Melanie Martinez is a true character, with unique, creative, out-of-this-world ideas that come to life in her visuals. The multi-Platinum selling singer-songwriter, filmmaker, director, and costume designer hails one of the most dedicated fanbases in the music industry, boasting over 8.5 million followers on Instagram, 11.7 million Youtube subscribers and over 2.7 billion channel views.
Truly one-of-a-kind, she states,” I love art and I love creating, it’s my biggest passion.”
With her debut album Cry Baby recently seeing a resurgence in the Billboard 200 charts, thanks to fan favorite “Play Date” which became a viral sensation on TikTok, Melanie created her own #playdate movement that millions of fans couldn’t help but participate in. Following the initial success of Cry Baby, she unleashed the deluxe version of her sophomore album K-12, with the deluxe now boasting an additional 7-track EP titled After School.
If you had the chance to see the official music video for “The Bakery,” you know you’re in for a treat (literally). Clocking in at 15 million views within 2 weeks of release, Melanie is a true visionary when it comes to her art, her music, her visuals, her fashion, and life as a whole. Flaunt caught up with Melanie via Zoom to discuss her upbringing in Queens, being on The Voice at 17, her Crybaby character, the concept behind “The Bakery,” the new EP, self-care tips, and more.
You just released the “The Bakery” visual, already 13 million views.
What were you seeing growing up in Queens New York?
I was born in Astoria, Queens, I lived there until I was 4 then I moved to Baldwin. It’s in Long Island, kind of a passing town. It was cool, Long Island’s alright. I liked being in the city more. Growing up, I’d take the train, the LIRR, and go to the city. Hang out with my cousins who lived in different boroughs in New York, it was nice.
Biggest influences coming up?
I was really inspired by Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor, CocoRosie, Bjork. I loved Brandy. I had a huge Brittney Spears phase when I was really young, a lot of pop divas I really loved and admired. It’s a mix of different genres and styles.
What did The Voice do for your career?
The Voice was definitely interesting, it taught me alot about TV. It helped me build confidence. I was very shy growing up. Being 17 and going on a major television show like that was a huge shock to my system. “Okay I don’t know where I am or what I’m doing, but I’ll do my best!”
You were 17?!
I was really young, but definitely a great learning experience. I learned a lot about having more confidence. Growing up in front of people’s eyes is a weird thing, it taught me a lot about gaining a thicker skin and being more comfortable with myself.
Was there any contenders for another name outside of Melanie Martinez?
I didn’t think to have another artist’s name. Well this is my name, so I’m using it. I never really thought about it. Thinking now, maybe I would’ve changed it to Crybaby. That would’ve been interesting to keep it in the character, that’s the character I have for my albums. But I like having my name. [chuckles]
How did you first build your following?
Touring was the biggest thing that helped me connect with my audience, understand who it was listening to my music. My audience is very similar to me. At that age, I was very similar to them at least. They’re very creative, they’re very introverted. They’re very shy. A lot of them struggle with anxiety, a lot of different things that I really relate with them on. Touring was definitely the biggest connector between me and my audience, and just releasing music.
Bring us back to “Play Date,” were you prepared for that to do what it did?
No, it was a huge surprise because it’s a 5-year-old song. I didn’t know a song from 5 years ago would randomly pop up. Obviously it’s very exciting, really cool people got to rediscover that album which is the introduction to the character. K-12 is that character now experiencing the world around her, what’s going on within the world and other characters. Expanding on the world, it’s cool people got to be introduced to the character again. It was nice, a special moment from the universe.
Can you describe this character for us?
Crybaby is an extreme expression of all of my emotions. If I’m sad, she’s the vessel for that sadness. If I’m happy, all my emotions I put down, I’m writing through her lens. The way I’d say it is still very much the same, but the things she’s experienced are very different. I’m creating a character with a separate narrative so I can separate who I am as myself, Melanie Martinez, from this character they see in the music videos.
“The Bakery” visual is already 15 million views, what’s it like seeing those numbers?
Really cool and very exciting. I worked really hard on the music video. It’s funny, I wrote a video treatment for “Play Date” because when things started moving, I thought “oh maybe I should do a music video for it.” Everything with Coronavirus, production shut down. I was releasing the After School EP and really wanted to make a new music video. I focused on the “The Bakery” music video, I did all the costume design. I directed and wrote the treatment. A lot of the time, I’ll write music or a music video and it comes out years later. This is the closest time frame I was able to create something and have it immediately come out within the same month. How I feel now within my body, it’s a more grown or evolved version of myself. Really exciting to be able to put that out there.
Where did you get the concept of being cooked as a cookie?
[laughs] I thought it’d be really cool if I was this giant dough cooking body. I was getting rolled out then baked, having the decorations. It was a really fun idea so I drew it out on a storyboard on my iPad and sent it to the label. That’s usually how I do things, randomly draw it out and send it to see if they think it’s cool.
One thing you want fans to get from the K-12 Deluxe, After School EP?
There’s a lot of different messaging. Every single song is something I experienced or overcame. They’re all so different, I could go through the whole EP. “The Bakery” is about working at a place you don’t want to work at, but you’re working there because you have a bigger passion or a bigger purpose. You have something else you have to do, but you’re working to be able to invest your art or your passion. A very important message for a lot of people doing work they don’t necessarily want to do, but doing it to be able to fund something bigger for themselves, which is valid and very important.
“Brain & Heart” is about balancing your logical mind and emotional self. Making decisions in a balanced place between both, as opposed to staying super analytical or too open-hearted. There’s one song about having a healthy detachment and attachment. All these different lessons I was learning, I put them into this EP. It’s a more recent project, but also took 3 years. The oldest song on there is from 2017, so a little gap between where I was then and where I am now. All the pieces connect within the EP together.
What’s your favorite song in the EP?
My favorite song is “Test Me”. Sonically, it carries a different energy than the rest of the songs. It’s closer to the songs that I’m making for my third record, the bridge between my old music and my new music.
What’s Jennifer Lopez’ influence on your music and career?
J. Lo’s a huge influence growing up. My dad listened to J. Lo all the time. Writing that song, I kept hearing this J. Lo melody and really wanted to put it down. It was calling me, I had no choice. I had to do this! It was so exciting for me because I never thought I’d do an interpolation of a J. Lo song, but it really connected me back to my childhood in such a deep way. I enjoy that song.
Best memory shooting K-12 the film?
Definitely getting to know the people in the cast. We casted people in LA then we all went to a different country together. We went to Hungary, a completely new experience. The hours were very intense. I had to be there at 3am, I hardly slept and was hardly eating. A lot of work work work. The time I did get, I was able to spend with the people in the film. Got to know them, understand who I was working with and different personalities. All of us got along really well, watched French films and drank wine. Hang out and talk about life, there were so many synchronicities.
It was very destined, we’re meant to be there together. Because we had each other, we’re all able to connect emotionally, be there and support anything that was happening. Even I had an anxiety attack, I had another person there who’s very supportive, caring, and nurturing. That’s the energy all-around, it felt really special.
Talk about promoting positivity and pushing through your own struggles with anxiety.
I’ve been learning how to understand my anxiety and how to deal with it. I used to think “marijuana, great for anxiety.” Over time I realized it’s about being able to sit still in a room by yourself and have complete quiet. Be able to breathe and focus on your breath. At least for me, that’s helped me the most. Spending more time alone and being okay with spending time alone. being okay with being in a room that’s silent. Hearing your own thoughts, understanding them for what they are. Really focusing on the things you want to bring into your life, as opposed to the things you don’t have. Being more grateful, taking time out the day to say you’re so grateful for having a roof over my head. Having a good family that’s supportive, having friends that really care about me. Just being able to eat, being grateful for anything you can be grateful for is great spark positivity in your life.
What do you do for self-care?
Definitely dance. Dancing is my biggest form of self care. I used to blast Brandy and dance for hours, for 4 hours straight. That’s the best. Dancing is a recent thing in the past couple years. I used to think I wasn’t a very good dancer and had no confidence. As my confidence grew over time, so did my interest in dancing. That’s become very therapeutic for me.
3 things you need in the studio?
Usually I’ll get a snack, some sort of chocolate. Anything chocolate! [laughs] Chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes, I love having chocolate with me in the studio. Water obviously. My iPad or a notepad and a pen. A guitar or keyboard is very important for me, any instrument really.
Goals for yourself at this point of your career?
Major goals are to finish my script for my next film/album, finish that album as well. My third record, second film. I’m on page 50 of the script which I’m super excited about. I want to make a poetry/photography book at some point. Like a poetry/photography book. For my own self like hobbies, I want to get better at embroidering and painting.