When Erin Martin wowed judges Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton with her otherworldy rendition of “Hey There Delilah” during The Voice’s famed blind auditions last month, an enamored Green called her an “exotic creature” adding, “Quite naturally you belong to me don’t you think?”
While the unconventional beauty with the even more unusual voice ultimately chose the wild and eccentric Green to mentor her on NBC’s hit competition show, it’s clear that she belongs to no one.
Martin had her mom and her girlfriend at her side for the audition, where, despite her varied résumé, The Voice’s intro to Martin’s blind audition focused almost exclusively on her status as a model turned singer. But the Chicago native is really a Renaissance woman of sorts with an extensive theater and music background that stretches back to childhood and with her flair for fashion as a designer of one-of-a-kind recycled / recyclable headbands.
With Martin and the rest of The Voice contestants heading into the Battle Rounds, which begin airing March 5, SheWired caught up with Martin to discuss the audition process, her desire to be taken seriously as a musician--not just as a "model turned singer"--and about having her girlfriend at her side for the auditions.
SheWired: First off, congratulations on becoming a contestant on The Voice.
Erin Martin: Thank you. I’m happy to be a part of it.
At what point did you realize that you wanted to audition for The Voice?
You know, it’s kind of funny because I’ve been a big fan of The Voice since it came out. And, watching it, I just thought it was a really cool show and Jenny (Erin’s girlfriend) asked me if I was interested in auditioning for it. I was like, “I don’t know. I don’t know if I want to put myself out there like that. I don’t know if I’m ready.”
But it is a show that helps develop artists and get coaching and I was like, “Well that could be good for me.” So I auditioned and so here we are.
Your audition set off a little bit of a bidding war between Blake and Cee Lo.
Yeah, it was cool that both of them turned around and, obviously, on the show clip you can see it. I’m like, “Ah, I didn’t know that anybody turned around.”
I was scared to death when I was up there. As anyone should be going into this situation like that.
But toward the end I felt more comfortable and I was just hyped up by the crowd and just really enjoying being on that stage.
How did you choose your audition song?
Well, the song “Hey There Delilah”… I think it’s a really cool song. I’m from Chicago. They’re (Plain White T’s) also from Chicago. It’s a really quaint, cute song that gave me the ability to sort of turn it into an unplugged song, and that’s what we did with it. So just the guitar and the really simple love song ended up being perfect.
At the end of the day you chose Cee Lo. Was there a moment where you were considering going with Blake?
You know, when I went up there, I had in the back of my head to be just live in the moment and go with your gut feeling. I really wasn’t too conflicted. I knew that I wanted to have Cee Lo. I said when I used to watch the show, if I was ever on the show, I would have to be with Cee Lo.
I think if all four coaches had turned around, unless somebody had a really good argument, then that may have swayed me a little bit. But, you know, Cee Lo said to me, and they didn’t show it, but he said, “You are the voice.” And I was like, “That’s what I need to hear.” You know, if he thinks that I am the voice, then I’m going to go with him because I want someone who believes in me enough that’s going to take me to the end of the show. I want to develop a career beyond this and I think that it would be so cool to see like Erin Martin opening up for Cee Lo.
That would be very cool.
What kind of crazy show would that be? We’re both very unique individuals and that’s definitely what I was looking for when I was thinking about choosing a coach. Blake is certainly a unique individual. If you’ve read his twitter, you’ll see that [laughs]. But he’s a great person and a great artist, but I’m looking for someone who’s as quirky and crazy as I am. From a music standpoint, Cee Lo fits best.
When you auditioned it was written in the lower third that with you were your mom and your ‘girlfriend.’ I went on line the next day to find about your having a girlfriend and I could not verify that she wasn’t just a platonic friend. Nobody seemed to pick up, or care, that she’s not just a friend.
You know, I don’t think people pick up on it because it’s not really put out there as anything. People can throw out speculation on what the word girlfriend means. I didn’t put it out there that this is my girlfriend, we’re in a relationship, one way or the other.
People haven’t really written anything about it because honestly we don’t think anyone really realizes that she is my girlfriend. I think people were in the moment of watching the show and I don’t think people really even noticed.
I noticed, but then it’s my job to pay attention to that sort of thing.
Obviously nobody really likes putting labels on anything, and I’ve dated guys my whole life and I’ve dated women. You know, Jenny and I, we’ve been together for quite some time and I would consider myself bisexual, if there has to be a label put on it.
Some people embrace labels and others don’t.
My take on the whole thing is you love who you love, and at different times in your life you are in love with different people, and whatever shape that person happens to take is who you end up loving. I guess that falls under the bisexual category. Honestly, no one really says much about it.
I do think it’s a testament to your love with this person that you chose not to hide the relationship but to put it out there. With kids facing bullying it’s great to have role models who are proud to love who they love.
Yeah, absolutely. You know, it’s important for me that through this show I’m able to show more than just my voice. I want to be able to reach people in a positive way. I want it to be about acceptance too, and breaking boundaries and stereotypes.
Sure I’m the model who is turned singer and sort of gets up there and seems happy go lucky. People are like, “Oh, she’s a model,” and sort of like write you off. But, you know, I think that once I start singing they are like, “Wow, she has a really positive vibe to her.” I think it’s interesting. Once people get to know me more, I think that they’ll see that there’s more to me than just a model who’s trying to sing. I’ve been singing my entire life. I grew up in theater.
