We first fell in love with Melanie Martinez when she was a teen talent on The Voice: Her unique voice, eclectic song selections, affinity for baby bangs and Peter Pan collars all felt refreshing and inventive. Fast forward a few years and she's released a debut LP, the ambitious narrative Cry Baby; toured around the world; and secured a dedicated fanbase. Martinez's world takeover appears to be only beginning.
We spoke to the up-and-coming singer-songwriter to learn more about the evolution of her Cry Baby empire, her passion for music videos and just what the future holds.
FUSE: Congrats on an incredible year! Your debut album did well, and I've been hearing "Soap" in the wild. How does it feel?
Martinez: Super awesome. It feels so great to have my music out there. I'm super excited to continue working on videos for the album. That's kind of what I'm working on now.
Did you anticipate the resonance that Cry Baby has had? It really seems like you've carved your space in the pop music world.
Yeah! I don't know, I was just working on it for a while, the music and the art and stuff, and that's my main focus.
Have you always been a visually-minded person? The "Soap"/"Training Wheel" video is intricate, and you took creative control of it...
Yeah, I directed that video and a few others, and I'm writing the treatments for all the other videos from the album, too. I was a photographer when I was 14-to-17 or something. That was my main focus, along with writing music. I was taking pictures and I feel like that has a lot to do with why I like directing music videos now. I'm doing a video for every song on the album.
Have you ever thought about doing it for other people?
I haven't thought about it, but that would be very awesome! I'm definitely focused on my own stuff right now, but maybe in the future.
So you're doing a video for every song on the album. What's the trajectory?
The idea is to tell the story in every possible way. I think making a music video for every song is the right way to do that.
Do you consider Cry Baby to be a concept record or more of a storytelling project? How do you view it as a whole work of art?
My whole goal for my music in general is to have every album create to make this bigger story. Cry Baby is just one character in this weird world I'm trying to create. I want them all to connect eventually, and Cry Baby is like a movie or a book. That's how I want people to see my music.
It's a really ambitious thing: Here's your debut album, and you're creating your own world. Did you always know that's what your approach was going to be?
No, I just slowly figured it out. There are so many things that I want to do that I have to figure out. I just figured out the concept for the next album, [and] how to make it connect with the first. I'm slowly figuring that out as well. Right now my focus is on the visuals for the first album.
Are you the kind of musician who's constantly writing?
Yes! There's just too much stuff going on that I have to express and let out, or else it just bottles up and I go crazy.
Is Cry Baby the focus of the next album, or will it highlight another character in this world?
I can't share too much but it's a place in the town Cry Baby lives in and it's based on that place. That's all I can say!
You're going to have to build a theme park and make this come to life.
I love theme parks!
You're a creative person, and yet your story starts with The Voice, where you spent your time covering other people's songs. Is it freeing, now, to be able to do your own thing?
One hundred percent. That show was really frustrating for me, because as a songwriter, the best I could do was taking those songs and flipping them and trying to rearrange them as if I wrote them, [and] singing them as if I wrote them. That was the only way I could feel comfortable doing that, really. Afterwards was really hard for me. I kept pushing my own music and I kept writing. I'm very happy and very grateful that I have people who are supporting my original music now, who've been listening and watching all the music videos. It's so nice to have that. It feels weird coming out of it.
What did you learn from The Voice experience?
I learned that it's not real life. You get sucked into it. You believe it's the only way to make your career when you're in it. You think it's the only way, and that's not the truth at all. It's the complete opposite. I think I've learned it's much better to work on your art and work on who you are as an artist before trying to put yourself out there. I'm very, very grateful for that opportunity and that experience and all the friends that I made, most importantly.
You're getting ready to embark on a pretty big 2016 tour. What can we expect from those shows?
This last tour was the first time I worked with lighting and production and stuff. I had these giant Cry Baby blocks. I'm still working on the visual set-up for tour for next year. I'm really excited. It's going to be different from the other tour. I'm just super excited to play the new album and work on the new visual arrangement for everything on stage.
You probably have fans who come dressed up in cool costumes.
Everyone dresses up--it's so fun. I always get a bunch of candy and cookies at meet-and-greets and stuff like that. It's so sweet.
Do you have a name for your fans?
When I was on the Voice they made us make a Twitter to chat with fans and come up with a group name for your fans. I never really liked that. I feel like people call themselves cry babies because of the album, so, I guess that? [laughs]
What are your other plans for next year? Are you planning on releasing another album in 2016?
I don't know yet. I'm still figuring everything out. I want to make sure I have time to do all these music videos. I'm working on a couple. Literally last night, I just finished writing and sending in the treatment for the next music video. Expect a bunch of videos and art stuff. Maybe I'll do something for Christmas. Who knows!