Since she first blew the doors off of the auditorium with her visceral rendition of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” for her audition on NBC's The Voice, 26-year-old Vicci Martinez has continued to wow with her often searing and smoking vocals and what’s been dubbed her “warrior dance.” The Tacoma, Wash. native’s unique style practically ignited a bidding war between The Voice judges Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera during auditions, but Martinez chose Green in the end. And just last week she set the room ablaze again with a slow-burn version of Dolly Parton’s classic “Jolene.”
A lesbian, whose story of coming out at 16 to deeply religious parents was prominently featured on The Voice, Martinez had the rare distinction of actually having turned down an invite from American Idol 10 years ago based on contract stipulations she has said sought to change her. She later went on to appear on Star Search in 2003. But the singer-songwriter is no stranger to devoted fans having amassed a loving fan base in her native Washington, where she plays out frequently.
SheWired caught up with a very busy Martinez, who called while on a short break from The Voice rehearsals. Tuesday night she’ll hear the results of America’s vote based on her “Jolene” performance to see if she’ll be saved by the fans or if judge Cee Lo Green will cast a vote to keep her on the show. Martinez talked with us about her experience on the juggernaut show, her reaction to her colleague -- another out lesbian -- Beverly McClellan’s save via America’s vote, her lesbian fans and her judge Cee Lo being called to task for what’s been labeled an “antigay” Tweet.
Thanks for taking time out from working to chat with me. Regarding Tuesday’s show I imagine you can’t give too much away but can you give a little hint as to what we can expect?
I can just tell you that it’s going to be very energetic. Haha. That’s all I can give away.
More energetic than "Everyday People"?
That was a pretty energetic one, but I am thinking yeah.
The Voice has been airing for a couple of months now and it’s really a bona fide hit. How does it feel to be a part of this refreshing show that is so popular?
It’s really just bizarre. We all just really enjoy each other’s company and really have a good time with each other. So it’s weird to be having that experience with each other while we’re part of a ground-breaking show. It’s very popular, and definitely helped with our popularity as well. Yeah, it’s pretty crazy.
You did some interviews when The Voice began airing in which you said you would not hide who you are or hide your sexuality. Last week, America voted to save Beverly, who’s also gay. That was so refreshing after watching America vote in young guys on American Idol for the last several years. What was your reaction to the fans voting to keep Beverly?
I was really, really happy. They didn’t show us in the back room, but I definitely just kind of went crazy. I couldn’t believe it. I felt Beverly also wasn’t really up to date with Twitter, so she wasn’t Tweeting as often, and she wasn’t asking for votes. It was just really cool to see how many people showed up and were so supportive.
I thought it was going to be the opposite – like maybe Frenchie would get America’s vote and Bev would get saved by Christina because she just did a real flawless performance.
It was a wonderful moment for lesbian fans too with Beverly representing, kicking ass and getting voted in. I mean she doesn't exactly look like the girl next door and she’s not 19 years old.
I know! It was funny, because when I saw her right after, she gave me a hug and was like, “Girl, there’s a lot of lesbians in the world, there must be a lot of lesbians out there.” She was like “You’re gonna get saved no problem.” Haha!
I think she’s right. Lesbians are loyal fans and they will show up and support once they like you.
It was crazy. It was pretty bizarre, but I am happy she’s still here.
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You now have this instantly massive fan base. Beverly is right – there are a lot of lesbians in the world. And judging from the comments and feedback on our site about you, a lot of them think that you are really something. Are you ready for thousands of lesbian fans screaming at you?
Haha! Absolutely! I definitely have a small taste of that where I am from in Washington. It’s nice having all those women come out there. I feel like a lot of women at my shows have become friends just by coming to my shows. I notice that they keep in touch and Facebook, and set up times to come to the shows together. It's pretty cute! It’s nice.
So, it's become a bit of a local event when you perform…
Yeah, for a lot of the ladies from around where I am from.
