This season of FX’s Archer is a bit different. One of this season’s main storylines follows Cheryl’s quest to become American’s number one country music star. One mind control chip later and she adopts the moniker Cherlene – same Cheryl, only countrified. This storyline was complimented by the release of an album, Cherlene, which can be found on iTunes. The album has been a big success, breaking into the iTunes top 100 albums during its first week. The album is highlighted by a country version of “Danger Zone,” performed as a duet with Cherlene and Kenny Loggins.
Cherlene’s singing voice was not provided by usual voice actress Judy Greer, but by up-and-coming musician Jessy Lynn Martens. Active in the Orlando music scene for some time, this album has introduced her to a whole new audience. Deadshirt staffer David Lebovitz interviewed Jessy in the Danger Zone over the phone and discussed her musical background, how she got involved in Archer, and bar hopping with Pam and Krieger.
David Lebovitz: I have been listening to Cherlene on repeat for the past few days. It is an amazing record.
Jessy Lynn Martens: (Laughs) Thank you, thank you, that’s all Kevin Kinney [from the band Drivin N Cryin] production. We just had a blast doing that record and it was really, really an honor to be a part of it.
DL: I can definitely say that your duet with Kenny Loggins doing “Danger Zone” is the most beautiful thing ever put to record. It was an honor to see that on television.
JL: Oh, cool! Kenny Loggins was so cool and he was just sweet to me and my family. It was my dad’s birthday and I took him out to see him, he came through town – I’m in Orlando, in Florida – and his people were just amazing and so nice and he was too – contrary to his badass, you know, character last [week]. He was a really cool guy. So that was just a treat, to be able to do something with him, obviously [being] the god of music that he is.
DL: So what exactly is your background in country music?
JL: Well, I grew up playing bluegrass music. I started playing classical music when I was five. Violin is my first instrument, so that came to me pretty easily, and at age about eight and nine I was playing in bluegrass festivals. My dad was driving me around the country to play with who were back then the kings of bluegrass music – Chubby Wise and Bill Monroe and all these amazing names. At the time they were ancient still but the guys that kinda were around writing bluegrass music as we know it. So that was my first real introduction into country music. I grew up in a very religious family, so none of those honky-tonkin’ and bluesin’-it-up songs were really in my household, so the bluegrass and the classical music was really all that able to listen to at an early age – and then slowly as my family got older and my parents gave up a little bit, classic rock. My dad is a huge music fan, I don’t know how he got by for so many years as we were little kids not pumping his Pink Floyd and Beatles throughout the house. But as soon as I think we got past a certain age, that became kind of the standard in our household.
So it was an interesting childhood, but the country music didn’t really come on until much later where I was able to do the research myself, and of course just being a fiddle player the natural thing is to be in a country band. So when I was a teenager, I started playing gigs with bands and going out and playing in bars and stuff, y’know, breakin’ all the rules. That’s when I really started to learn about country music and its roots and the Johnny Cashes and Emmylou Harrises, and all these amazing artists were quick favorites. It was much later in my career, I guess, but I would say I fell in love with country. Bluegrass and classical music and rock was always my thing.
DL: You released an album a while ago called Finding Flowers.
DL: And I believe the description on your site was that somebody said it was like if Sgt. Pepper’s was influenced more by bluegrass than by the Beach Boys.
JL: That’s correct. That is a huge compliment, because like I mentioned earlier that was kind of standard music flowing through my household when we were older children and that’s all influence from my dad and the records he used to play. That was the paper here in Orlando (The Orlando Sentinel) that wrote that. My Finding Flowers record was first for me to put out in a long time. I was in Orlando playing the music scene, and travelling abroad with other bands and other people – but Finding Flowers was the first opportunity I had gotten in a long time to put out my own solo record, and work on it solely by myself in a friend’s studio with a bottle of wine and many many hours and burning candles.
When I released it here, I put on a huge CD release. There were sixteen musicians on stage – a whole string section – and an artist friend of mine in New York put together some beautiful filmed stuff. I basically threw this Pink Floyd-style show here, and that comment came from a man who came out to the performance – as did most of the town of Orlando… If you’ve listened to the record at all, I’m really proud of it because it’s different. It’s a very different undertaking – in fact, I don’t know how much country you will hear in it. It definitely gets that bluegrass and that rock and roll, and I’m really proud of that.
