At just 19, Melanie Martinez has used every ounce of her budding creativity and sharp eye for aesthetic appeal. Her distinctive look and spell-binding voice made her a semi-finalist on season 3 of The Voice at 16 years old, captured the attention of American Horror Story execs, and recently got her a record contract with Atlantic Records. She just released the music video for the eerie and haunting “Carousel,” and dressed in a fluffy pastel bunny outfit, Melanie sat down with us last weekend at Austin City Limits Music Festival to discuss her upcoming LP Crybaby, her song being featured in the American Horror Story: Freakshow trailer, and what she learned from being on The Voice.
How do you like ACL so far?
It’s really cool. It’s so exciting watching artists I like and just seeing people have a good time and dance and stuff.
What artists have you seen, or who are you most excited to see?
I saw Eminem! I love him. I also saw Lana Del Rey, Major Lazer, and Iggy Azalea. My friend actually dances for Major Lazer.
You were on The Voice when you were 16. Why did you choose The Voice over, say, American Idol, and what were some of the most important things you learned in the process?
I wasn’t really doing anything besides writing songs in my bathroom at the time, and I didn’t really play any shows. So I went out on a limb and saw this ad online for The Voice and thought “why not?” So, I went to the open call at Javits Center, and I just kept getting further and further. I actually auditioned for American Idol when I was 15, but I didn’t make it anywhere. It’s not something that I really wanted to do, it was just something that I did because I had nothing to lose. There was nothing else to do in Long Island.
The biggest thing I learned was just how to perform under pressure week-to-week on live television. I think that awesome to go through before actually starting your career because now when you eventually get on TV again, it’ll be easier. It’s definitely like a boot camp. You go under lots of stress and stuff, so now I feel like I can handle stress a lot easier. It was definitely a huge learning experience for me, and I’m happy to be doing what I’m doing now.
You recently got signed to Atlantic Records (congrats) after you had been releasing material independently. What is the process like after you get off The Voice? How does that all work?
After I got off The Voice, I just started playing shows and kept working at it and writing. Then I got a publishing deal with Warner and just started writing a lot. Then I came out with my single “Dollhouse,” and then earlier this year Atlantic signed me. Now I’m finishing up my album, and it’s going to be released beginning of next year. It has been really fun and definitely an interesting process. Most of it has just been me playing live and preparing myself for playing shows later on.
How is your upcoming album Crybaby going to differ from your Dollhouse EP?
The Dollhouse EP is basically just a taste of what Crybaby is going to be. Crybaby is a concept album, so all the titles and subject matter are childhood-based, but the actual subject is super mature and dark. There are songs like “Milk and Cookies,” “Teddy Bear,” and “Dollhouse,” so the childhood theme is basically just a cover up for the actual subject matter.
What’s the inspiration for your style? Describe the outfit you’re wearing right now.
I am a bunny right now. I have bunny ears, a Peter Pan attachable vinyl collar with daisies in it, a pink crop-top, bunny shorts with a bunny tail, yellow lace socks, and my black boots. I think my style is inspired by my childhood, and it just sort of fits with the theme of my album and my songs. Everything is just wrapped around my childhood, so it’s very important to me in a way.
I first heard of you because of “Dollhouse,” but I became really interested when I heard your song “Carousel” in the American Horror Story trailer. How did this come about?
I wrote the song a year ago, and a few weeks after I wrote it I found out that they leaked the theme for the next American Horror Story season. And I’m a huge American Horror Story fan, so I sent an email to my manager to contact the people and show them the song. We didn’t even know that it was in the trailer until 2 days before they aired it, and they were like “Your song is going to be on the promo!” So I freaked out and was staying up all day and night just waiting to see the commercial go on. It’s super cool that it’s on such a big show, but besides that, it’s my favorite show, so that’s why I think it’s so personal and such a big deal for me.
Watch Melanie Martinez’s new music video for “Carousel” below.