story /Erica Hawkins
photos / Jimmy Kim
Melanie Martinez wears baby doll dresses, multi-colored tresses, and radiates a red hot aura which, according to Mood by Moss, means she’s engaged in life, driven to express ideas, and is socially charismatic. It only took a few minutes of chatting with the uncommon pop star to confirm that all of these things were true.
Despite her youthful impression, Martinez is wise beyond her years when it comes to creating the world after her own unique vision. She has an obsessive fan base, a certified gold album, and no intention of slowing down or wiping away her tears. I sat down with Melanie during the second weekend of Austin City Limits Music Festival, post her aura reading and pre her festival performance, to ask her about her tour, creative process, and embracing the moniker of “cry baby”.
How has the last leg of your Cry Baby tour been going?
It’s been going good. I’ve been touring for a long time, especially these songs. I feel like any artist over time you can get kind of, not bored, but you want to play new music. I’ve been writing my next record and I’m really excited to put that out next year. I’m just dying to play new music.
Speaking of the tour, if you had to choose between the smaller venues you’ve been playing and festival shows like today, which type is your favorite?
What I like about festivals is they are really chill, you’re playing and then it’s over by 6pm if you’re on early enough. When you’re at a venue all day it’s feels like it’s been a long day and you’re not done until 1am in reality. I like the feel of festivals, the unity that everyone has, it’s really nice and fun. But I do love playing my own shows just because my fans are so incredible and creative and inspiring to me. They’re just really awesome and it’s always so much fun.
You mentioned that you’ve always been emotional, sensitive and kind of a ‘cry baby’, but that you’ve embodied that and let that create your art. How does that feel to let go of the idea that you shouldn’t be that way by embracing that sensitivity?
It feels good. I’m still growing. Every day I’m still learning more about myself. I still cry every single day of my life, I’m very emotional. That’s something I’m always going to be. Writing music and creating, making music videos, painting, anything that is making something from nothing I think that helps me express how I feel and get all of my negative feelings that I have out. It’s like therapy almost. I think music has definitely helped me grow and learn about myself.
Speaking of channeling creativity, I heard that your music was inspired by vintage toy sounds and you mentioned your love for painting, what else inspires you to create music?
I think that I just always had this love for creating ever since I was younger. My parents were super strict. I wasn’t really allowed out of the house a lot, and I didn’t really have any friends so I never got invited anywhere, it wasn’t like I had fear of missing out or anything like that. I would just stay at home and write and teach myself how to play guitar and paint. I was really into photography which is what sparked me wanting to direct my own videos and being super into every little detail and kind of meticulous about that kind of thing. That’s why I love the visuals and why the visuals are so important to the music for me.
That brings me to my next question, how do the visuals play into your artistic vision? Your aesthetic and stage setup is very immersive, do you think that’s an important aspect for your fans?
I think that what I wanted to do with Cry Baby was, I wanted to create this character Cry Baby, but I also wanted it to be like she’s me. I feel very connected to the character and with that I feel very invested in making sure that all of the little details are perfect and that her story matches up with everything that I do. My own apartment is literally pastels with vintage toys everywhere, it’s just who I am. So my stage set up is like an extension. Also, with the stage set up specifically, I wanted people to feel like they’re in Cry Baby’s nursery, in her room.
Many of your songs have child like themes obviously juxtaposed with what you’re experiencing on a day to day basis. Is that something that you are doing intentionally or does that happen naturally?
It just happens naturally. Whenever I’m feeling any negative emotion or even positive emotion, mainly when I’m sad or mad it’s easier to write. I think that it just naturally happens with whatever I’m thinking about. I start with titles first, I’m very visual in that way, where I will start with the title. And when I’m actually writing music for it and writing lyrics, I’m trying to tell a story that’s either actually happened in my life, especially in the second album. There’s a lot of songs about how I feel when I’m on tour or what it feels like to have so many people watching me but it’s disguised in themes.
Do you like to disguise it? Do you feel safer?
I feel safer. I feel like having Cry Baby as the character I’m talking about, it helps me because I am self-conscious of people hearing about my personal life. I never post that much about my personal life and I never talk about my personal life. I like to keep it about the music and the art, because I think it’s important. Especially now when people care more about what celebrities look like and their relationships become more important than their music. I never want that to be the case with my art or my music.
So it is obviously scary putting my personal life into my music because that’s what people are listening to, but I know my fans definitely want to know how I feel as well, and that’s something I’m learning to be able to share. It’s really hard though.
You mentioned writing and the next album, what else are you excited about coming next?
I’m really excited to finish these music videos, I just finished shooting “Pacifier” and “Mrs. Potato Head”, and I have to go back and edit, actually tomorrow morning I leave to go home so that I have a week to edit those videos, and a couple other surprises I can’t talk about yet but I’m super excited.