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You have a musical theater background?
Yeah. Most productions that I’ve been a part of have been musicals. My dad was the president of a local playhouse for a good 10 years of my childhood growing up.
I was either backstage doing makeup, helping with costumes -- or I was onstage. And when I wasn’t doing that, we were involved in Renaissance fairs. We would get dressed up and speak with accents -- just do fun reenacting stuff. I’ve grown up with theater and acting and music my entire life and singing since I was in theater productions from a young age. I started playing piano when I was 12 years old.
And we didn’t get any of that in your audition intro. It was all about your modeling.
There’s another thing about me actually that nobody knows. I have a huge surgical history. I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when I was 10 years old.
And how has that affected you since?
You can’t judge a book by its cover because you never know what people have been through. I conquered a disease when I was 14 that literally would have taken my life. I had to make the decision to have my large intestine removed or not. I consider myself a survivor.
It’s made me a lot stronger. I would like to bring awareness to ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s Disease, because I know that there are a lot of people who struggle with that and it’s not a disease that is easy to talk about.
No it isn’t.
It’s not really in the mainstream like cancer awareness. This sounds so Miss America, everything I’ve been telling you, but like I’ve always wanted to influence the world in a positive way.
But it is hard to be taken seriously being a model-turned-singer, whatever. The whole model thing, I don’t think it’s negative, but I think that the more I talk to people like you and you get my story out there, more people will begin to understand that I’m a real person. I have a love for music that at an early age, and, you know, I struggle with a disease. Music is my passion and it’s something that I’ve loved forever. I’m going to die doing this.
While the show certainly focused on your having been a model I think you came off as very real and heartfelt in your performance.
Oh, that’s good. When they showed that clip of me walking around and like posing with the music and stuff. I was like, “Oh my gosh. I can’t believe they used that.”
You know, “It just sounds like heels.” I think it’s hilarious.
Well, they were clearly playing off Cee Lo’s love of the ladies too.
Yeah. Absolutely. It’s all good. I want to focus on my music and as the show progresses. We’re going into the battle rounds now.
Have you chosen a song for the battle rounds, or can you even talk about it?
I can’t talk about that. Sorry [laughs].
Moving along then -- I’m really jealous of this next tidbit about you. Your song “Balloon” was on Pretty Little Liars. How did that come to pass? Was it a song you wrote?
Yeah. I have two EPs on iTunes at the moment. I’ve written over 150 original songs. The Pretty Little Liars thing is so cool. There’s actually a YouTube video up right now, well it’s been up since the episode came out, of me like staring at the screen and waiting for it to come on and then freaking out saying like, “I got the kissing scene.”
Oh, I watch it.
Oh. You watched it?
Yeah, I did.
That’s so funny. Yeah. I was so excited. We had a little red carpet party for that. My manager, you know, my manager’s great. He got my song on that show.
Are you a fan of the show?
Honestly, I never watched the show before I watched that episode, simply because I don’t have cable. I hadn’t until I got on The Voice, but I started watching NBC and now I’m like stuck to the TV. Prior to that I didn’t watch much and so I had never watched the show. I know it has a huge fan base, a huge following.
It’s great exposure.
Once in a while people say, “Oh my gosh, you had a song on Pretty Little Liars. I love ‘Balloon.’”
I think I may lead a campaign to have you on Glee, if you don’t mind.
Oh my gosh. Please.
Ok [laughs]. Do you have a dream song you would do on that show?
On Glee? Oh man. Way to put me on the spot.
I have so many songs that I love. Can I get back to you on that one?
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And I did just want to ask you about one other thing you do, because you are so multitalented, you when you auditioned you were wearing a headband that you had designed?
I didn’t design that one. That one came straight off the shelf. But I do make my own headbands. And I have his crazy idea. I feel like I’m stuck on the Egyptian warrior princess thing.I see that on Twitter a lot, so we secured all the Egyptian warrior princess (domains) like Facebook, Twitter and dot coms and all that. So we’re going to make that into my headband line. They’re handmade.
So it’s something that I want to get on people’s heads, because I think they’re really cool. They’re really fun for like performers and especially for summer.
You know, you can use them as armbands too. You can tie them around. You can use them as tassels for you guitar or to put on your mic stand like Aerosmith has.
It’s just a little bit of bling, a little bit of, what do they call it? That movie with Jennifer Aniston, “pieces of flair?”
Yeah. Those are my pieces of flair.
I love it. At this point there is nowhere for people to buy an Erin Martin original headband?
It’s going to be sort of a novelty thing at first. I think it’s going to be like, you know, somebody asks me to make one for them, I’ll make one for them. But they’re so very specific. I mean, it’s literally like ripped t-shirts and hemp tied together with a little bit of bling in there like some gold twine or an old belt that I’ve torn apart and used. I have to look at my environment and find things to make it out of, which I think makes it even more special.
So they are designer items that are also earth friendly.
They are and they’re green. I’m recycling. They’re recycled and they are recyclable.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Let’s see here. Well let’s see. I’ve always had a dream of playing at the O2 arena. AndI really want to be on The Ellen Show.
I think that’s a possibility.
I’m pretty sure she’s on NBC, so, you know, NBC does The Voice, NBC Ellen, let’s make this happen.