Interview: Melanie Martinez

Photo by Adam Elmakias

Photo by Adam Elmakias

Melanie Martinez first captivated us with her unique voice and sense of style while on The Voice. Since then she's become one of the few stars of the show to achieve mainstream success, signing with Atlantic Records and releasing an EP and, most recently, her debut full-length, Cry Baby.

A while ago we were given the opportunity to talk to her about her hustle, the visual aspect behind her art and the and her plans to expand upon Cry Baby's world.

Cry Baby is out now through Atlantic Records.

How have your audiences been reacting to Cry Baby?
It’s been cool. Listening to people singing along and seeing them react to each song. Whichever one is their favourite, they scream at the top of their lungs when they hear the intro to each song. It’s hard to hear myself and get on the right tune because all I hear is them screaming through the mic and into my ears but it’s been really awesome. People have a lot of energy and I definitely wasn’t expecting that. They're really awesome.

I’ve been listening to Cry Baby a lot and I love it. How does it feel to finally have the album out there for people to hear?
It feels great. I’m just happy I was able to put the whole storybook together for the physical copy and be able to continue to tell the story of the album and I’m excited to make music videos and add more visuals to it.

The packaging for this album was so intricate, you can tell you put a lot of care and thinking into it. How important was it for you to get it right and to the standard that you wanted it?
I spent awhile working with Chloe [Tersigni]. She’s an insane illustrator, she’s so incredible, and I would send her paragraphs of how I wanted each picture to look for each song and she nailed it every time. It was a very each process with her because she’s so talented and we have the same brain. That worked out really well. It took a little bit to get the whole storybook packaging together with all the pages because it’s so custom and people aren’t used to doing stuff like that. So that took a little bit but it was definitely worth it.

I collect vinyl so I’m a big fan of when you can tell someone put care into the packaging.
I love really detailed packaging, it’s one of my favourite things.

A lot of people know you from The Voice. Do you believe being on The Voice helped your career at all? After The Voice , did you receive any guidance from the mentors or producers on how to further your music career?
Once I left The Voice, they just forget about you. I didn’t talk to anyone afterwards and I was writing for that whole entire year and figuring myself out and figuring out what I wanted to do with my music. The only thing I got out of the show was great friends, a good learning experience and, obviously, the exposure from the show. As far as what I learned for now in my career, not really anything.

You pretty much DIY’d your whole career and is that how Atlantic Records noticed you?
I wrote them after I put out the “Dollhouse” video. The “Dollhouse” video was fan funded and I did it with a group of friends. They saw that and wanted to meet with me. It was a great meeting and everyone was so ready to jump on board and support everything I wanted to do. That’s why we’re here right now.

I love this whole aesthetic you've created with the pastels and almost vintage, doll-like imagery. How did you first start exploring that?
I really started to cling to those colours. My apartment looks like that as well. I collect vintage toys and stuff so it’s something I naturally like in real life.

“Pity Party” samples Lesley Gore's "It's My Party". Did you go into the song being a fan of Lesley Gore or did you think the lyrics just fit what you were currently writing?
It’s interesting because I love that song and I love music from that time so I think it was just an in the moment, listening to a bunch of music from that time and realizing how perfect that would be to sample because we were talking about writing a song about no one showing up to my birthday party and that fit the theme of the album really well so we just went for it and had some fun with it. 

On The Voice, you being a photographer was very much on the forefront. Do you still do photography or has that been put on the backburner with your music career blossoming?
I try to set up shoots now and do my own artist photos as much as possible. It’s helped me be able to create visuals and understand camera angles and composition for music videos as well. It goes hand in hand with what I do now but just in a different way. Instead of me taking pictures of other people, it’s more focused on the visuals for my career.

For this album, you didn’t just put out an album, you created a whole world for it.
Thanks, I love that you said that. That’s the plans for the next albums. It’s not about Cry Baby, I want it to be about someone in her weird town like her neighbour. I want it all to connect in a way.

You want your music to all be in the same world but just focus on different characters in Cry Baby’s world?
Yeah, definitely. I want to tell a bigger story. This album was a huge focus on Cry Baby and who she is. It’s hard for me to detach myself from that because I am Cry Baby so I’m going to have to put a lot of thought of how I can connect the next one to this without being to repetitive. I’m trying to figure that out but I’m excited to fit all the puzzle pieces together and make this bigger story.

When you made Cry Baby did you know “Carousel” and “Dollhouse” would be on the album or did they end up fitting into the concept?
It actually ended up fitting into the concept. “Dollhouse” is really what started everything. That was the first song that helped me realize everything, that I wanted to continue down that path. So I just kept thinking of things that related to childhood and started focusing on what honest and dark situation I can compare it with.