Quirk-popper Melanie Martinez, 20, should have savored her high school graduation ceremony two years ago, with her proud parents in attendance. But the day was ruined by her classmates’ booing. “There was this one general group of students that didn’t like me, who were always a–holes to me,” says the singer, who rocks a two-tone hairstyle and babydoll dresses. She finished her courses online after competing on “The Voice” at 16, under the tutelage of Adam Levine. After a fifth-week elimination, she concentrated on her eccentric originals, and last year issued her debut, “Cry Baby.” “So I pursued a career in singing and songwriting, and I guess those people were bitter about it,” she says.
How did you get the guts to audition for “The Voice” in the first place?
I kind of just did it, because I was singing in my bathroom in Long Island, and writing in the bathroom, too. And I just wanted to go out and do something with music, and I didn’t know how else to do it. So I saw an ad online for “The Voice” and I went to open call, and things went further and further and it just happened.
What did you learn from Levine?
He was really nice and just like a goofball, and he was into having fun. So he definitely helped me relax and not be as stressed out as I was, because it was a scary thing for a 16-year-old to be doing – going on a television show and singing for people. It was such a weird thing, and so unnatural. But I didn’t learn anything about songwriting, because the show is based on singing cover. So nobody even listened to my originals when I was on “The Voice.”
In songs like “Dollhouse” and “Pity Party,” you definitely lean to the dark side.
Totally. Ever since I started writing, when I was 14, I would write about really dark things, dark subject matter. Like, when I was 16, I wrote a song about sex trafficking to make people aware, even though I didn’t have any people that were listening to my music at the time. It was a situation that I’d never been through, but I’ve just always had in me that impulse to write about things like that.
What happened after “The Voice”?
I started growing, developing, and figuring out exactly who I am as an artist. And now I’ve got an album that I’m super-happy with that I’ve been working on for almost two years. It’s a concept album, the story of Cry Baby, this character that’s a fairy tale version of myself. She represents the darker, more insecure parts of me.
IF YOU GO
Where: Regency Ballroom, 1300 Van Ness Ave., SF
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 25
Tickets: $27 to $75 (sold out)
Contact: (415) 673-5716, www.axs.com