HEMMING (Candice Martello) is an acoustic singer-songwriter hailing from Philadelphia, PA. Her high-voltage vocals and folk-influenced songs have stood out from the crowd as a performer in the thriving Philadelphia music scene, having played the stage at well-known venues throughout the city. With a family deep rooted in music, It’s no wonder she has befriended every instrument she meets. Playing guitar at just 9 years old, and writing her first song at 13, her fascination with music took off very young.
After graduating from Drexel University, Hemming continued developing her sound and influence as a solo performer to the backdrop of the artist community in West Philadelphia, and as a member of Omar, the two-piece punk band she formed with close friend Nick Fanelli. Many music fans were introduced to her through VH1’s ‘Make or Break : The Linda Perry Project. ‘Make or Break’ was developed by superstar producer and songwriter Linda Perry as the antithesis to reality music shows. Martello joined the show as part of a band, but it was her solo work and a song called “Vitamins” that caught Perry’s attention and started Martello on the journey of finding and developing the voice of Hemming. At the conclusion of the show Martello was presented with the opportunity to make a record with Perry that will be coming out on Perry’s label (Custard Records) this Spring.
With musical influences including Cat Power, Metric, M. Ward, and Elliot Smith; she is inspired by the power of raw emotion, experience, and simplicity. Hemming’s rhythmic, folksy, room-splitting croon produces a haunting experience for her audience. With the honesty of her music, expressed through lyrics like “Do you think I’ll make you feel better?” and “I’ll never be the man for you,” Hemming occupies the space that most people reserve for their heart, whether they want her in there or not.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Hemming to discuss her musical roots, the intense journey she embarked upon as part of ‘Make or Break: The Linda Perry Project,’ the making of her debut album and much more!
It’s clear music had an incredible impact on your life. What are some of your first musical memories?
My godfather, who is actually my dad’s cousin, is an accomplished bassist. He has played with people like Lou Reed and has toured around a lot. My aunts worked for an oldies radio station in New York City, so music has always been around my family.
What artists influenced you early on?
I got a lot of influence from female artists like Patty Smyth and Cat Power. I also listened to Bright Eyes when I was in middle school, which is kind of when I started writing myself. I focus a lot on lyric, so Bright Eyes was a huge influence. He is a poet and so is Patty Smyth. It was stuff like that which had a big impact on me.
A career in the music industry isn’t the easiest path. What made you want to pursue music professionally?
I think it was the fact it was the one thing I couldn’t not do! [laughs] No matter what, I felt I always had to write music. That was my outlet. I didn’t know at the time that it would really become a career because you never really know if you are going to end up loving your job. It is really the one thing I absolutely need to do!
A lot of people discovered you earlier this year as part of the VH1 series, “Make or Break: The Linda Perry Project.” For those who aren’t familiar, how did you get involved with the project?
I went in with my friend Nick Fanelli as Omar, a two-piece punk band. We were a last minute addition. They needed a new band and, when Nick first got the call, he thought it was a joke. [laughs] He didn’t answer and then looked up the guy who called him. I think he even hung up on him the first time he called thinking it was a joke. Two days later, we were in LA!
Obviously, you didn’t know what the final product would be when you signed on. Did you have any reservations about being part of a reality series?
Oh yeah! We didn’t have enough time to consider it but we did have a whole day to say, “OK, we are going to be on reality TV. This is a thing that is going to happen and we need to consider that fact!” [laughs] I think the positive things outweighed the negative things in the situation and it was kind of the chance of a lifetime. We had to do it!
How has being a part of the series impacted you personally and professionally?
It has been crazy! We recorded my album, which is something I have been trying to do for years. I am incredibly happy about that and excited to have everyone listen to it. I just got off tour, two weeks ago, with Rachael Yamagata. That was amazing and we went all the way around the U.S. and Canada, which is something I have never done before. I was playing for crowds that were bigger than I had ever played before. It was cool to get a feel for tour life! I am waiting on the next thing to happen at the moment. I think we are trying to get me back out on tour again soon.
Where are you with your debut album?
We just mastered it, so it is all finished!
That is great to hear! What were your expectations or goals for the album?
I don’t know if I had any expectations for it because I don’t like to have expectations just in case they don’t quite work out. As far as everyone’s reaction to the songs on tour and the songs that are out now, I have a really good feeling about it. I feel like people are missing heartfelt lyrics that aren’t super corny, dance songs or party songs. I feel that is something that is missing from music right now. Hopefully, people will find that in my record.
What is the songwriting process like for you? Do you have a particular formula for bringing a song to life?
There is no particular formula to it for me. I can hear a phrase and build a song around that or write a song from the perspective of an inanimate object. It varies and there is no set way I write a song.
Where do you find yourself looking for inspiration these days? Where do you find yourself drawn lyrically?
I started reading some poetry because I often find myself inspired by metaphors. Most of my songs are about heartbreak and feeling alone! [laughs] Classic stuff like that!
Looking back on bringing this album to life, what are the biggest challenges you encountered?
