Mexican American singer-songwriter Vicci Martinez is best known for coming in third on the first season of The Voice, but the 28-year-old artist has been making music since she was 16. Born and raised in Tacoma, Washington, Martinez moved to Los Angeles after signing with Republic Records. Her single "Come Along," which features Voice mentor CeeLo Green, is an upbeat freedom anthem that recently rose to #24 on America’s Music Charts almost a year after it was released. We caught up with the openly gay artist to talk about success after The Voice.
Your single "Come Along" was released last spring but is just now starting to get love. Why is that? I took a little longer to release the album, so I lost some of the steam from being on The Voice. People kind of forgot about who I was and what I was doing. A few stations listened to ["Come Along"], didn't even realize I was the girl from The Voice, and started playing it. It's done really well. I've been in the Top 40 charts for the last four or five months. Now, I'm #24 on the America’s Music Charts.
You put out six albums and a live DVD independently before The Voice. How the heck did you do that? I've been independent my whole life. I'd save up gig money, rent a studio for a week, and put an album together. One time, I had an ulcer on my throat and lost my voice for what felt like a year. I wasn't able to gig as much, which brought down my funds, so I did the whole thing on a laptop in my living room. I did all the instruments myself so I didn't have to pay any musicians. [Laughs]
Was it hard adjusting to being on a label? I'm grateful to have a team at Republic. They've allowed me to develop as a major artist, but also run my own ship. It's been a great learning experience and helped me understand the business.
What was it like making the album Vicci? I wrote 20 songs and worked with a handful of writers, including [The Cardigans' guitarist] Peter Svensson. I went to Sweden and Peter played me a song he wrote 10 or 12 years ago called "Come Along." I fell in love with it and asked if I could cover it. That opened a whole other door. I call it “The Little Song That Could.” The album is really personal and sums up my life in the last two years, which is why I called it Vicci.
What message do you want to put out there as an openly gay Latina in a music industry that's not exactly embracing the community? It's not like I was eating myself alive knowing that I wasn't living my truth before I came out. With the risk of losing my family's support—they’re very religious—I wanted people to know me and like me for who I really was. I felt like I was doing a disservice [before]. I'm kind of a TMI person. It's important for me to be honest with my music.
Was your family supportive after you came out? My family has been very supportive. They respect my choices, as I do theirs, and in the end it's all about love and respect.
How do you feel about Shakira being a judge on The Voice when it premieres Mar. 25? I love it. I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time. I was kind of bummed. I wish she could’ve been on my season because I think she’s so great…and pretty hot. [Laughs]
What are five things people don’t know about you? I easily cry at chick flicks, I’m afraid of thunderstorms, I’m 5 ft. tall but I’m really good at basketball, it’s really hard for me to be single, and I don’t speak Spanish. My family didn’t focus on that with me. They wanted me to be good in school and by having an accent they were afraid of me being picked on. I didn’t grow up around people who spoke Spanish. I got Rosetta Stone, but I’m bad at keeping up with stuff like that.
What are your future goals? I want to keep inspiring young people to not get caught up in the rat race and do what they love. Even though it’s a lot more work and a lot harder to pay the rent, in the end at least you’re feeling good in your soul.
Listen to Vicci Martinez's new single, "Come Along" below. For upcoming tour dates, check out viccimartinez.com.