Meet Valencia: An R&B Songstress Carving Her Own Lane as an Independent Artist

Photographer Credit:  Rob Cannon

Photographer Credit: Rob Cannon

St. Louis-based artist, singer, songwriter and music video creative director, Valencia effortlessly wears the title of modern-day renaissance woman well. Unlike other rising stars, she is the sole mastermind behind the vision of her artistry. Valencia’s strong drive and determination goes hand in hand with the mantra that many St. Louisans live by, which is you can’t spell hustle without STL. As a newcomer in the industry, she has already accomplished some impressive feats. From singing background vocals for fellow St. Louis native, Christian rapper, This’l to opening up on tour for Flo Rida, Valencia has proved herself to be a budding superstar to watch. Read more below to learn how she got into music, the inspiration behind her F**k Girl EP and what she’s cooking up next for her fans and supporters.

Describe your roots. Do you come from a musically-inclined family?

I would say yes and no. My siblings are musically-inclined. However, my older brother is the only one that is still into music other than myself. He plays the piano. Whether it’s dancing, singing, or playing an instrument we have a good variety of talent that runs between my siblings and me. According to my parents, they can’t hold a tune. I think my dad can sing. He just hasn’t groomed himself to actively pursue it and embrace his hidden talent. My aunt and late uncle, which are dad’s siblings are and were amazing vocalists. I also have a ton of other family members mainly on my dad’s side, that are talented in various areas in music.

When did you realize that you had a gift in music?

I realized I had a gift at a very young age. It was before I had even reached middle school. I sang a lot of a lot of songs that involved harmonizing with three of my older siblings. I guess I knew then, but I didn’t realize how much I loved music until I got older.

You began writing at the age of 15. What influenced you to start writing at that age?

Before I started writing music I used to write short stories. I began, I would say at the age of 6. I would write plays and then perform them in front of my parents. I realized when I started to become more involved in music that I had a natural knack for writing songs. I wrote most of my songs at work or while I took walks on my breaks. Writing became so easy for me. It was rewarding to hear the outcome. That was when I realized I had a gift.

What best describes your sound? Would you say that your sound fits into one genre or different sub-genres?

My music fits into different sub-genres. I would say that the official genre is r&b but let’s be serious I used to write rock ‘n’ roll songs when I was younger! I’m a free-spirit at heart. Whatever mood I’m in or whatever I’m feeling at the time is the vibe you’ll get.

Photographer Credit:  Rob Cannon

Photographer Credit: Rob Cannon

At the tender age of 17, you were fortunate enough to tour with national and international artists. What was that experience like? Who are some of the artists you toured with back then and what is some advice they instilled in you?

Those experiences were amazing! When I turned 17 it was the beginning of my singing career. I’ve toured with This’l, Canadian singer Anthony Gomes, gospel singer Cheneta Jones and many more. They taught me what it feels like to do what I truly love and to approach it with care. They also taught me how to be professional, organized and prepared. Wow, singing in front of thousands of people was phenomenal! Those were experiences I’ll never forget, especially since it was at such a young age. I’m so grateful for them!

You had the amazing opportunity to be a student under vocal coach Ametria Dock whose coached many big names in the industry such as India Arie, Avery Sunshine and Janelle Monae. How did you two connect and how did she help you become a better singer and performer?

Ametria was a godsent! I met her at background singers’ event she was teaching in Atlanta. There I learned more about her and how she teaches private lessons.

After I came home from the event, I immediately reached out to her and began working with her one-on-one. She is an amazingly talented singer and vocal coach. Her along with her sister Natasha (who sings background for Musiq Soulchild) both helped me build my confidence in singing and played a major part in my growth as a vocalist. She was and is such huge influence. I’m forever grateful for her!

After working under Ametria’s mentorship, you decided to become a solo artist. What inspired you to take that leap of faith and branch out?

I was interested in growing vocally and mentally. I started to build confidence in myself and I started to feel the love I now have for music. As I met with her, I practiced more, and I started to learn more about myself. It was difficult but a beautiful experience at the same time. I played background for so long, but I also gained a lot in the process.

As a St. Louis native, do you find inspiration in your music from the city and any parts of its culture?

We always say, ‘you can’t spell hustle without STL’ and I totally agree. There’s a different kind of hustle or grind you must put forth when you’re from St. Louis. We’re such a talented city, but at the same time we’re a city that has high expectations. It’s inspiring though-- something about this city makes you want to make it proud. And you can only make someone proud by doing your very best.

Back in 2017, you opened on tour for Flo Rida at the St. Charles Family Arena. How was your experience opening for him? What did you learn from his tour, whether it be advice from him or techniques in general?

It was so humbling to experience opening for him. It put things into perspective for me because it was like, wow, this must be meant to be. It was an exhilarating experience to sing in front of thousands of people and take pictures in the hallway with starry-eyed music lovers and fans. That was the best experience I’ve had in music to date. I learned that nothing is impossible, and with hard work and consistency on your craft, the world is literally yours.

You write and perform all your songs. Walk us through the process that goes into you brainstorming and executing it all.