It’s funny because playing the mandolin and the fiddle people automatically think that I am a country player and that’s my style, but it’s so [different]. This Cherlene record is [country] because Adam [Reed] contacted Kevin Kinney of Drivin N Cryin and said “I want a country record.” So that’s what they wanted, they wanted exactly what they got. Kevin is so brilliant and talented that they would even call him and say, “we need a song that has a line about an ocelot peeing in her purse, and we need this…” Y’know, silly, ridiculous things that obviously are hilarious in the show but you’re kind of like, “how are people going to like this as a country record with some of these ridiculous things in here? How are we going to make this make sense and turn out being a good record besides being funny and comical and everything else we were trying to tie into it?” I just think the finished product just came out to be such a good collection of tunes with all the silliness in there – but also, there’s the serious side of her music.
It’s kinda cool to be doing it as a different person. I don’t know, I’m a big Stephen King fan, and it’s like I’m writing under this [pseudonym] because if Cherlene screws up, oh well. I think we did a good job at making it an album hopefully that people will be able to listen to outside of the Archer characters and actually just enjoy the music. So I think that Kevin did a good job with that. It was crazy to do because it was like, “get up here to Atlanta, cut down your vocals, and go home,” and that was it. Then they would send me the mixes when they started coming in and it was almost as new for me to hear as it is for you guys… I’m just so lucky and pleased with the end product, because it is an opportunity for me to be on a stage that I’ve never been on before.
DL: I can definitely say the record has those little touches that are very clear references to Archer, but it does stand on its own as a record for sure.
JL: Oh, thank you! You know, that was the main concern. I wanted it to be a good piece of music that people could listen to and get in touch with and really enjoy. Y’know, today, especially after last [week]’s episode, I’m really sensing that people are actually enjoying it, even if they’re not enjoying the way the storyline has changed and the fact that Cherlene is a country music singer. There’s a lot of people out there who have bad things to say about how the show has moved in this direction, but y’know a lot of good things as well – but I think what’s great is that it’s kind of standing on its own, that even the negative comments about how, “Ah, we’re not sure about this Cherlene itself, but we like this music.” And I think we got lucky, that we found somewhere in the middle that the fans of the show are still going to enjoy the music, which is the most important thing.
DL: So how exactly did you get involved with this record?
JL: Kevin, the lead singer of Drivin N Cryin, is family to me. He married a dear friend, Shaney Rae – who used to work here in Orlando as a show promoter, and also half-managed a very popular nightclub that we all are big patrons of and would go to and she would bring in these great bands that Orlando wouldn’t normally get because we’re so far out here down on our little peninsula. So Shaney met Kevin as he was comin’ through town many years ago to play a Drivin N Cryin show, and they fell in love [and] got married. [T]hat meant [we started seeing] this really cool band – I don’t know if you’re familiar with Drivin N Crying, but they are super fun and super talented – on a regular basis. So Kevin Kinney, one late late night with beers and everything around the fire at a friend’s house, we started jammin’ to music and he asked me to go with him to tour in Europe… We had such a great time and Kevin and I so quickly just became like family and he’s one of my best friends.
And he calls me one day out of the blue, and says, “listen, I’m working on this thing, have you heard of the show Archer?” and I’m like, “I love that show!” Me and husband are huge fans, we always have been since the beginning of Archer. We’re big cartoons and silly comedy fans. So I was like, “Hell yeah I know what Archer is, that’s amazing!” and I’m so excited. At this point he’s not allowed to talk to anybody about it – so he was really excited to hear that I was aware of the show and I knew all the characters and everything – and said “so I need you to come up here and play fiddle and mandolin on this record.” I was like, “of course! I’ll be there tomorrow.”
So I went up there just to perform the musical part to help him put the music together to play fiddle and mandolin, and we started drinkin’ whiskey and the next thing I know Adam [Reed] is in the studio with some cameras and some other people – parts of the show [and] their lawyers. [T]hey are signing paperwork and doing all the stuff [we] need to do and hanging along and being silly and they said, “why don’t you just sing some more scratch vocals on this stuff?” because I wasn’t aware they were having some problems with the first girl – there were actually two other girls ahead of me that they couldn’t wrangle up and I-don’t-know-what but thankfully it just didn’t work out – and I said, “why would I do that? I don’t want to waste you guys’ time” and they said “Just don’t think of it like that, just record some of the vocals. It would really help us out.”
So I did and I drove home to Orlando and they caught me literally as I walked in the door and they said, “do you think can you just come back and finish this record for us?” and I was just blown away. I had gigs that night and I just cancelled everything. I just wanted to go out and drink champagne. Y’know, just jumping around my house yelling and screaming, just so excited for the opportunity to get to do it. So I was back up there in a couple days and finishing the record with them. It was just incredible – it was like one week having nothing really to do with the record, and the next week it being my record, which was just so cool. I am thankful for Kevin and his faith in me that I could do it because I’m a fiddle player and a mandolin player, but nobody’s ever really gone, “wow, you are a really amazing vocalist” and I’m so glad I got the chance to kinda show that off… I’m just so thankful they gave me a shot at it.
