When 17-year-old Xenia Martinez auditioned last year for season one of NBC’s The Voice, she had never been so petrified—drowned in spotlights and stunned by the rapt attention of judges Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton. At the time, few of her closest friends even knew she could carry a tune, but the rapsy-voiced teenager from Temecula, California, wound up stealing Shelton’s heart as he coached her deep into the semifinals. Now with an EP of her own, “Sing You Home,” and a full-length album and small-scale tour in the works, Xenia has found her voice—on-stage and elsewhere—but that doesn’t mean it never shakes, especially, charmingly, when she alludes to her “fans.” It’s a word she says in a half-whisper, as though she can still hardly believe they’re really out there.
1. What’s your day-to-day life like, and how does it compare to having been a normal high school student?
It’s been a pretty drastic change for me because I was just doing the normal teenage routine—doing homework and going to school and all that. And now I’m homeschooled and get to live out my dreams. I’m always writing with other artists or making music, practicing, rehearsing and going to meetings in L.A., doing interviews or performances, and meeting a whole bunch of new people. It’s been a really different lifestyle for me, which is really awesome.
2. Anything you do miss about high school?
Uhhh [laughs], not really. That’s kind of mean, but I couldn’t be happier to do what I’m doing right now. I miss my friends, of course. I haven’t had a chance to see them very often, but high school I don’t really miss.
3. Blake Shelton coached you through your time on ‘The Voice’ and worked hard to give your confidence a shot in the arm. I can’t imagine an experience that would try your confidence more than a TV show. How did ‘The Voice’ change you?
Before I was a lot more shy and wasn’t as confident as I am now. I really learned to break out of my shell. The performing was really scary for me because I had never performed in front of so many people—especially being on television and knowing that the whole country is going to be watching you. That really freaked me out. But I decided if I let my fear get in my way I was going to regret it for a long time. So I just said, “You know what? I love music, and my love for music is way greater than my fears.” It’s been very liberating for me because it’s frustrating when you want to do something but you can’t because your personality gets in the way. You’re your own roadblock. Being on ‘The Voice,’ especially having someone like Blake believe in you, gave me the confidence to just be me. I wasn’t afraid anymore.
4. You first picked up the guitar at an early age. Do you have a memory of writing your first song?
Yes, I wrote my first song when I was seven. It’s so funny because I just re-found it the other day and read it. It was about a friend who I stopped being friends with in second and third grade. So I wrote about how we were no longer friends.
5. Is there a topic you haven’t covered in a song but want to?
I’m currently finishing a topic that I’ve wanted to write about, which is a sum of my grandmother. She went through a lot growing up, and this last time I saw her she told me all these stories, and I was heartbroken so I’ve wanted to write a song about her experience.
6. What advice would you give to songwriters just starting out?
I think it’s very, very important to always be you, and don’t be afraid to show people what you want to do because I think people will see that. I know that sometimes young artists, including me, have this view of what an artist should be like and try to imitate that, but if you’re you people will notice you regardless. Also, hard work really pays off, to be prepared and always put in a thousand percent to whatever you’re doing, whether it’s performing or songwriting. One thing leads to another. Keep knocking on those doors, and eventually the right one will open up for you.
7. Who are three songwriters who influenced you the most?
Jon McLaughlin is an artist who really influenced me. He’s the reason I wanted to sing in the first place. Johnny Cash has really been a big inspiration to me as well, and Adele.
8. What’s your favorite live music venue?
I played at the Beacon Theatre in New York, which I absolutely loved. I thought it was beautiful, but I would love to one day maybe play Madison Square Garden. That would be incredible.
You’ve lived so many amazing moments already—performing with Jon McLaughlin, being a part of ‘The Voice,’ receiving such high praise from Blake Shelton. What stands out as your favorite moment?
Having to have the opportunity to work with such an amazing person like Blake. He’s had a really big impact in my life and career. He’s given so much to me; I feel like I could never even repay him. He continues to support me to this day. Everything that he does for me is amazing.
10. What made you choose BMI?
I did my research on BMI, and I thought they had really great artists on their roster. I came into meet them, and I just thought they were lovely people and they just gave off this really nice vibe so I thought I would love to be a part of it. Also, I asked Blake for his opinion, and he said he was with BMI and that he really enjoyed working with them.