Q&A with Melanie Martinez – On Tour with new album Cry Baby
By: Patrick O’Hagan
We caught up with Melanie Martinez as she’s preparing to hit the road in support of her new album Cry Baby. She’ll be making a stop at Nashville’s Cannery Ballroom this Thursday night.
Q: Who do you credit with having the biggest influence on your music overall?
A: I think that Tim Burton influenced the album a lot… you know, just with his visuals and his movies and… Yeah, I would watch Beetle Juice before having a session and stuff like that. I think that most of my inspiration and influence came from Tim Burton movies.
Q: When did you first realize that music was something you wanted to purse on a full-time, professional basis?
A: I have always loved writing poetry and singing.
And I’ve always loved writing; I think I really knew that that was something I was going to do forever, regardless of how successful I got, or whatever. I would always be writing in my bathroom in Long Island and that was something that was never going to change in my mind.
I think since I was fifteen or maybe fourteen.
Q: Your new album Cry Baby has a very constant theme throughout. What does it mean to you and what’s the real message?
A: For me, this is a very personal album. I’ve definitely gotten over a lot of insecurities throughout writing this album, I’m a lot more comfortable and confident in myself… that was a huge personal issue that I had in writing it; I was very insecure Cry Baby was a name that I was called as a kid and that name really stuck with me, because I always took things too seriously and always took things personally… I was just a cry baby. So I made this character, Cry Baby, who is based off of myself, but I have a little bit more fun with it and added a little bit more whimsy to it and kind of told stories that I didn’t go through, just to separate the character from myself. There are some things that she goes through that I haven’t gone through; like she gets kidnapped in “Tag, You’re It,” and in “Milk & Cookies” she poisons him with milk and cookies and escapes… I just wanted to tell a story and the most important thing is that I get to tell a story and I’m hoping to continue on the story in other albums and make this whole world. Whether it’s about Cry Baby or her neighbor… I want it to be within the same world; in this same weird messed up town. I just want to be able to tell stories for the rest of my life, and that’s the main purpose of this.
Q: What is your song writing process like?
A: Usually it starts with a list of titles in my phone, even to this day. Right now I have a bunch of titles for the next album. The titles are the concepts. For this album I thought about a bunch of childish themes and then I would relate it to an adult situation; whether it was something that I was going through at that time, or something that was really dark and that I knew some else was going through, or something that happened within the world.
“Mrs. Potato Head” is a good example of my writing process. I wanted to name a song “Mrs. Potato Head” and wanted it to represent plastic surgery. I didn’t want it to bash plastic surgery or people that get plastic surgery, but, I was so drawn to the visual that you could pull off pieces of a Mrs. Potato Head and that could represent plastic surgery. That was the interesting thing to me, and I just wanted to have fun with that, and express that message - you should be comfortable with who you are and what you look like, because everyone is unique and everyone has things that they can’t change about themselves... If you change your face, or the way you look, you’re not going to really deal with the deeper issue, mainly insecurity.
So, I have the concept first…The process is always about the concept first, and hearing sounds and being inspired, and then the melody starts and everything then comes together towards the end.
Q: I’ve listened to the entire album and was really impressed. Do you have a favorite song off it?
A: They all mean different things for me, so it’s hard… I think that “Training Wheels” is one of my favorites, because it is my only love song on the album and that’s really special for me. I have “Mrs. Potato Head,” which is one I’ve wanted to execute for a while… and I’m just happy that I was able to. Yeah, I think “Mrs. Potato Head” and “Training Wheels.”
Q: You’ve been doing a lot of touring lately. What has been your most memorial experience so far?
A: I loved the Chicago show last tour at Lincoln Hall. That was really my favorite show, just because everyone in Chicago is so nice and it was just a lot of fun. And the venue was incredible.
One of the funniest things that we’ve been through on tour was when someone stole a vintage robe off the stage that I had taken off during the performance. It was this vintage robe from the 60s that my friend let me borrow… So, they stole it and I found them on Twitter and Instagram; I had a bunch of people ask him for his address, and he wouldn’t give it to them… so I direct messaged him myself and told him to “give me your address and put the robe in your mailbox, like I’m not mad, but you’re not taking my friends robe.” I went there and got the robe back, and that was probably the craziest tour experience.
Q: Tell me about your tour setup and band mates.
A: This tour is a little different, because I have an extra person with me… I have my drummer, my guitarist/keyboardist, the front of house/tour manager, and my lighting/merch guy.
Q: You’ve talked about concepts for your writing process. Do you have a concept in mind for your next album?
A: I definitely want to keep it different and bring it to a whole different level with the next album, just for personal reasons. I don’t want it to be too similar, but I also don’t want to stray too far away from it, because I’m still stuck in that mode and still drawn to it, and I don’t want to not go against something just because it’s too similar to the first. If I’m still feeling it, I think there’s a reason for it.
Right now I’m going on tour for two months, and probably more after that. I just want to experience life right now and then figure out all that stuff when its time. I want to feel proud of the concept I do for the next one…I’m okay with not knowing exactly what I want to do for the next album, because I just have to live life and it will fall into place.
Q: What’s your hidden talent?
A: I can squirt chocolate milk from the gap between my two front teeth.
Q: Favorite food?
A: Definitely mac ‘n cheese, but it has to be the right type of mac n’ cheese. It has to be that really cheesy cheese mac ‘n cheese with breadcrumbs on top. My favorite mac n’ cheese has Ritz cracker crust on top.
Q: Dogs or cats?
A: Definitely dogs.
Q: Last album you listened to?
A: Father John Misty’s album, “I Love You, Honeybear”
Q: Any pre-show rituals?
A Not really… I usually have some cookies and some strawberry lemonade before I go on stage.