The Philly punk twosome of singer/guitarist Martello and drummer Nick Fanelli hadn't submitted themselves for the show, they hadn't auditioned, and at that point hadn't expressed any interest in being on reality television. So when the call came … they hung up.
"Nick got a call about it and immediately hung up on them because he thought it was a joke," Martello said.
As it turns out, one of the acts had dropped out of the show at the last minute, so casting directors went on a hunting expedition. Word eventually got to a friend of Martello's (who happened to be the sister-in-law of a friend of Perry's) who recommended Omar for the show. The next time the phone rang, the result was a bit different. They were on board.
At that point, despite being a band for nearly half a decade, Omar had only released one EP and had gone on a multi-year hiatus when Martello temporarily relocated to New York City. Just as a reboot was in order, they found themselves dropping everything and heading to Los Angeles to work with the songwriter and producer.
Omar's fate as a duo didn't last long on the show, though. After being pulled aside by Perry to play an original solo song, Martello was faced with Perry's ultimatum of either continuing as a solo artist or being eliminated. Fanelli took one for the team and encouraged his friend to forge ahead in the competition — in true tearful reality television style.
"I guess I was using him as a crutch. But who would blame me?" Martello said. "I was in a city — state I'd never been in. I was dead set on, 'No, you send him home, I'm going with him.' Nick was really the one like, 'If you go home if I go home, I'm going to f------ kill you. I'm going hate you.'"
So he left. Martello and her piercing vocals and cutting lyrics — like "Do you think I'll make you feel better?" on the song that won Perry over on the show, "Vitamins" — made it to the final. A final, where in a twist of fate, both remaining contestants won — both Martello and rapper/singer Anjuli Stars — and got a chance to record and release an album with Perry on her Custard Records label.
That's when Candice Martello became Hemming — the nom de stage she's assumed as a solo artist. (She's still working with Fanelli, except this time he's taken over managerial roles despite Perry's advice otherwise.) Under Perry's wing, Martello transitioned from a former band girl — she held down guitar duties in a Doylestown band during high school and then took up front woman status in Omar — who still combats stage fright, to a bold singer-songwriter with a cohesive sound, whittling down the couple dozen hodgepodge songs into a streamlined body of earthy alternative-folk.
"I was scared I'd be turned into some pop … some thing I wouldn't agree with," Martello said. "But she really kind of grasped on to what kind of sound I was going for. It's very simple and it gets kind of weird. She said it's kind of like 'contained chaos.'"
Now that the album's finished (expect it in early July, Martello says) and she's back home in Philly following a tour opening for Rachael Yamagata, Hemming will get her proper hometown debut in the form of a Wednesday night residency at Ortlieb's.
"I feel like it was just a good idea to do something in Philly because I'd never played any big shows in Philly yet," she said.
Carefully selecting each night's opening acts from a pool of locals and friends, each of the four nights of her residency — April 8, 15, 22 and 29 — will have a slightly different atmosphere. Between fellow Rachael Yamagata tourmates The Dove and the Wolf on the first night or Augusta Koch of Cayetana on night four, some shows will invoke a more relaxed vibe while others encourage rock 'n' roll activities. One of those will be on April 15, when Hemming performs with a full band.
"It's going to be fun nights with all my friends," she said.
Despite all the exposure and opportunities in the form of tours and the chance to work with and form a relationship with Linda Perry, Martello is just continuing on a trajectory she was on already. She's constantly bewildered that this stroke of luck resulted in the professional roller coaster that is her life. There is one thing, though, that she could do without: "I'd rather forget I was on reality TV."