By Invitation

by Cheryl and Emerson Martlage

  • Digital Album
    Streaming + Download

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    Purchasable with gift card

      $7 USD  or more

    You own this




By Invitation is a collection of stories about opening ourselves to relationship and active collaboration with others.

Our earlier focus was intensely introspective as we intentionally suspended nearly all external interactions to look more deeply into our relationship and into ourselves. We wanted to be on solid ground before re-engaging with the world. The process, of course, has taken many more years than we ever imagined—a gradual unfolding for us with false starts and shifts in our direction along the way.

At this particular time, however, we feel a stirring within that is different—perhaps signaling a readiness to open even further into forging alliances. We are willing to release tight controls on our work, inviting others to participate and co-create.

It is a time of open engagement as we shift from passive participation to actively extend and accept invitations with others—a time of spontaneity and surprising possibilities.


released August 1, 2009

We dedicate these stories to those who have invited us into their lives, and those who’ve accepted our invitation to join in co-creative dances. Whether our interactions have lasted hours or years, we have found the positive energy they generate to be utterly inspiring and contagious.

Cheryl Martlage - Lyrics and vocals
Emerson Martlage - Music, guitar and vocals
Mr Toad's San Francisco - Mastering
Patricia Barry Ryley - Graphic Design
Joshua Housh - Beatrice's Ghost


all rights reserved



Cheryl and Emerson Martlage San Diego, California

At the age of 48, and after 25 years of marriage, we headed to a secluded town for 6 weeks, to create a new relationship and begin again.

When we arrived as if by magic, we co-wrote our first song ever— "Never Sleep," evoking the mystery and magic of the new adventure. Twenty years later, we're still making music. Join us on our musical storytelling as the adventure continues to unfold
... more

contact / help

Contact Cheryl and Emerson Martlage

Streaming and
Download help

Track Name: By Invitation
Got a letter addressed in fancy script
Ripped it open with a style to match its flair

Words so fluid that they dripped and ran right off the page
The honor of my presence is requested

Laughed out loud when I read who it was from
Earlier this morning, I mailed them an invitation of my own

Including them, letting in
Then I find that they’re inclined
To pen these lines of invitation, let me in

Sat down at the desk to write out my reply
And to thank them for including me

With words so fluid that they flowed between my pen and page
Wrote of invitations coming and going

I imagine basking in your presence
Sharing all of our lives by invitation

The pleasure of your company
Track Name: Sparks
Across the room our eyes meet
Distance closes
As we slowly, step by step
Make our way together

Drawn by piercing dark eyes
Time suspended
As the crowd begins to dim
Fades then finally melts away

In the middle of the room
With our fingers touching
Sparks of something new
Yet we’ve both known all along

I feel pulled into a place I want to stay
Offered secretly
So compelling I can’t break away
Can’t imagine that I’d want to
It seems there’s no beginning
And there is no end
No beginning
Somehow without end

It seems there’s no beginning
And there is no end
No beginning
Somehow without end

Saying not a single word
I know his story
Why we both are here tonight
And we won’t go home alone

As we climb into the car
My heartbeat races
He softly says to me
“Dear, I think you have the keys.”
Track Name: Open Mind
There’s a moment when
I know it’s time for me to go
Something beckons me
Toward the open door

I wonder what it is that I might find
As I hit the open road, with an open mind

Knowing, There’s nothing to prove
Just me and the road ahead
Aren’t we all just passing through
To somewhere else we’d rather be instead

Maybe I’ll be back
On another day
Until then I’ll go my way alone
With an open mind, along the open road

Feeling, sometimes the lonely times
Make me want to stay
But the time has come
For me to walk away

With an open mind
Off to find my way
On the open road
With an open mind

Off to find my way
With an open mind
Track Name: Sea Change
Upon the waterway
Touching tall reeds passed along the way
Transported, while drifting
Floating gently toward a sea change

Lightly on peaceful waves
Buoyant, afloat I am without weight
Transforming while it moves me
Ever-higher still
Gently toward a sea change

While there are so many ways
Journeys have been taken
Going here to there
On the ebb and flow
Currents, undertow
Carried through locks, wheels and floodgates

Nearly silent gears ratchet
Lifting my vessel higher
Safe passage
From a lower river
Tendered, surrendered am I

Safe passage
From a lower river
Stepping ashore in some other place
Gently delivered

The arms that carried me
Turn back again where I used to be
Transporting another
Floating calmly toward a sea change
Track Name: Sled of Hay
Through a snow-covered field
Two horses pulled our sleigh
Ambling out from among the grove
A herd of one hundred elk
Appeared to circle our sled of hay

Then as though we weren’t there
They ate the hay beneath us
Nudging to find a better place
They took their share, then stepped aside
So that all of the herd could eat

And so it is each and every day
Someone brought the heavy-laden sleigh
Every winter, through the snow
Sometimes until May or so
When warm days thawed the ground
Budding shoots and grass abound
Calling them home once again
To higher ground

Another winter they have survived

Through a clover-white field
Two horses make their way
Ambling back to that same old grove
To drink from the rushing stream
Where they dream of their sled of hay

Another winter day
Will come and they’ll be waiting
Ready to feed the herd
Track Name: Higher the Hair
My mamma told me, Heaven is just a hair away
Don’t you let your troubles get in the way

Wherever you go, Heaven is always there with you
Simply back-comb a halo, an angel-do

Along with prayer, a jumbo can of hair spray
Just tease and spray your way

The Higher the Hair, the Closer to Heaven
Don’t forget to take your brush and comb
The Higher the Hair, the Closer to Heaven
Paradise is worth the journey home

So now I’m sure that, Heaven is just a hair away
And in time I know I’ll get there someday

Wherever I go, Heaven is always there with me
In my crowning glory, reminding me

Don’t hesitate, open the gates of Heaven
I’ll brush and comb my way

The Higher the Hair, the Closer to Heaven
I’m awful glad to have my friends with me
The Higher the Hair, the Closer to Heaven
Goin’ home to Heaven’s family
Goin’ home to Heaven’s sweet family

Don’t you know Heaven is family
Track Name: Your Voice
I got a call today, random, empty
Completely lacking anything to tell me
Checking in, just routine contact
Listening for that tone in my voice
Everything’s alright

Picked up the telephone absent-minded
Distracted from my thoughts, not thinking clearly
Surprised a bit by my reluctance
Once she hears my voice she knows that
Everything’s alright

She only wants to hear that
Everything’s alright

Can she know that I had the flu
Concealed from her
Can she tell I’ve been feeling so blue
There is no cause for fretting

No reason to worry
I don’t want to be any bother
No need for losing sleep
Let’s just say everything is alright

Let’s just say everything’s okay
After all, that’s why she calls
That’s why she calls

I made a call today, random, empty
Completely lacking anything to tell her
Checking in, just routine contact
Listening for that tone in her voice
Everything’s alright

Just to hear her voice
That’s why I call
Track Name: Finally Friends
Growing up as kids
They were best of friends
Brother and sister scheming
The way that only they do

Whisked from Indiana
To the western coast
Said goodbye to everyone
Then moved away and apart

Went their different ways and
Both found all new friends
No need for each other
The distance widened with age

So that, they had few things in common
No longer each other’s best friend
They were like oil and water, separate
How could their hearts ever mend

Year after year
Without their heads together scheming
It seemed they’d never make amends

He moved off to Philly
She to Idaho
One day she went to visit
On her way to somewhere else

They began to talk
And they found some things in common
Maybe they still could be friends

They are brother and sister scheming
Just like the way they used to do
Kids again

Finally friends
Track Name: Elegy
I miss the way you looked as you walked toward me
I miss the way you laughed when I told you a story

Though I miss being together
And the times that we shared
Strangely, somehow what I miss most are
The things we didn’t do

We thought maybe we might dream together
Imagined chasing away fears and demons
But they became places we didn’t go

They just became places where we didn’t go

I miss the feeling that you could see through me
I miss the little things I thought had no meaning

Though I miss being together
And the times that we shared
Strangely, somehow what I miss most are
The things we didn’t do

And the things we didn’t say
The way we never were
Track Name: Second Chance
If I could do it all over
What would I change
From the way I did things in the past
Who I used to be
Would I take that second chance

If I had just a penny
For every thought
On a sleepless night as I lay awake
Wondering what might have been
If only I had a second chance

Would I take back words
That might have hurt
Or would I say again
What I said there and then

Would my actions be thought kind
Every deed
Or fall short of the mark
Breaking some body’s heart in two

Given the chance
Would I be unfair or just

If I had a good reason
To think my life could be better somehow than it is
Or the way it has been

Then I might want that second chance
Though I imagine other choices
Still I know I’d do everything the same

If I could have a second chance
I’d let it pass