During the first season of NBC’s The Voice, soulful singer-songwriter Vicci Martinez found herself as one of the overall standout contestants on the show and went all the way to finals, representing Team Cee Lo.
She went on to release her major label debut record, Vicci, last summer, leading off with the single, “Come Along,” featuring her Voice coach Cee Lo Green. Recently the song has been taking off on radio, gaining momentum on the Hot AC and Triple A radio charts.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Martinez over the phone about her recent success. She spoke candidly about what initially drew her to music, her single’s gradual climb up the charts, and advice she’d give to contestants currently competing on The Voice.
Congrats on the recent success of “Come Along.”
You started playing music at a really young age – what initially drew you to music and when did you realize that’s what you wanted to pursue as a career?
I played violin when I was five or six years old, kind of a happy accident, because my sister didn’t want to cut her fingernails. My parents had gotten her some private lessons, but because she didn’t want to cut her fingernails, she didn’t want to go back to that teacher. So they were like, “Damn, we have like a month full of lessons, who are we going to give them to?” And I was the next one in line that was pretty musical, I guess. So that’s how that happened.
I don’t know, it just kind of evolved into what it was. I obviously was very musical, listening to bands; I just loved music my whole life. When Lilith Fair happened, when I was about 12 years old, I was super inspired by all these women with guitars, just singing their own songs, and it just like, so freeing.
So I just started doing that myself and it kind of became what it is now.
You also started writing songs when you were younger, how would say your songwriting style has evolved over the years and did you approach your new album, Vicci, any differently from albums you released prior to appearing on The Voice?
Yeah. For me, writing was always what I was feeling. It was hard for me to force myself to write. I think when I was younger, so much was going on; you’re a teenager, then you’re a young adult. Just so many things going on ‘till you’re at that level, where you’re like, “Okay, I think I’m comfortable with myself.” [laughs] So there was a lot to write about at that point. Obviously, break-ups, make-ups, meeting new people that end up a big part of causing me to write a song
I think this one was definitely different, because of the the pressure that sort of came after being on the show and the label I was signed wanting to turn a record around very quickly. So they put me with a lot of different writers, people who I had never known or heard of. Later finding out, “Oh, you worked with this person, that person.” It was nice kind of going into it blindsided, like not even knowing. It made it very easy to come to these people and start talking about my life and what I’ve been through and at the end of the day, we had a song written.
You’ve previously referred to this album being kind of like you’re diary and letting people get to know who you are as a person and an artist, so I’m assuming it’s easier for you to write from your own experiences rather than, here’s a topic, let’s put a song around it.
Yeah. The thing is too, is that 95 percent of what I do is play live and having an audience connection. It’s important to me to write songs that are honest and true, because I have to look these people in the face every time. I can’t do the whole…I can’t bullshit. I’m very open to a lot of things, but I’m never going to say, “I don’t want to write this.” At the end they say like, “Cool, we wrote a cool song,” and someone else is going to sing that. A lot of that happened with the making of the album. There were some great songs, and I just had to throw my towel in and say, “Great, I’m happy to be a writer in this process, but somebody will do this much better than me, at this point with actually delivering the song.”
In making this album, obviously you have garnered quite the following since appearing on the first season of The Voice, did you ever feel like you needed to be that artist that people supported and voted for on the show, or did you feel like, “I’m going to showcase the growth I’ve had from the show, still incorporating the artist that you voted for”?
Absolutely. Well, the latter thing that you said, absolutely. It’s funny, because I was just talking to the stylist that was on The Voice, and that was a big part of the evolution as artist development. You’re on a TV show, they were like, “You don’t get to wear your tie dye shirt, this is a dressy thing.” It was like, “Okay, okay, let me be open to these things.” And the stylist was taking who I was as a person and so quickly having to bring out my strengths, physically, but then also my strengths, internally, and putting something on me and me saying, “Wow, this makes me feel really confident and really good about myself.” She was really good about hearing me. [She] and I still work together and we’re about to do my first video and the same thing has kind of come up, like, “Well, what is the look gonna be in the video?” But now there’s so many cooks in the kitchen, and I kinda came from somewhere, where I wasn’t not already signed and they picked me up and let me do my thing. They definitely want to be a part of this development, but what’s so great about her and I continuing to work together, she’s like, “I know you. I know what you’re comfortable with.” And she’s seen the evolution.
So just particularly in style alone, that has been important to me to still be like, “I’m still me, you know?” I’m not gonna now come walk down a runway, be all dressed up in gold and Louis Vuitton and be like, “Hey, look at me,” like I’m a big star now or some shit. [laughs] I’ve still got my organic roots that I’m coming from, but at the same time, the same things musically.
It’s easy to walk down that easier way and just be like, “Okay, well, this is working right now on radio. Or this is working, and I might as well just kind of mold with it.” It’s important to me to take what I was from the show and bring that into what’s going on now, for sure.
