19 Mar 2024 ///

A Full Moon With Mars Baby: Inside The Blue & Yellow World of His Latest Offering ‘LUNA’

Since being discovered, initially as a producer and collaborator for the first signee of independent record label, STAY LOW’s lordkez, Jesse Meintjes, affectionately known as Mars Baby, has redefined the essence of being prolific in the alternative music scene. The South African singer-songwriter, producer, guitarist and audio engineer was born in Woodstock, Cape Town, but relocated to the United States of America at a young age where he spent his childhood before returning to South Africa at the age of 16.

A passion for visual arts led Mars Baby to pursue Film at the University of Cape Town. However, it was during his college years that his interest in music blossomed. Starting from his bedroom, Mars Baby began producing beats for friends, eventually making music his primary focus. Encouraged by STAY LOW, he moved to Johannesburg to follow his passion.

Drawing inspiration from a diverse range of artists spanning various genres and eras, including Bon Iver, JPEGMAFIA, Daniel Caesar, and more, Mars Baby’s music is a fusion of indie/alternative with Hip-Hop, R&B, and Soul elements. As a producer, he played a pivotal role in lordkez’s breakout EP CHARCOTTA and has collaborated with a multitude of artists, including KashCPT, Zoocci Coke Dope, Money Badoo, Die Mondez, ZuluMecca, and most recently, Nanette, to name a few.

Mars Baby carved a lane for himself with his 4-track debut EP ‘EROS’ in 2019, succeeded by the three-track audio appetiser Prodigal Son in 2020, spawning fan favourites “Sugar” and “Smoke.” Mars’s first full-length EP release with STAY LOW titled Salem (2021), was led by the infectious singles “More Summer” and “Over U”, and this is followed by his latest offering “Echoes” (2022), which is led by the pop ballad single “Be Safe.”

Having performed at various venues and festivals, including  Cottonfest,  Africa Rising Music Conference, Rocking The Daisies , YFM’s The Summer of Your Lyfe Festival and Treetops Series, Mars Baby has also garnered recognition for his work collaborative work with this likes of Sportscene and H&M x Rocking The Daisies. He has recently secured a Marabi Club performance residency, a Soul September campaign with Apple Music, and The House of Soul Peer Award Winner in the Song Of The Year & Artist of The Year Categories.

Starting off 2024 on a high note, Mars Baby expands the Salem character arch by challenging the notions of his penmanship and introducing us to a different facet of his persona with the successful release of his new EP, “LUNA”, released on the 23rd of February 2024 and led by singles “Cherry Bomb (feat. Shekhina)”, “Know Me (feat Roho)” and “Show Me Love (feat. lordkez).

In this exclusive interview, I had the chance to ask about the creative process of the EP, his approach to songwriting, his relationship with collaborators, his incorporation of short form content with the visual collective Children of Midas, and more.

Mars Baby by @childrenofmidas

Congratulations on your latest release, “LUNA”, before we talk about the music. Please take me through the Blue and Yellow Gradient colour scheme you chose for this EP. What was it about this colour scheme that complimented the blues of the album?

 Mars Baby: When I started working on “Luna”, I envisioned it as a counterpart and sequel to Salem, a character I explored in my first full-length EP. Salem was a caricature of myself, depicted with blue skin and embodying a melancholic demeanour. I wanted to maintain that consistency in Luna’s rollout. I’m drawn to the melancholic sound and atmosphere, and I believe the colour blue effectively represents that mood. On the other hand, yellow symbolises the sun and serves as a contrast to the melancholy. So, Luna embodies this interplay between melancholy and brightness, which I find intriguing.


From a conceptual narrative, this body of work falls more into a commercial alternative pocket compared to your previous projects, which were more niche in their makeup; what craftsmanship went into you unlocking the new writing pockets and uptempo production?

 Mars Baby: I believe much of it stemmed from a conscious effort. I’ve always had a deep affinity for the niche I occupied before this project and the music I created within it. However, I often performed at gigs where the audience seemed more inclined to listen quietly rather than engage actively. This was a significant concern for me.

 While I cherish the moments when listeners connect with my music profoundly, I also desire a more lively interaction with my audience. Thus, my goal was to incorporate a few more upbeat tracks while preserving the core essence of my songwriting style.

 In pursuing this, I found myself drawn to the works of artists such as Puma Blue and Jeff Buckley. Though initially unintended, delving into their songwriting intricacies subtly influenced my approach, enriching how I crafted my own songs.

 Additionally, I deliberately chose to feature collaborations with other artists on this project, marking a departure from my previous solo endeavours. This decision was driven by my desire to foster a more conversational dynamic within my music, inviting diverse voices to contribute to the narrative.

 Ultimately, this project balanced evolution and authenticity as I sought to expand my artistic horizons while remaining true to myself.


 Your previous bodies of work embraced the love of being alone and explored loneliness at length, but “LUNA” seems to embrace the essence of falling in love. Has your outlook on love and loneliness changed while creating this cathartic body of work?

 Mars Baby: My perspective on love hasn’t changed drastically over time. I’ve always aimed for a balanced and realistic view of it. Although my music may sometimes lean towards one aspect of love at a time, I believe that music’s beauty allows you to immerse yourself in powerful emotions. While I may explore the intense and dramatic sides of love in my songs, at my core, I’ve always cherished love and at the same time, disliked the pain it can bring. If you look back at my previous work, you might label me as a ‘breakup artist’ or a ‘sad boy artist’ however, with my latest project, you’ll see a different side – perhaps a ‘lover boy’ {laughing}. These various facets of my artistry aren’t contradictions but complementary parts of who I am. This time around, I’ve chosen to highlight a different aspect, but both sides have always been a part of me.


“Guide Me,” “Know Me,” “Cherry Bomb,” and “Show Me Love” are a masterclass of new-age collaborative ballads. What is it about a potential collaborator that gives you that gut feeling that they are perfect for a song and leads you to collaborate with them?

 Mars Baby: When selecting collaborators for this project, my primary consideration is their energy and how I connect with them as individuals rather than just their artistic prowess. I prefer working with people with whom I have established relationships and friendships, as it ensures mutual understanding and respect for my vision. It’s essential to me that they share in my creative journey and contribute meaningfully to it.

 Each artist featured in this project is immensely talented and versatile in their songwriting abilities. For instance, Lordkez and I have collaborated, and our relationship is comfortable and dynamic. Starting the project with her was a natural continuation of our previous work together.

 “Guide Me” was the first song I wrote and recorded for the project. Initially, I wasn’t sure how it would develop, but Filah’s input on the song’s hook provided clarity and direction. Her contribution added a layer of completeness and a beautiful climax to the track.

 As for Roho, I’ve received numerous requests to collaborate with him, and it felt like the right time to do so. We both found ourselves in transitional phases creatively, with Roho having recently released his debut album, showcasing various facets of his artistry. Collaborating with him offered us a chance to showcase our individual growth and explore new dimensions of our friendship and collaboration.

 The selection of collaborators for this project was driven by personal connection, artistic synergy, and mutual growth opportunities. Each artist brought something unique to the table, contributing to the project’s richness and depth.


 “No Love” and “Know Me” are co-written by Shooterkhumz, who has been instrumental in your artist development. What are some of the most essential lessons you have learned from collaborating with him and sharing a creative process with him?

 Mars Baby: I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge through this experience, so it’s difficult to pinpoint just one lesson. However, collaborating with Shooter has been invaluable, particularly in honing my songwriting skills. As a self-produced artist, I have a clear vision of my sonic direction, but working with Shooter has opened up new dimensions within that world. He has a knack for identifying intriguing and innovative elements within my creative space, pushing me beyond my comfort zone.

 One significant lesson I’ve learned from him is the importance of balancing contentment with where you are and the pursuit of growth. Sticking to a formula that garners positive responses is tempting, but true artistic development comes from continually seeking new horizons.

 Shooter has been instrumental in elevating the project’s pace and injecting it with vibrant energy. We’ve had numerous discussions about infusing a certain liveliness into the music, which has been incredibly fruitful.

 Shooter has guided me in refining various aspects of my craft, from harmonies to song structure. He embodies the essence of a true producer, not solely in beat-making prowess but also in his ability to meticulously construct a song to its fullest potential.


Is there anyone you wanted to collaborate with in this project that you couldn’t, and you foresee yourself collaborating with them soon? 

Mars Baby: There was one person who I had wanted to collaborate with on this project but unfortunately it didn’t happen. In the future,  I would really like to collaborate with SIO; she really fits into this world I’ve created and I think it would be a great collab.

