Pop singer-songwriter Francisco Martin obtained a massive fandom when his audition for American Idol went viral in 2020. Since placing in the Top 5 on the show’s infamous pandemic season, Martin has continued to show his love for music by providing fans with endearing vocals, catchy hooks, and heartbreakingly strong lyricism in his original music. Songs like “Swollen” and “IF U NEED ME” perfectly encapsulate who he is as an artist, but now Martin is getting even more real and vulnerable with his latest release.
On his new EP, Manic, Martin is emotionally raw, pushing boundaries, and stepping into his authentic self. The six-track project is a bold and personal reflection on his journeys through topics like mental health, relationship struggles, and the harmful impacts that social media can have on a generation. With incredible cover art and spectacular musicality, Manic reveals just how much of a star Francisco Martin truly is.
Pop Crave spoke with Francisco Martin about his latest EP, Manic, new single, “Narcissist,” his favorite memories from American Idol, as well as the difficult yet healing process of recording his new music.
The Manic EP is now out in the world! What song are you most excited for fans to hear, and on that note, is there a song from the record that sticks out as being your personal favorite?
This is a tough question to answer because I really love this project. It’s a thematic EP about my struggles with mental health, so every song has a really special place in my heart and mind. That said, I’m really proud of “Split Personality” which is the intro song to the EP. It’s sort of like the calm before the storm and is a look into those unhealthy thoughts that can sometimes spiral out of control. I also love “freak show.” It’s just weird and a little different, but it’s really honest. I had a lot of fun creating that song, sonically.
You’ve mentioned that you want to show the world all sides of you as both a person and artist. How would you say this project accomplishes that?
I’m human and I make mistakes. I love hard and I know I have a good heart, but I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I’ve hurt people I truly adore. Sometimes, as artists, we only present the positive sides of our lives and/or focus on our heartbreak and vulnerability, which I do a lot – but this project isn’t that. This project is me saying, “I’ve been the villain too.” As an artist, it was hard for me to go to that dark side again to invoke all of these emotions, but I had a great time creatively putting it all out there as a songwriter and as a producer. There were no rules when I was making this EP, and I think that shows.
Your lyrics are so personal and self-reflective! How has it been to delve into your own emotions for this project and create such a vulnerable body of work?
On the one hand, it was really cathartic and healing, but it was also really difficult. I almost had to re-“feel” all of those moments to re-embody that headspace, which wasn’t a healthy headspace. Once I got there, I found it hard to get back out of it and feel positive and safe again – and, on top of that, I had to relive these moments in my mind that I’m not proud of. There are things I have a hard time forgiving myself for, and creating this EP made them all come back up to the surface.
It must feel pretty empowering to co-produce your own music. What was it like to work on this project with your co-producer/friend, Nick Sarpa?
I love producing my own music. Most of my previous work I did alone, and I absolutely love being able to create something in its entirety and putting it out in the world. However, I have absolutely loved collaborating on this record with Nick. We became really close last year, and he’s one of the few people who have been with me through some dark moments, so it felt natural to open up to him while writing this record. Nick’s also really tapped into the music landscape and has taught me about so many artists, producers, and so on. It felt like this period of discovery and exploration which allowed us to play even more on this EP.
Tell us about your new single, “Narcissist.” What is the message behind it, and what message do you hope listeners get out of it?
“Narcissist” is about struggling with the need and desire to feel “loved.” In the age of the internet and social media, our entire existence is predicated on numbers which can leave you feeling really desperate for attention. As an artist, my mind is constantly whirring with questions like, “Are they listening to my song? Are they following me on social media? Did I get a playlist? How many streams do we have?” It’s rough, and it’s hard to not have this moment where you’re kinda like, “Can’t it just be about me for one moment or is that super narcissistic to say?” And b-t-w, I think this sentiment is true for people across all areas… Teenagers now have to worry about social media likes in a way that’s ridiculous. You not only have to be “popular,” but you also have to have followers. It’s just really hard on our collective mental health.
Is there a certain line you wrote from “Narcissist” that you’re really proud of?
I love, “Thinking about the time I went off and I spent $400 just to vent. Heartbreak is expensive.” That line is just funny to me because it’s so true. From therapy, to trips, to shopping, to getting tattoos… I swear, the heart gets hurt and we go off and try to fix it with money.
You are an outspoken advocate for the mental health community, and you’ve publicly discussed your struggles with both anxiety and depression. Do you think the way society discusses these issues has improved over the last few years, and is there anything you’d still like to see improved with the way society discusses mental health?
I do think it’s better now because it’s okay to talk about publicly without people treating you like something’s wrong with you. That said, I think our healthcare system needs to change. It’s incredibly expensive and cumbersome to work on your mental health, and that’s just not right.
You accumulated a massive fandom during your time on American Idol. In what ways has your experience on the show impacted the way you create music today?
Idol gave me the ability to find people that connected with my music, but since then I’ve just really focused on growing as a singer, songwriter, producer, and musician. I’m thankful to be where I am right now in my life.
What is the most fun moment and/or memory you have from your American Idol experience?
My Hawaii performance was incredibly fun. Since the world shut down when I was on the show, I didn’t get to actually experience most of what Idol has to offer. I never got to play drums and sing on stage. I never got to showcase what I can really do live, but I got a slimmer of that in Hawaii. We were on the beach overlooking the sunset with an incredible band behind me and a live audience to sing to. It was fun.
I love the cover art for the Manic EP! What inspired the design/stylistic choices for the cover?
The artwork was loosely inspired by this Richard Avedon photograph of Audrey Hepburn. My photographer Easton Schirra and I were getting really weird in the studio and taking images that were a little left of center. When it came down to making the cover art, I thought about the various sides of myself and the various perspectives I have from what I hear, to what I see, to what I say and think. We started playing with distorting my face in places to create these almost “character” versions of me. One has the devil horns which represent our darker sides. In one, it looks like I’m screaming… It’s just trippy, which we loved. The manic writing is actually my handwriting. I had written the word all over a piece of paper, and then we scanned that to kind of finish off the look and feel… It’s meant to represent chaos which is what often happens in my head!
Now that your EP has been released, what can fans expect next from Francisco Martin?
More music from myself and artists I’m working with, and more live shows!
Francisco Martin’s new EP, Manic, is out now.