So your single, “Come Along” is making its way up the charts. I read that this was a single that people were trying to talk you out of not releasing right out the gate. What was it about this song that pushed you to stand your ground, so you could release it as your first single?
Well first of all, the sound of it. I come from such a bluesy, soulful background, that the sound of the song was just definitely where I came from, along with an evolution of coming into this technical world, I guess, of these different sounds and stuff to make a record can kind of shape the mold of some of these records that are being made alongside, but still sticking to where I came from – that live guitar, the mood of the song, and then also the message. It sounds like it’s going to be really moody, but at the same time, there’s this clarity in the song, as far as like, you know, it kind of brightens up through the choruses showing that the message is positive. That was really important to me to have a song that had such a good message out there on the airwaves, if possible.
Your coach from The Voice, Cee Lo Green is featured on the track. Was that how the song was originally imagined or how did he get involved with in the recording process of this song?
Honestly, that was just kind of like, “Hey, we worked on The Voice together. Hey, this is my first major debut.” Because of him picking me on the show, I was like, “Why don’t we do something?” I already had the song recorded, but it was just something nice to be like, “Here Cee Lo’s helping me introduce myself to this new world.” Kind of being alongside the ride of it.
as it been rewarding for you to see “Come Along” gradually climb its way up the charts?
Absolutely. It’s all kind of like that “I told you so” feeling. Which, I don’t want to be pompous or anything, but I’ve always done things kind of grassroots. I guess, basically, not looking for labels, just going out there and playing music, because I love it. And now, it kind of died out for a little bit and people didn’t even remember that I was on The Voice and at first I was like, “Well, I guess gotta start back where I came from, where I started from, and do this the way that I’ve been doing it.” And to have it play out the way it has, I just feel so much more confident that this is the right path to be going.
When people take a listen to your album, Vicci, what are you hoping they take away from your music?
I just hope they, first of all, enjoy it. And second of all, I hope it just kind of sparks a flame in people to go out and believe in [themselves]. I hope it’s energizing to kind of get up and go, whether it’s getting motivated for work or getting motivated for the day, most importantly, motivated for life, you know? Remembering what it is that you love to do and go out and do it. That’s the intention behind, I guess, everything I do, so that’s definitely going to be the intention behind my first major album.
And just to touch on your run on The Voice a little bit – you were a standout contestant throughout your entire season; what was your favorite moment or something you took away from that entire experience?
I think when the live rounds started and we got to have such a say with our performances. I think creating the whole “Dog Days” concept and saying that I wanted to play drums and I wanted to run around the stage. I remembering acting that out in my hotel room and saying, “Tomorrow, when I go tell them what I want to do, they better say yes, because it’s going to be great.” Kind of visualizing in my head and being able to see that on TV later and be like, “Wow, it came to fruition.” They did listen to me, they gave me that power to call my own shots and they listened to it. It was good idea, it wasn’t like, “Well kid, you don’t really know what you’re talking about.” That never was the case. That was definitely a huge moment for me.
When it got down to the final four, did any of you know how big the show had become while you were competing week-to-week during the live rounds?
No, no idea. It was such a small bubble we were in. After the show’s taping, we could come back to our hotel and watch it. That was it. You were driven there, you were back to the hotel. We didn’t see commercials or anything like that; we were so busy.
So to now see the season as an observer and see how big the show is, it’s like, “Wow, that kind of happened to me too.” To see these new artists on the show and see what they’re going through and visit the set and watch the show, it’s really cool to be on the other side and kind of remember that happened to me too. To know what they’re going through, to know that they’re in the same boat not realizing, and maybe they are, maybe it’s different, because now they’ve be able to see a whole season, so they do know, but there’s something really special about it, being on that first season and really not knowing. I think it really helped a lot of us too.
Is there any advice that you received from Cee Lo during your season that you would impart on another contestant that’s currently going through the process of the show right now?
Yeah, I think to just allow yourself to come out of your comfort zone. To be open to ideas and possibilities, because it’s so funny to remember how closed off I was when I came to the show. And to then be introduced to so many ideas and the mentality to say yes to all of it. And yes when it was comfortable, now when it was absolutely not, not anything I would do. To just open up. It’s such an amazing opportunity, you have million dollar productions. They’re putting money into this. I say, go in there, take it, and make yourself shine.
For more information on Vicci Martinez, check out her official website. The video for her single “Come Along” is set to debut on VEVO on April 9. Watch a preview of the video below.
April 11 – The Soiled Dove Underground – Denver, CO
April 12 – 9.99 The Point Acoustic Performance – Fort Collins, CO
April 26 The Swiss Restaurant & Pub – Tacoma, WA
May 11 – Chop Suey – Seattle, WA
May 16 – Olivia’s 40th Anniversary Punta Cana Music & Comedy Festival – Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
May 23 – WALK 97.5 Presents Colbie Caillat with special guest Vicci Martinez – Huntington, NY
July 28 – River Haus in the Pines – Leavenworth, WA
July 29 – River Haus in the Pines – Leavenworth, WA
Photo courtesy of Republic Records