After a stint on “The Voice,” 19-year-old Melanie Martinez fought to be taken seriously as a musician. She honed her image and separated herself from the show for a year, then recorded the EP “Dollhouse.” The release boasts a subversively creepy doll aesthetic that garnered the attention of “American Horror Story: Freak Show,” which featured her song “Carousel” in one of its trailers. WSN sat down with Martinez to discuss her search for artistry, “Dollhouse” and how she combines childhood motifs with dark themes.
WSN: Where do you get your inspiration for such dark childhood-inspired songs?
MM: I think I cling to it; I’m generally a happy person, but I have very strong emotional waves. I definitely put my emotions into my music. When I’m having really sad days I write and it’s therapy, and I think it’s why the songs come out so sad. When I’m happy, I actually have writer’s block, so I’ll put myself through hell to write good music.
WSN: How would you describe your sound?
MM: It’s inspired by toy sounds, hip-hop influenced beats with childish sounds and creepy production. I think my songs are individual stories. Each song is its own thing, but it’s still able to fit into this giant pack of storybooks.
WSN: Do you think any of your opportunities have come from “The Voice”?
MM: When I was on “The Voice,” being labeled as a contestant meant I had to work hard to get to a place where people looked at me as an artist. That’s where people first saw me, so I’m okay with it, but I think all the opportunities I’ve been getting have come from the music and people genuinely being into it. I spent a year developing my sound and working with different writers and producers, and I got to this point where I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do. When the “Dollhouse” video came out, I met with [Atlantic Records], and they were very supportive of my vision. I’ve heard horror stories about record labels where people have to change, and I haven’t had
WSN: Speaking of horror stories, what was it like to have your song featured on the trailer for “Freak Show”?
MM: I was freaking out.
WSN: Are you a fan of the show?
MM: Jessica Lange is my baby. Everyone is a great actor in every season. I love the carnival aesthetic; it’s old and creepy, and I feel like it fits my phase right now. I found out about it being used in the trailer two days before they aired it and I was just so happy.
WSN: What are your plans for the spring?
MM: I’m releasing a 13 track album. It’s basically a bigger version of the EP, more dedicated to the childhood themes. The tracks are childhood things paired with mature subjects; one of the songs, “Ms. Potato Head,” is about plastic surgery and it gets very dark and blunt in regards of what I’m talking about.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Feb. 12 print edition. Email E.R. Pulgar at [email protected]