since then she’s been distributing her music through Bandcamp, Spotify and iTunes, as well as selling physical CDs at a few live performances. Her nephew, a member of the local band Falling Fences, has helped her figure out the process.
“I don’t know anything about anything of this,” she says. “I just like playing with the words and making up little tunes.”
Marting’s songs seem to be written in a consistent voice — a well-travelled, hard-drinking woman who’s had her heart broken more than a few times, who gets addicted to Facebook validation in the song “Like Me” and can’t sit through yoga class in “Yoga Dropout.” But Marting says that persona isn’t her. In real life, she’s much happier than her lyrics, and she doesn’t even use Facebook.
“People have asked me if I’m still married, because my songs are so sad and about break-ups and all these things,” Marting says. “And yes — happily married for 35 years. They’re not so autobiographical, but I think I have a good ability to share that common human experience, even if I don’t live through it.
“I think on some level I want people to know you’re not alone,” she says.