Photo by Elizabeth Leitzell
I have to say, I am a really big Dolly Parton fan…
You absolutely killed on a slow-burn version of “Jolene” and Cee Lo complimented you for your song choice. What inspired you to choose it because that was a risk to take a beloved country tune and change it up the way you did. And it was a huge success.
I had been asked to do a different song that was very, very pop-y, and they kind of wanted me to go in that direction as far as song choice. I sent Cee Lo an email that was like, “I don’t do that, that’s not even my style,” and then I sent him a few songs that I have done on my own, at my own shows. He loved when I gave him the “Jolene” choice, because he is a big Dolly Parton fan too.
When I was in rehearsals with the band, I was like, “I want a haunting version of this. I want people that have never heard the song to get the story by the style. I want them to want to listen to the lyrics.” I think sometimes when you have that haunting aspect to the song – you know, lights are darker or this and that – it can kind of engage people a bit more.
All I had to say was that, and they really just toned it down. And I even told Paul, the band director – he was like “What are you going to say if people ask you if you came up with that version?” – as a joke I said “I’m gonna say it was all me!” (Laughs) He was like “well, that’s not the first time.” I was like “No! I am going to give you guys 100 percent credit!” They are an incredible band. When we rehearsed it, it was a really magical moment in the rehearsal. When Cee Lo heard it – because he wanted to hear us play it first – he said, “Wow, those are those moments when you can’t even argue with it. You just go for it.”
Have you gotten feedback from Dolly, or P!nk on her song that you performed?
No! I wish I did! That would be awesome!
Maybe it will come!
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Other than one of your own, do you have a favorite performance that you have seen this season on The Voice?
There have been a few that I just loved. I know I’m not the only one…but I really liked what Dia did on her Kanye West song. I liked her twist of it. I also really enjoyed Frenchie’s song (“When Love Takes Over”) that she did at the end of the first live show. And obviously when we did “Everyday People” that was just a big party on stage. That was lots of fun.
Tomorrow night someone on your team will be saved by the fans’ vote and someone will be saved by Cee Lo. Are you nervous about it?
Yeah! It was a big surprise because Beverly was giving everybody her hugs and saying, “I don’t know if I am going to see you guys,” and she got saved. And what Blake did was very surprising to me too. So you never know what’s going to happen. I’m still on my toes through the whole thing.
There is this news coming out about Cee Lo Tweeting something that has been called ‘anti-gay.’ Clearly he knows you are a lesbian and he wanted you on his team. What’s your take on Cee Lo’s Tweet?
Its funny, because I got asked that question when Blake had Tweeted something before the show even aired, I believe. I think it’s just one of those things. He (Cee Lo) got a bad review and I think it probably just hit him emotionally. I know that feeling too sometimes. I think he probably had his phone in front of him and you know… It’s too bad sometimes that everything is so accessible. You just don’t even get the time to maybe think about it a little bit.
I think that’s maybe what happened, because Cee Lo just loves the crap out of me and Nakia (a gay male contestant on Cee Lo's team). And right away, he messaged us and was like, “I just want you guys to know that this just came out and that’s not how I feel. They are totally messing it up, blowing it up, and I just want to apologize to you guys first.” He was like, “so, if you start hearing stuff, just know that I love you and that’s just sometimes what happens in the business.”
Well, that’s definitely good that he reached out to you. Is there anything else you’d like to say about The Voice?
It’s such an inspirational show for people watching out there. It doesn’t just focus on the voice, it focuses on the stories we have. A lot of us have come from, not crazy backgrounds, but we have had to go through some things to get where we are, and I feel like this show really talks about that.
I’ve received lots of messages from people saying thank you for talking about this, or saying this, or I can relate to you on this or that. I am really happy that they do that, and they do it in a positive way. It’s really nice to be a part of that.
Well, best of luck. Your lesbian fans are pulling for you!
Haha! Cool, great!
Visit Vicci Martinez's website for more info on how she is doing on The Voice, her music and to sign up for email updates!