Mars Baby by @childrenofmidas

When you perform your music at stages like Marabi Club, Rockin’ The Daisies, Your Weekly Touch Up, etc.  and you see people singing along, does it validate that the quality of your music is “sing-along” friendly? Do you write with the intent of making your hooks and verses easy on the ear?

 Mars Baby: When it comes to my priorities, creating sing-along-friendly music isn’t necessarily at the top of my list. Initially, I used music as a means to process my thoughts and journal my experiences. While I aim for a balance, about half of my songs lend themselves well to sing-alongs; however, I’ve noticed a shift lately in the style I’ve been exploring for this project. It seems to naturally invite that kind of engagement. Experiencing people’s connection with my music in that way is truly gratifying. It demonstrates not only that they’re listening but also that they’re emotionally invested enough to want to join in and recite the lyrics back to me. It’s a gratifying feeling.


Visually, you worked with Children of Midas on the reels/shorts for “Know Me,” “Cherry Bomb”, “Free Mind” and “Guide Me” Why did you choose to go the short form video format as opposed to full-length music videos? Can we expect any official music videos?

 Mars Baby:  I opted for the short form due to the current era we’re in. I found it more effective to convey the project’s vision holistically through concise content, considering the average person’s attention span and the prevalence of social media usage. Leading up to this release, I extensively explored TikTok and other music discovery platforms. Surprisingly, most of the music I discovered last year came from TikTok rather than traditional platforms like YouTube or MTV. While I don’t mean to disparage those platforms, TikTok seems to be leading the charge in music discovery. This presents both exciting and challenging aspects.

There’s a responsibility for artists to make their music as accessible as possible to their audience. I tailored my approach to align with current consumption patterns. While I enjoy creating long-form videos, short-form content offers insights into audience preferences and helps identify which songs resonate the most, guiding decisions on music video production.

I believe it’s working out well for me, as I still have videos that I’m planning to drop. Having a surplus of B-roll and other content extends the project’s longevity for me, rather than investing all resources into one fantastic project and then leaving it at that. Nowadays, impressions are formed rapidly online. People decide whether they like something  within the first few seconds of encountering it. They can scour through social media profiles and digital service provider platforms to skim through music. Hence, it’s helpful to get to the point quickly, whether it’s for music or other endeavours.


Being such a film fanatic and student, I’m surprised we haven’t seen a short film or documentary for any of your projects; why is that? Can we expect this for full-length albums as part of their rollout?

Mars Baby: For a full-length album, that is something I’d seriously consider pursuing. I must admit I tend to be a bit of a recluse when I’m working on projects. I prefer solitude because it allows me to delve deep into my creative process without feeling too exposed. It’s a vulnerable experience, you know?

During the creation of this project, I handled everything from production to mixing and mastering. In hindsight, I probably bit off more than I could chew. I didn’t fully grasp the extent of the workload until I was knee-deep in it. Despite the challenges, I’m grateful for the experience—it pushed me to grow as a producer, engineer, and artist. It helped me better understand my capabilities and aspirations. However, I’ll admit I wasn’t exactly picture-perfect throughout the process.

I struggle with the idea of letting others into that intimate creative space. Part of me wants to safeguard the purity of the process, as it’s where the most exhilarating and chaotic moments occur. Yet, I also recognise the value in offering people more insight into that journey. Perhaps, moving forward, I need to strike a balance between preserving the integrity of my creative process and allowing others a glimpse into it.


 Thank you for joining us for this interview; before you leave, could you share with us what the future holds for you? Will you tour? Can we expect merch? What’s Next for Mars Baby?

Mars Baby: I’m currently considering expanding my merchandise line, particularly focusing on a crop top featuring Luna’s design. I’m gauging interest to see if there’s demand for it. Regarding touring, I’m eager to broaden my presence in South Africa. While I’ve been fortunate to perform at numerous venues, I’m now exploring new spaces to engage with audiences. Connecting with people who appreciate or may come to appreciate my work is a priority. Additionally, my debut album is in the works, representing another significant milestone. As the project unfolds, there will be considerable growth and evolution, and I’m thrilled to eventually share it with everyone.

I am of the belief that phrases such as “generational talent” are earned, specifically over a lifetime of improved craftsmanship. I am confident that the foundation that Mars has set in place for his legacy will remain unshaken by the turbulent current of the ever-changing music industry. I often find myself excited when I discover creatives who are meticulous with their artistry, and if this momentous run is anything to go by, the name Mars Baby will be ringing through our cultural lexicon for generations to come.

Written by: King Cedric

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