Hailing from Florence, Italy, Marta Palombo found her home in Nashville, Tennessee where she spends her time writing, recording, performing, and curating a cabinet full of local teas. All while effortlessly weaving diverse influences and genres into her own unique blend of off-kilter folk-pop.
Admiring her roots while simultaneously eschewing the traditional notions of what a singer/songwriter should be is paramount to who she is as an artist. She has an ever-growing passion for telling life’s stories, big and small, and always has upcoming plans on the horizon. “Him” is the artist’s first release since 2018, but you can expect an epic comeback including a new EP due in late February 2020.
Love how even the smallest objects or actions inspire your song writing. What inspiration was the most difficult to write about?
I’d have to say… any concept or feeling that’s incredibly multifaceted can be hard to pin down. For example, let’s say I’m writing a song on nostalgia: I’ll start writing a verse on my childhood memories, then move into a chorus about how the past influences hope for the future, and then slam right back into yet another verse about, oh, I don’t know — lost love? It’s too many layers, too many themes. So I write a few confused drafts, and usually after quite a bit of back and forth I manage to separate all the pieces to create three or four cohesive songs. The process could take weeks, months, or even years; sometimes the best way to finish a song that frustrates you is to leave it and find it again years later by accident with a fresh perspective.
Interesting quote from your bio, “If Joni Mitchell and Florence + The Machine had a 21st century hippie daughter, it would be Marta Palombo.” Loved your live cover of Florence + The Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over”. What is it about those artists that shapes your music?
I absolutely love their voices and their individuality. Florence + The Machine isn’t afraid to push boundaries with her song structure, her words, her artistry, everything. And Joni Mitchell has a way of taking small things and turning them into beautiful, meaningful moments. My favorite songs of hers are when it’s just her and her guitar, saying words that don’t necessarily make sense — but they do when you let them wash over you. They both have a way of doing that. Both of them give me so much inspiration to live and write freely, for my own soul as well as for others. To me, they really embody music as a lifestyle rather than just a business.
Which music and artists did you listen to growing up in Florence, Italy?
I mostly just listened to what my parents listened to! Because we moved to the U.S. when I was so young, I was pretty immediately surrounded by American artists. But I remember my parents playing Carmen Consoli and Jovanotti in the living room for us some days, and I’m still fond of listening to them every once in a while when I’m in need of some homey feelings.
Which up and coming Italian artists should fans be adding to their playlists?
I have a funny story that accompanies this question… a few years ago, when I was visiting my family in Italy, I was gifted a beautiful old classical guitar. It was beyond repair, unfortunately, but it had been in the family and sitting unused for years, so I decided I may as well take it home to the U.S. to see if anything could be done to fix it. The only music store that carried guitar cases was a little ways away, so we hopped in the car and went to buy a case. The owner showed us around, we got talking, and he told us that he and his sons are musicians. Flash forward a few months, and we realize that his son is Francesco Gabbani, the winner of Sanremo 2017 (which is Italy’s biggest singing competition)! So, I feel obligated to say check him out! His family and his music store are lovely, as well as his fun songs!
What Italian venue tops your bucket list to perform at?
I don’t think I have a specific venue bucket list, whether it’s in the U.S. or Italy. I do know that I like performing in more intimate spaces, so I would absolutely love the opportunity to perform in little ornate theaters, or spaces of historical significance both artistically and musically. Italy has so many beautiful landmarks; anywhere where an audience and I could create a space of connection and emotion would check the list.
You found nationwide recognition through your poetry. How has writing poems influenced your musical style? Favorite personal poem to date?
Poetry Out Loud is an amazing program. It actually focuses on the recitation of existing poems, and not the writing of new ones (although they do have a separate competition for that)! Poetry was a very interesting experience for me. I never expected to be good at reciting poetry, because it feels very unnatural for me to speak in rhyme and rhythm as opposed to singing. I baffled a lot of my English teachers by marking up my poetry the same way I write in musical scores — crescendo here, staccato there, fermata, etc. Studying the form and structure of different styles of poetry helped me wrap my head around different rhythms, words, and cadences. Having to speak on stage without the protective addition of music and melody definitely made me feel like I’d been stripped down to my core, and it helped me gain an enormous amount of confidence in my voice.
2016 Poetry Out Loud: Marta Palombo recites "Mingus at the Showplace" by William Matthews
2016 Poetry Out Loud Runner-Up and Georgia State Champion Marta Palombo recites "Mingus at the Showplace" by William…
It’s hard to pick a favorite poem…I won second place nationally by reciting “Mingus At The Showplace” by William Matthews, and “For The Young Who Want To” by Marge Piercy. They’re both spectacular poems, and definitely still among my favorites. But I also frequently tear through books of Pablo Neruda, Mary Oliver, Sylvia Plath, and so many others. Basically, just do yourself a favor and read as much poetry as you can!
Which Nashville venue was the first you played at? Dream venue to perform at?
My very first venue was Boulevard Records, right next to Belmont. I split a show with one of my best friends — we play two completely different genres, but it was fun to share the night with a good group of people! Dream venue is tricky…I already performed in front of a packed crowd at Bridgestone Arena when I sang backup for Josh Groban, so it’s hard to think any bigger than that right now! But I will say that there are a lot of beautiful theaters in the U.S., like the Fox Theater back in Atlanta where my parents live — it would definitely be a dream come true to play in such a beautiful space.
In 2016 you released the “Revisions” EP which was described as half personal introspection and half mission statement. How has your mission statement evolved over time?
Most of the songs on “Revisions” stemmed from a place of fear and longing — I couldn’t wait to graduate high school and move into being a musician in a bigger city with more opportunity, and I was itching to prove myself to the world. At the same time, I was incredibly afraid — I was afraid of leaving my comfortable life behind, and I feared fame as much as I revered it. My mission statement used to center around traditional, commercial expectations of fame, because that’s all I knew about: billboards, Grammys, and world tours. But I was also keenly aware of the horror stories of losing your purpose, ending up alone, and being screwed over. After moving to Nashville, I realized that fame wasn’t actually what I was longing for; it was direction, purpose, and recognition. I found people I love working with, I settled into my voice and my sound, and I redefined what “fame” meant to me. Now, I get to make music on my own terms, and I operate my own career in a way that helps me genuinely connect with people. I write and perform without fear of rejection or judgment, which in turn means most people don’t reject or judge. Record deals and world tours are no longer deal breakers (although, let’s face it, a Grammy would be nice). My mission statement has basically become to live according to what makes me happy, and when you do that success is inevitable.
Your single “Him” is a song you’ve described as a prologue to your love story. How did being an ‘over-thinker’ impact your writing this?
Ha! Great question. I can’t say that being an overthinker impacted the story of this song in particular, but it definitely impacted the recording of it. I am an incredibly organized, picky, Type A sort of person, so Foster and I went through a few edits before we decided that it was where it needed to be. I don’t think I’m unreasonable when it comes to editing, just…picky about the details. But being someone who overthinks definitely impacted a lot of the other songs I’ve written about my love story, because overthinking in matters of the heart (as we all know) can lead to some very interesting places mentally and emotionally. Most of the time, it’s a maze that leads nowhere good, and you need someone to snap you out of it.
Foster Ferrell engineered and produced your latest single. Who else was involved?
For this single, Foster Ferrell and Robert Artress also edited, Matt Huber mixed, and Alex McCollough mastered. Robert Blakely, who is my guitarist for all of my live shows, also came in and tracked the acoustic guitar.
Events for Working Artists - Co.Lab | Spotify for Artists
AN EVENT SERIES FOR WORKING ARTISTS CO.LAB IS AN EVENT SERIES TO MEET YOUR PEERS, GET ADVICE, AND WORKSHOP YOUR CAREER…
What role does Spotify For Artists and their Co.Lab events play in the lives of independent artists?
Spotify is huge. I think all artists have a love/hate relationship with streaming services because we get paid so little, but they are completely vital for our livelihood and we consume so much music from them ourselves. In recent years, I’ve become more involved with Spotify and have really appreciated how much they do to connect independent artists. Their Co.Lab events are incredibly helpful; they answer any questions you have and allow you to meet industry professionals who have years of experience and insight. The fact that they now allow you to submit songs for playlist consideration is also a massive step forward — the market is still oversaturated, and there’s still a very long way to go before Spotify can be considered a champion for independent artists, but it’s making good moves to push itself in that direction, in my opinion.
You wrote that your upcoming EP is a musical project that is a book, with chapters, in chronological order. What was it like playing these songs for your boyfriend the first time?
It’s funny, I think people expect some sort of beautiful, romantic answer for this, but I really don’t have one! I’ve been writing songs as a way of processing and understanding my world (both internally and externally) for as long as I can remember. So, when my boyfriend and I started dating, he was well aware that that’s what I do. To him, it’s just normal — I’m in love, and love can be confusing and overwhelming sometimes, so I write songs about it. Sometimes I’ll play a new song at a show of mine and he’ll ask me about the lyrics or the meaning later, or sometimes he comes with me to the studio when I record. We’re incredibly open and honest with each other, so if I’ve written a song about something that involves him, there’s a 99% chance that I’ve also brought the topic up in normal conversation. And once you’ve talked about something so emotional, well… listening to a song about it just seems a little redundant, don’t you think? All jokes aside though, he is incredibly supportive of everything I do.
What can fans expect at the upcoming EP Release Show at Two Old Hippies on February 29th?
We host so many special products in our 8,000 sq. ft.store, it's too much to feature on our website...so please follow…
So much fun stuff! My good friend Raquelle Blackwood is going to be opening; she’s one of my absolute favorite artists. It’s free admission, and everyone that comes to the store specifically for my show gets a coupon for 15% off clothing. Also, I put together goody bags full of exclusive freebies — the first 12 people that show up get free stuff!
In a post on Instagram you shared that “we as consumers of media scrutinize and judge other people’s relationships”. Can you share some positive responses to your latest song from fans?
I’m incredibly lucky that my fanbase is still relatively small, because it means that I rarely get negative responses. Putting my relationship and my experience with love on social media is a big deal for me, because I’ve seen plenty of celebrities post a cute picture with their significant other only for the comments to be evenly divided between “goals” and “ugh you could do better.” Obviously I am not a celebrity, but I am going into a very public career path, and the way people begin to treat you as a product rather than a person is a scary thing to face. Maybe someday I’ll have to deal with thoughtless scrutiny on my relationship, but for now everyone has reacted with overwhelming positivity. I couldn’t write an EP about love without sharing some personal details, and I have received so much support and genuine curiosity regarding my story and my music!
Our commercial expectations of success are all bullshit: an open letter by Marta Palombo - thread.
Historically, a singer (particularly a female singer) was considered to be just a step above a prostitute. Did you know…
You responded to Thread’s new project called ‘The Highs & Lows of the Music Industry’ with a very personal open letter. Great to see artists support one another through hardships and mental health concerns. Who has supported you on your musical journey?
My parents, absolutely. They have never once questioned my desire to be an artist. My friends are my street team; they hype me up and share my music with anyone who will listen, and make me feel like a queen at all times (even when I definitely am not). Quinten (my boyfriend) has been a huge help in these past five years because he’s a much more level-headed and critical person than me. He anchors me down when I throw myself way, wayyyy too high into the air, but also never allows me to stop flying. And of course, every single person who works on my music with me and helps me achieve the sound, look, and idea I’m going for deserves so much gratitude.
Spill some tea … favorite blends?
Unsurprisingly, I’m a fan of sweet floral blends. I love rose-flavored anything, so teas with rosehips automatically win me over. However, I recently bought a Butterbeer inspired blend with butterscotch, marigolds, and black tea leaves, and it’s become my favorite way to warm up after a cold day.
Ballroom dance on ice skates? Who is your favorite skater?
I actually don’t follow figure skating much, so I don’t have an answer to that — I definitely think the key word on the post you’re referring to is *attempted* to ballroom dance on ice skates! I took a few figure skating lessons when I was younger, but I have since lost all skill. Quinten and I have almost always gone ice skating on our anniversary, so in a fit of overestimated confidence we attempted to dance. I discovered very quickly that I cannot skate backwards, and it’s a miracle that we didn’t fall! No worries, I fell later…
You recently finished all the Neil Gaiman books. What books/authors are on your to-be-read list?
Annual lasagna party? Favorite recipe?
My family and I host a very large Lasagna Party every year where my mom and I cook about 17 pans of lasagna and then have people over to eat. That is absolutely my kind of party!
Lasagna and tiramisu are my favorite recipes. Both family traditions, and both spectacularly good.
Merch — did you design your flowers & turtles & trees tote bags? How can fans not in Nashville get the Wizard of Oz inspired bags?
Yes, I did design them! The Wizard of Oz inspired quote was originally a placeholder, but it grew on me until I decided to keep it. I’m working on setting up the merch store on my website, so if any non-Nashville residents want one in the meantime, they can absolutely reach out to me through email or social media and we can figure out shipping!
You said you genuinely want to reach more people and made a goal to get to 1,000 followers on Instagram. What’s the best way for fans to stay connected?
I set 1,000 followers as a goal for myself because I wanted to improve my presence online and really dive into learning about social media marketing. I figured 1,000 would be a good, solid number to aspire to, and we have since surpassed it! I’m definitely most active on Instagram, but I also have Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, YouTube, and all that jazz! Here are all those links: