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Real Estate's Martin Courtney talks us through his first solo album Many Moons

03 November 2015, 10:00 | Written by Paul Bridgewater

Martin Courtney started writing the songs for his eventual debut Many Moons after the release of Atlas, the third album by his other band Real Estate.

With the idea of doing what he calls “a straightforward pop thing,” Courtney eventually brough in Jarvis Taveniere of Woods to produce and play on the record alongside Real Estate’s keyboard player Matt Kallman and more.

Over 18 months, he and Taveniere cut the record and Many Moons has emerged as an album-length meditation on Courtney’s life. Below, he takes us through the record, track by track.

Martin Courtney of Real Estate - Press Shot


One afternoon I sat down and started strumming my guitar, and this chord progression was the first thing that I played. I liked the way it sounded, so I recorded a voice memo on my phone and saved it for later. Sometimes that's how it happens.

I wrote half of the lyrics while laying in bed awake in the middle of the night in my old apartment in Brooklyn, the other half I wrote laying in a hammock at a farm house in a tiny town in the south of Italy near Lecce. True story.


The working title for this song was "Fall", because we thought it had a very autumnal vibe about it. This was one of the first songs I wrote for this record, and one of the first few that we recorded.

The lyrics for this song are intentionally simple. I was trying to write sort of classic pop-style lyrics, straight forward and about a specific thing; what it's like to look at an old photograph of yourself or someone you love, in this case. I wrote the lyrics while walking down a dirt road in Jamaica. True story.


The first four bars of this song are a direct homage to "Johnny Thunder" by the Kinks, if you couldn't already tell. I recorded a demo of this song in my parents' attic in New Jersey. I did the drums first. When I started to record, I really only had a verse and a chorus worked out in my head, so I repeated those a few times on the drums, and then after the third verse (guitar solo), I just kind of kept going for a while. I recorded acoustic guitar next, and once I got to that same point after the third verse, I improvised some stuff until the drums stopped. I kept layering in this way until that outtro section ended up pretty much the way you hear it on the record (minus Jarvis's very funky bass part).

I wrote the lyrics for this song, which are kind of imagining what the world is going to be like for my kid when she's my age, in my parent's attic in New Jersey. I wrote the string arrangement on my computer in a hotel room in Taipei, Taiwan. True story.

Martin Courtney of Real Estate - Press Shot

"Before We Begin"

This song came out of Jarvis, Aaron and I jamming in a practice space. We played these two parts over and over again, and were into how it was sounding, so we decided to record it. The initial recording was over 7 minutes long. I wanted it to be this long, jammy song in the middle of the record, but eventually I realized it's hard to fill up that much space and keep it interesting the whole time, so we chopped a bunch of it out.

I wrote the lyrics in the old Real Estate practice space in Brooklyn, and the string parts in the same hotel room as Vestiges. True.

"Northern Highway"

The intro to this song was inspired by intro to "I Can't Reach You" by the Who. The first verse is sort of about being on tour (in Canada) and missing home. Then the second verse is about wanting to move my family out of the city, but not knowing where to move to yet. The end of the song came out of a jam with Jarvis and Michael Stasiak, who recorded the drums on this song.

"Many Moons"

Originally, I probably thought this song would have vocals, but then I figured such a simple chord progression might end up boring if I just sang on it. I've wanted to incorporate flute into my music for a while. Especially at the time we recorded this, I was just really into 70s folk type stuff. I had to record a Nick Drake-style instrumental, just to get it out of my system.

Martin Courtney of Real Estate - Press Shot


It sounds clichéd, but I actually did wake up from a dream that this melody was playing in. It's happened to me before, but this is the only time I actually went and grabbed a guitar so I could remember the tune for later. This song was playing at the end of the dream as credits rolled like in a movie. I wanted the lyrics to be really simple, just about the idea of waking up from a dream. I thought about the Beatles song "I'm Only Sleeping", wanted to try and get a little bit of that vibe. My friend Julian Lynch happened to be visiting from Wisconsin at the time, and, since everything he touches turns to gold, I asked him if he'd do a little backwards guitar soloing and sing some backup vocals. Luckily, he was happy to oblige.

"Little Blue"

This is a song about a blue 2004 Volkswagen Golf. RIP.

"Airport Bar"

I basically wanted to write a song that contained the phrase "airport bar". I wrote the lyrics on an airplane though, not in a bar. The 12 string guitar on this song is an example of one instrument's part being able to change a song drastically. I liked the song before, but I remember sitting in the studio as I was playing that part and thinking how different it made the song sound. After that it was one of my favorites on the record.

Many Moons is out now via Domino. Buy it on iTunes or Amazon.

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