DL: Not only do you have a great voice, but you also sound uncannily like Judy Greer, to the point where it actually sounds like Judy Greer was singing. It’s confused quite a few people.
JL: Well, I’m glad, because that’s the point – I did know the characters, I knew what she sounded like, I knew from watching the show what her attitude was, and so I knew how to pull off these lyrics – which is half the battle because you can’t have her open her mouth and sound like a completely different person. It’s got to be kind of seamless. It was so cool because, like I said, I’m just about as uninformed as much [as anyone] else as far as this record coming out. We were all going, “what is this going to look like?” Just a couple weeks ago, they finally, finally sent me a clip of it and I said, “oh, well, that works! That works!” so I could chill out a little bit… we did a really, really great job at making that kind of seamless and making it look like it’s actually her character. That was important to me, so I’m glad that I’m trickin’ people out there – although I want everybody in the world, obviously, to know that it’s me instead of Judy, that’s not really the point, y’know? And I think that’s kind of why they released the record as Cherlene and everything – it’s supposed to be her, it’s supposed to be her character. As much as I don’t wanna give Judy Greer the credit for it, I’m glad that I’m confusing people enough to where it’s believable.
DL: Nothing against Judy Greer, of course.
JL: Oh, no. I haven’t had the opportunity to meet her – we’re actually going up to Atlanta on the fourth of April and we’re doing Archer Live, and we’re actually going to perform the record and get to sit on the panel with all of the characters, so that’s going to be really, really exciting. I’m pumped for that.
DL: That does sound exciting. Have you interacted with any other cast or crew members who are notable from Archer?
JL: Yes, both Pam and Krieger’s [voice actors] – that’s Lucky Yates and Amber Nash – they’re both in Atlanta. There’s also good friends of Adam [Reed]. We did quite a bit of hanging out and bar hopping and getting into some shenanigans together. Amber is one of the funniest people I think I’ve ever met in my life, and it’s hard to even go out with her without bringing a second pair of underwear because she is just nonstop. Her comedy routine is phenomenal and she’s just a great person too, and Lucky is the same way. They are so down-to-earth and their kind of blown away by everything, too. I’m sure Aisha [Tyler] and Judy Greer – they’re kind of familiar with this type of stardom, y’know, with this type of celebrity, and Amber and Lucky are just like, “what is going on?” Their lives have just been completely changed by Archer and by their characters, and they deserve it. They’re both great people, but mostly those two are the only ones we’ve had the opportunity to work with. Everybody else is in LA and New York and kinda working from a far distance. Hopefully on the fourth we’ll all be together and it’s going to be one-big-happy-family-reunion-type thing.
DL: Do you have any advice for people who are trying to make their way in the music industry today?
JL: HAH! Tell me how to do it when you figure it out, that’s the advice I’ve got. This has been an absolute blessing but there was no secret to it. Y’know, this might lead to something and it might not. The music industry right now is so screwed up and the only thing you can do is stick with it because you love it. If you can figure out how to make some sort of money out of it or you can figure out how to get some sort of fame, all the power to you, but it is just not what it used to be. You can’t be doin’ it because you wanna make the big record and be the next Taylor Swift. You just can’t, because there is no secret method and even if you had all the money in the world to put behind it you could put the best record out there nobody would ever want it. It’s crazy. I just have to say you gotta do it because you love it.
Hopefully this will be some sort of break for me, but I’m just a regular musician with an acoustic guitar, man. I play five gigs a week around Disney and Universal Studios, and I’m doin’ it because I love it. I’m hoping that this will give me some recognition, and I’m starting to pack up my house hear in Orlando and I’m gonna move to Nashville. I’ve got some people up there to make another record with, thanks to the Archer people and the popularity that this show is giving me a little bit of a push – but I still only have like 1300 people on my Facebook page and this is still “Judy Greer” singing this record. There’s just no right way to do the music industry.
So, that’s my advice. Good luck. (Laughs)
Check out Jessy’s work at her official website. Like her Facebook page, follow her Twitter feed (@JessyLMartens), and subscribe to her Instagram (jessylynnmartens). Cherlene can be purchased on iTunes or Amazon. It is unknown if Cherlene will be released as a tangible record. Jessy is hoping for a vinyl release, and hopes enough fan support and demand might make it happen. Finding Flowers can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon, or CDBaby.