I think this is the hardest question so far! I am such an energetic person and I’m pretty sure I have ADHD. I can’t even lie; my writing style often reflects that. But I’ve come up with a style that works for me. Whether the inspiration comes from a music video concept I have in my head, a story for the lyrics, or from a melody I heard that popped in my head, the one thing in common is my voice memos! I cannot write a song without it! If the music is already arranged and I need to finish the melody and lyrics, I often freestyle a great deal of it straight through but never without recording it. After that I have a strong base so then I’ll work my way in some weird (Valencia type) order and write the lyrics, and tweak some of the melodies. When I’ve got the whole song finished, I’ll record a rough draft, so I can add additional ideas to it. It’s a fun process!

I listened to your EP and it's very dope! I think the content is fresh but still current with what's going on in the present state of music, specifically r&b. You named the EP F**k Girl. What I got out of the name and from listening to all the songs is you placing a woman's perspective on the term F**k Boy. What was the inspiration behind the name and its content?

Thank you! I love leaving an open invitation for listeners to draw their own endings or conclusions. Your prospective is totally accurate and there are so many other ways to dissect F**k Girl as well. F**k Girl tells so many stories of how we can be an individual. It’s a love story, it’s a release of emotions, it’s a way of saying it’s OKAY to be a free spirited, sharp thinking woman who also enjoys living her life how she chooses. But it’s also a sexy catalog of songs to play in your bedroom while you swoon over your significant other, which is highly encouraged!

Were these your own personal experiences or are some of them others’ experiences too or just in general?

They’re a mixture of both. A lot of them, if not most were my own experiences.

Who are some of the producers you collaborated with on this EP?

Tone Jonez and Vocirus are a couple of the producers that worked on the EP. They are phenomenal!

You teamed up with another St. Louis native, JanaeSound on the track, “Feels”. Why did you choose to collaborate with her? How was that experience?

Besides her beautiful spirit, JanaeSound has a unique style of music that couldn’t have been more perfect to have on Feels. She lives out of state now but was so professional and it was seamless getting in her studio and laying down the vocals for the song. She made the song so much more amazing, I couldn’t have been happier with the outcome.

Who are some of your favorite musicians and producers in the industry?

Growing up I don’t know if there was a bigger fan of Janelle Monae than myself. Besides her, I really look up to Solange, and Dawn Richard— their creativity is unmatched in my mind. As far as producers one of my favorites is a St. Louis native, so shout out to my engineer Reace Beatz (producer of Chain Hang Low by Jibbs) who has been a huge part of my growing in music.

Who are your dream collaborations?

This is hard! Just to name a few, J. Cole, Tierra Whack, Childish Gambino, Missy Elliot (go big or go home), and so many more that I’m sure I’ll be upset I didn’t think of.

Currently you're an independent artist. Are you the sole creator of the direction for your album art, fashion, etc. Or do you have a team, behind you?

For the most part I am the sole creator. From song writing to directing the videos and creating or coming up with the concept for my artwork, I have my hand in a lot. Sometimes I’m even responsible for styling and coming up with the ideas for my outfits. When I’m not styling myself, I collaborate with Stylist Markees Bassett to either help me with the vision or style in general. Sometimes I even do my own makeup.

Would you like to continue to be an independent artist or do you hope to someday get on a major label?

A lot of people ask me this question and honestly, it depends on the vision. If it’s still my vision, then I’m ready for whatever path is for me. But if it’s anything that changes who I am, then it’s not for me. I’m not set on anything, but I do know that I love being a part of and over the creative process —it’s a huge part of me and I don’t think I ever want that to change.

I saw that you submitted a performance of your rendition of NPR's Tiny Desk. What inspired you to do that?

I was living in The Bay Area, and I had just come back in town for a bit when I learned (just a few days before I recorded the video) that NPR was having a contest. I knew I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare but I couldn’t pass up the chance to not only connect and have an amazing time with dope musicians but to also just go for it! So, I said, ‘Why not?’ A group and I of amazing people came together to make it happen. It was a great experience!

What's the message you hope to get across in your music?

I hope to make a plethora of music for different events in life and different feelings. My goal is for you to have a song from Valencia that matches your current mood. If it makes you feel good, if it helps you get out that cry, if it helps you finish cleaning the house, then I’ve done my job.

Your song “Another Round” with Miistro Freeyo was released on June 27th. Tell us more about that track.

Miistro is a super talented producer and artist, and I am so blessed to that I had the opportunity to work with him on this song. I reached out to him with a rough draft of my idea for the song and he was with it right away. We connected so well in the studio and it shows in the song which is a fiery, sexy, intense r&b duet.

Outside of your song with Miistro, what other projects or events do you have coming up?

I’ve recorded a few songs that I’m excited to release soon. I’ve already shot the music video to the single I’ll be releasing after Another Round called “Vibe,” so stay tuned! I’ll also be writing for a few other super dope artists and I have some shows coming up that are out-of-state. All I can say is I’m super excited about these next projects!

Keep up with Valencia on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube!