Edward Burnett sits down to talk to American powerhouse singer Valencia ahead of her new single release 'Amen'. She talks about her songwriting process, the pre-single release nerves and her love for travelling.
RnRR: Hi Valencia! How are you doing? Would you mind explaining your act and genre to readers that are unfortunate enough not to have heard your music?
VALENCIA: Hey, I’m doing fantastic! Of course not! My act/genre is Contemporary R&B. The base of it is R&B but you’ll hear a lot of different influences from sounds inspired by pop, soul, electronic, classical, and more! I love a good unique creative sound, it makes my soul happy.
RnRR: You mention that your music has many influences, who would you say were you’re biggest influences growing up and who inspired you to go professional on the music scene?
VALENCIA: Ooo, great question! I was influenced by so many dope individuals it’s hard to say. A lot of old school artists for sure like Prince and Chaka Khan. If I had to name just a few that I really obsessed over (laughs) it would be Solange, India Arie, and Janelle Monae! Also, the creativity that Missy Elliot exhibits so effortlessly visually, is so inspiring. As far as who inspired me to go professional on the music scene, first off I would definitely have to give a big shoutout to my group of loved ones who continuously encouraged me and still do even to this day. Finally, my vocal Coach Ametria Dock also, who a few years ago helped groom and build up my confidence which made me realize the direction I wanted to go in. I had never had that kind of mentorship before so it was so important for me.
RnRR: While we are talking about going professional, how did it feel when you got your first music out into the world? When it was official and you’d got your own published song out there, what was that like? Can you give any words of inspiration for artists and bands who are on that step currently, ready to make the jump or trying to?
VALENCIA: The first song I ever released was ‘Seasons’ and I don’t think words do justice to the feelings I had during the time of its release really. I was a ball of emotions and nerves. I was putting out a work that was now available for strangers and recognized faces to judge, possibly hate, or love! Yet at the same time, it was mine. My art that I had finally shared with everyone. Luckily, the feedback for the song was so overwhelmingly amazing that it encouraged me to keep doing what I’m doing. What an amazing feeling. I encourage artists and bands to leap. You have to start! Feel your feelings, both nerves and excitement, but don’t allow them to tell you to quit or not to put out your work. Also, utilize the beauty of the digital world to your advantage and share your gift with as many people you can. And finally, take the time to learn and study how to best release your music. Be a master of your craft and know that I’m rooting for you!
RnRR: On the topic of upcoming artists, who have you been listening to recently that’s caught your ears in particular? Anything or anyone during the pandemic that you’ve been playing on repeat a lot?
VALENCIA: Ah, fun question! I think I’ve had Teyana Taylor and Victoria Monet playing the most as of late! Also, I’ve had ‘My Future’ by Billie Eilish on repeat! I’m obsessed. She’s definitely one of my favorites!
RnRR: Some great picks there from some talented women in the music industry. Let’s now move onto your music personally and more specifically your latest track, ‘Vibe’. The single recently hit 100 thousand streams on Spotify. What was the thought process behind this song and what does it’s lyrics and purpose mean to you as it’s creator?
VALENCIA: Oh my god yes, that was so exciting. The crazy thing is, as much as I wish there were this unique story and process surrounding the making of it, it really was just a matter of it made me feel good as I was writing the lyrics to the music. I pretty much freestyled it and BOOM, there was ‘Vibe’! I think I completed it in like 30-45 min, if that. The lyrics basically reminded me of good times, childhood memories, and happiness. The purpose definitely became to make the listener feel good inside.
RnRR: An incredibly short writing process for such a powerful song! With that in mind, would you say that the process of creating your fresh new single was the same? What does this song mean to you know that you’ve already got a budding discography to your name? Do you now feel settled as a professional and chilled in the real ease of music or do those nerves and that sense of anticipation never leave you?
VALENCIA: Thank you! Oh I kind of wish the writing processes were the same. But my new single, ‘Amen’ was the complete opposite! There was a story behind it, and it seemed like it took forever to complete. It was one of those songs that I had to keep coming back to before finally finishing. I began writing it 01/01/2019! And here we are well over a year later finally about to see it released on 16/10/2020. Writing can be so tricky sometimes! But the process is still one I’ll never not appreciate and love. This song means “bring on the challenge!” It’s runner up after ‘Vibe’, so I think the pressure is totally different for me. I feel more settled but I think I feel more of a personal battle with myself as a perfectionist and wanting to outdo what I previously did. I know this isn’t super healthy, but that’s where I am! I don’t think I’ll ever get over the “anticipation” feeling but the nerves I had when I first released a song have definitely evolved into more of an excitement feeling.