Linda [Perry] is very intense to work with in the studio. She came off way more intense on the show because they spliced together her most intense moments. She is laid back most of the time but she does have those intense moments. I came in with about 25 to 30 songs already written and felt I had a good amount of songs for the record. She would come in one day and say, “OK, I need you to write another song.” I don’t really write like that, under pressure. Usually, a song kind of comes to me. I had to do that twice while I was in the studio. I was there for about three weeks and I had to write two new songs. It was a great learning process because it is difficult to write under pressure but, at the same time, it is your job and it is what you have to do. Only one of those songs made it to the record but I am still very happy with what we came up with for the other new song. I think that will likely be released as something else.
What type of impact has working with Linda Perry had on you as an artist?
Her way of songwriting is something I hope to one day be able to do as well as she does it. She just lets go. I tend to think about things a little bit too much, which helps me to have very well thought out lyrics but sometimes it is very important to let go, sing whatever and see what comes from that. Never throw things away and don’t second guess yourself. Always try and go with something. That is something she is very good at and she is constantly creating, Even if she isn’t in the studio, if she thinks of something she will have her phone out and record it. You never know when you are going to have a hit!
How did you end up deciding on the name Hemming? Is there a story there?
I knew I didn’t just want to be Candice Martello. I wanted to hide behind a name! I always imagined myself having a band, so we decided I needed a name. We threw around a lot of terrible ideas, hundreds and hundreds of them! [laughs] I was on a three-way text message group thing with Linda and some others with everyone throwing out the most ridiculous names! One day I was in the studio when Linda came up to me. She said, “I’ve got it! Hemming.” I was like, “What? I don’t understand? I like it. It sounds good but what is it?” We ended looking it up and it is a Norwegian baby name meaning something similar to big sister. If you read into it more, it could mean something like werewolf, where something goes through a huge change. We all thought it was kind of perfect because I am going through this giant change right now. I don’t know … [laughs] It stuck and I really like it!
You released two songs that will appear on the album. What is next and which songs resonate with you the most?
We just recorded a video, about two weeks ago, for the next song that is going to be coming out. I don’t know when it will come out, probably in the next few months. That is a song that resonates with me a lot. It is called “Some of My Friends.” It is really just about some of my friends! [laughs] It is a more upbeat song but the lyrics are still sad-ish but it is more of an upbeat rockin’ song. It is just about my friends and I think it is such a universal concept. When I was on tour, it was the one where people came up to me and told me they could really relate to it. It is a universal song and I think a lot of people will connect with it.
You mentioned just coming off tour with Rachael Yamagata. What was the tour experience like for you and what lessons did you take away from it?
It was great! I couldn’t have asked for a better tour. It was really the perfect tour to start off on. Rachel is one of the kindest human beings ever and we got along incredibly well. The other opening band, The Dove and The Wolf, we are all good friends. Everybody in the band was so accepting, wonderful and supporting! Her fan base was perfect for me because she sings a bunch of sad songs too! [laughs] It’s a job and you have to treat it that way. Always sing your heart out on stage. Every place you go to, they are seeing you for the first time, so you have to give it your all everywhere you go!
What is your biggest evolution as an artist so far?
Performance and songwriting. I really had the worst stage fright ever and it’s still very bad but you go on tour and suddenly you are playing to these large groups of people and you have to do it every night! Before everything happened, I was playing maybe one show every three months! Then you are forced to do it every single night! By the end of the tour, I felt my performance getting far better. I think writing and recording the entire record helped improve my songwriting as well.
What is the craziest thing that happened to you leading up to or during a performance?
I am very allergic to sesame seeds and in San Francisco I had a incident. Backstage they have all of these vegetables and dip. Typically, it is ranch dip. I took one carrot and dipped it in whatever form of dip this was and it had three forms of sesame seeds in it. I only had 15 minutes before I had to go on stage. My throat started to close, so I had to take Benadryl and go up on stage to play a set where two of my strings broke in four songs! [laughs] I don’t remember what I said on stage because I was so out of it from the Benadryl. It was very weird! I was like, “I’m sorry everyone! If I break out into anaphylactic shock, my apologies!” [laughs] It was pretty terrible. I think the adrenaline saved me because when I got off stage I was total wreck. I broke out in hives and puked in the toilet! [laughs]
Not the smoothest of transitions here but … [laughs] you can serve as a great inspiration to aspiring artists. What’s the best piece of advice you can pass along to those who are looking to make their career in the music industry?
I would say, play the music that you want, what you love the most and what comes out of you. Don’t try to change your sound to fit what you think is marketable. Honesty as a human and a performer is always good. Not to be discouraged by what is out there already. Don’t be discouraged if you have a bad show or things just aren’t going your way. I mean, I knew I wanted a career in music but I did not know the right way to go about it. Strange things happen in life that take you where you need to go, so say yes to the right things.
What are you most thankful for this holiday season and what are you most looking forward to in 2015?
I am most thankful for everything that has happened to me so quickly! I am thankful for my friends and family who have been so supportive. I am thankful to Nick, my best friend and manager, who has made so many sacrifices to get me where I am. I am thankful for everyone who has believed in me and Linda. I didn’t believe in myself enough and I needed a big, giant group of amazing people to do it for me and here I am! [laughs]
Thanks so much for your time today! We can’t wait to hear what you have in store for us in the year to come!
Thank you, Jason!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.