RnRR: After the release of ‘Amen’, what does the future hold for you? Are you planning any socially distanced gigs and shows or is ‘Amen’ going to feature in a larger project further down the road like another studio album or EP?
VALENCIA: I hope to start preparing more events (digitally and social distance approved) that will allow me to continue to connect and engage with my audience. They definitely deserve that. I do have a couple already lined up that I hope you’ll stay tuned for. As far as it being a feature on another EP or an album, I won’t get any hopes up but I will say, after its release I will be in complete writers mode! I have some super dope individuals I’ll be working with— so I’m pretty excited!
RnRR: Do you find that collaborations can be the most fulfilling of musical projects? What do you see as the pros and cons of working with other artists on songs?
VALENCIA: I think they are important for several reasons. I can’t wait to do more! When collaborate with other artists I feel like the pressure is on. It’s a challenge to want to do your best. A friendly competition almost but in the best way possible. I feel like it’s always a plus to feed off another creatives energy. Which is a pro in my opinion. Another pro is being able to be introduced to each others’ audiences! That’s so important if you’re looking to expand your fanbase. I think a con could definitely be possibly not seeing eye to eye, or having a different vision. But at the end of the day, it’s all a learning experience that’s more than likely needed.
RnRR: Now moving away from the music, what would you say your biggest hobbies and interests are other than songwriting? Have you mastered any new talents during lockdown amid the pandemic?
VALENCIA: I absolutely LOVE creative writing. That’s why I enjoy directing all of my music videos. But something totally outside of music that I absolutely love is traveling! If I weren’t an artist I’m pretty sure I’d be a traveler or vlogger. Ah, during the pandemic I’ve definitely locked in on growing in my craft. I’ve been studying a lot of music business but aside from that I’ve been practicing dancing more! It’s kind of embarrassing but fun (laughs)!
RnRR: What would you say your favourite country you’ve traveled to and why? Is there anywhere you’re yet to go to that you’ve been wanting to visit?
VALENCIA: I have a few favorites (the United Kingdom being one!) but the experiences I have had in the Netherlands, Amsterdam specifically, are just irreplaceable. I go pretty much every year for King’s Day! Such a beautiful place. Yes! I’m so ready to explore places in Africa. I also want to head down to South America too.
RnRR: Finally, the most important question which I ask all our Spotlight guests, if you’re deserted on an island and you can only ever play one album ever again for the rest of your days, what are you taking with you and why?
VALENCIA: Oh my god! This is literally the hardest question you could have ever asked me. (Laughs), yikes! I would bring a greatest hits of all time compilation album because listen, I have ADHD and I need a switch up from time to time! I’ll leave it up to the viewers to decide which one it’ll be.
RnRR: A good answer to make sure the music stays fresh even when repeated continuously! Thanks for your time Valencia and good luck for the future, we will be sure to update the page of any news or releases from your camp! ‘Amen’ is available now to stream via Spotify.
If you would like to keep up to date with Valencia or find out more about her and her music, the links to all her socials are below via the icons:
Edward Burnett chats to Keiko and Floss from London based, female trio BAXTR about their latest single 'Feathers', their musical heroes and the best things about living in the English capital.
RnRR: Hey BAXTR, how are you girls doing? How best would you describe your act to new listeners?
FM: Kitsch, flamboyant, geek rock meets alt pop, with a pinch of Brit Pop swagger and new wave theatrics. Made by 3 nerdy girls.
KJ: We are a positive breath of dreamspace pop. Three friends making music together that we want to share with you. Think of us as your best friends cheering you on one song at a time.
RnRR: How did all of you meet each other? Is it your friendship that drives the band forward or the collective aim to “make it” in the musical world?
KJ: It’s always been about our friendship and also (now this might sound a bit woo woo) but the energy and magic we feel whenever we play music together. It’s that feeling of utter joy that drives us forward.
FM: I don't think you sound woo woo, Keiko! There are definitely mysterious forces at work when us 3 come together.
Many moons ago we tried to make this work, but the timing was off and what started as band just rolled into us moving to London, living together, becoming best friends, occasionally making a riotous noise and never actually releasing any music! We all went away, honed our individual crafts and now, years later, the stars have aligned, we're two singles deep and we're feeling the alchemy more than ever. Never say never, as they say!
RnRR: What’s your biggest aim when creating new music? Your latest single ‘Feathers’ has a focus on the theme of body positivity. Do you always have a message in mind when it comes to your songs?
FM: For me, writing is about being a kinda storytelling Rumplestiltskin, weaving your experience and perspective, good or bad, into something (hopefully) of worth for someone else. We write because it's cathartic and fun, and if our songs can bring joy or give someone a musical lens through which they can make sense of their experience or world, then it all feels worth so much more. Some songs will be more cryptic than others but there will always be a kernel of truth at the centre of all BAXTR songs, and that kernel will almost always be sugar coated or shared in a joyful way, whether that means energetic arrangements and instrumentation, or optimistic lyrics. I've been through a lot of ugly stuff; we all have, and we want to purge that stuff and Rumplestiltskin the hell outta it all, both for ourselves and for you. Even if a song's message is a bit heavy, we'll never be shoe gazers, as nice as our shoes may be.
RnRR: Growing up, who were your biggest musical inspirations and who convinced you all to go professional?
FM: As a kid, The Beatles, Abba and Free. As a teen, Foo Fighters, Aerosmith, Damon Albarn, Ben Folds and Imogen Heap, to name a few. I'm very lucky to come from a supportive creative family who, for better or worse (ha!), never tried to talk me out of doing music professionally. My Dad is a songwriter and he taught and inspired me a great deal, but outside of my family the first person to really help make me feel I may be able to write professionally was my friend Charlie. He works in music, heard my shoddy early demos and really held my hand as I entered the industry, giving me some great opportunities and advice.
KJ: Michael Jackson - his showmanship and attention to detail always blew my mind. The realisation that I *have* to drum not just that I *like* to was a big sign that I wanted to go pro.
RnRR: What are your future plans? Do you have any new releases on the way
KJ: Yes! We are raring to go! We have lots of songs and so it’s just a case of getting them recorded . If we have it our way you may hear two more songs before the end of the year.
FM: We have so many tunes stacked up ready to be recorded! The next two singles will be the last 2 from this first batch of four, and that will complete the first EP. We'd love to plan more, but being in a band costs money so we are pacing ourselves and doing a lot of stuff DIY for now.
RnRR: Staying on the theme of the future, where would you guys like to be in a year’s time? What’s your goal for when normality resumes following the pandemic?
KJ: We would love to gig of course and put on some really special shows. In a year it would be great to think we might have released an album.
FM: BAXTR are itching to get out gigging and want to work to make our live shows tight, magical and almost immersive. We've only been a band since June and want to continue to pump out singles, but at the rate things are going I don't think an album release is out of the question for next year!
RnRR: Speaking of the pandemic, what have you all been up to during lockdown other than music? Have you learnt any new talents or gained any hobbies?
KJ: I have been investing in my home studios and have bought a few new mics so I can record from home as best I can.
FM: I've been writing my elbows off, but other than music, I have used lockdown time to learn a bit of Japanese, こんにちは! and have become an amateur Olympic biscuit eater. I also like to make art so have been getting into some colourful messes too.
RnRR: Yes I hear they're added that category to the next Olympic Games! You guys currently live in London. What would you say the greatest thing is about English capital city and does your environment ever influence your music?
KJ: I grew up all over the place but settled in south London when I was 11 and it was great being able to go and see gigs in my teenage years.
FM: I love how culturally diverse and vibrant London is. For me the best thing about being in a bubbling hub of creative industries is being able to access and work with so many talented fellow musicians, and absorb so much live music. People and their stories mostly inspire me, but they can be found anywhere! We all live in London but we meet and make music in a place that exists between asleep and awake - Dreamspace; a metaphorical place of creativity, friendship and safety. Kinda like an omipresent joy mathmos, that looks different to each band member, but feels the same for us all. We "go" there when we make music and the idea of Dreamspace definitely inspires a feeling, which is imbued in our music.
RnRR: Finally and most importantly, the Spotlight signature question. If you were all stranded on a desert island and could only play one album ever again, what are you choosing and why?
KJ: Oooh tough one. I think because I’m a big MJ fan I would have to say 'History'.
FM: 'Jagged Little Pill' by Alanis Morrisette - not because I think it's the best album of all time, but it feels like an old friend. It's a powerful time machine for me. When I hear the opening chords I'm immediately transported back to happy times. She covers a lot of emotional ground on that album and I feel like she's singing words that I could've spoken at some point. We want our music to be a friend to people. That album makes me feel the way I'd like to make people feel with BAXTR's music; comforted, reflected, and inspired to feel as if you can be whoever, or whatever, you want to be.
RnRR: Thank you for your time BAXTR and all the best for the future, we will be sure to update our page with any news from your side of things.
If you would like to discover more about BAXTR, their socials are all down below via the icons: