Ra Re Valverde
Ra Re Valverde
Ra-Re Valverde is a unique artist who has gone against the grain of traditional Soul music to create her own sound with a meaningful lyrics and beautiful voice to make her new CD "A Beautiful Mess" something to behold.
Interview with Tom Paul
1. You have a new release titled " A Beautiful Mess", can you tell us about the experience of making this recording?
I started recording in 2007 after procrastinating and doing everything else but working on my own project (ie. working at labels, managing other artists, etc.) Partially out of fear of putting my whole self out there as a solo artist. It can be an emotional experience because you are essentially naked and letting folks into your world to see, feel, and critique what you do and who your are as an artist, but I knew that I owed it to myself to play it out. After doing the first Sugar Water Festival with Jill, Erykah and Queen Latifah in 2005, I decided to go and invest in some recording equipment and teach myself how to track and produce. It was important to me to start off the process in my own setting where there would be very little distraction and I wanted to be sure to mold my ideas first before calling in any other influences. So, I started writing lyrics and putting a few ideas down, and when those became a little more concrete I called in some producers for more creative input and the rest is "A Beautiful Mess". The first song that I completed was "Outside The Box" and that song pretty much set the tone for the rest of the CD. Looking back, I can say that I am very proud of this project!
2. You have a unique sound on this album, what influenced the production sounds of ambient and electronica meets soul?
Well I really did not go into the recording process with pre-conceived ideas of what the overall sound would be. I just sat at the board to write or create tracks and build on them as I went along - and then the lyrics and melody would come in. At the time I was listening to a lot of Coltrane and Miles Davis, as well as Marvin Gaye's "Here My Dear" album, Bjork, early Radiohead, Prince and some indie artists from abroad like Owusu and Hannibal and Lewis Taylor. I am just inspired by different sounds that tend to linger and help tell the story. So much so, that I created more instrumental tracks than I did full songs at first because they just felt good without vocals, but I only included one of them on A Beautiful Mess which is the song "RV Intermission". I also knew that based on my background of singing with mainly soul artists, people would expect a certain sound from me, but I journeyed left of what some might consider to be the "norm" for me and it felt good to discover a different dynamic so I went with it.
3. You seem to be carving out a niche for yourself with "A Beautiful Mess", you have a unique blend of sound that no one has really tapped into musically and lyrically. What sparks the influence lyrically for all these songs?
Not purposely carving out a niche, but I am glad that it can be seen that way. A Beautiful Mess for me was a way to take from pieces of my own personal experiences and the experiences of the people and things around me and translate that on paper. If I had to describe the project as a whole in a few words, it would be "space soul filled with colorful imperfections" Lyrically it tells of some of my views on life and love and everything in between. The title "A Beautiful Mess" reflects all of those thoughts for me. It's my journal set to music.
4. Did you produce "A Beautiful Mess"? or did you work with a producer(s) of choice?
Both. I produced and/or co-produced 6 tracks on the CD. The others where done with some long time collaborators like Anthony-Micheal Alexander aka Baby Jupiter (Superhero, Them Eyes), Donovan Henry aka Innov8tive Beats (Love Will), and Laszlo Fehrer (Girlfriend, and co-produced Complicated), who I met on myspace. We exchanged music online, across the seas as he is from Germany and though we have yet to meet face to face, our musical chemistry was so natural it was crazy! Also, Dert (May B I'm The 1) and Jamie Siegel (Outside The Box) who I met while recording Trina Broussard's project and who also has credits on Lauryn Hill's Miseducation CD. They all helped in a major way to make A Beautiful Mess what it is.
5. You are highly regarded as a sought after backup singer and songwriter? How do you balance out being on the road performing and finding time in the studio writing songs?
Well let me just say how blessed I am to have worked with some amazing artists and teachers in this field. It is never a struggle or burden to do both, but really a blessing because I am still doing what I love to do. I usually travel with a mobile studio and set up in the hotel room or on the tour bus if need be and just make it happen. Sometimes you get the best material on the road because your getting energy from different parts of the world and at times that makes for a lasting memories and some great material. It gets a little tricky at times to balance both, get rest, battle jet lag, following schedules etc. but I make the time, even if that means recording at 3 am after just finishing a 2 hour show - if the song or idea is in my head I have to put it down.
6. Can you name some of the artists that you have recorded with in the past?
I did some writing and/or arranging on Rahsaan Patterson's "After Hours" album and Trina Broussard's Motown release "The Same Girl". In addition, I did some vocals on Jill Scott's latest release 2007 "The Real Thing".
7. Which artists have you been out on the road with?
- Jill Scott, Rahsaan Patterson, Lalah Hathaway, Jennifer Lopez, and Trina Broussard, as well as a number of Indie Artists like Algebra, Yazarah aka Purple Saint James to name a few.
8. You have studied at two prestigeous music schools both Berklee College of Music and LaGuardia School, what did you take away from these two institutions? Did you feel they helped you evolve into the best musicians you could be to go out and earn a dollar?
Most definitely!!!! Just to always be surrounded by that musical and creative environment where freedom of expression was always encouraged. Berklee is really where I learned to embrace different genres of music like jazz, classical and even world music like african rhythms and indian scales for example. I majored in Music Business Management which was important for me, because it gave me a much better understanding of the essential details that every artist should know about the business and it also afforded me some options in terms of the many roles I could play within the music industry, if singing did not pan out for whatever reason. Though I must say, there are many things that you can only learn by experience like how to handle negotiating for yourself as an artist or how to deal with different personalities in this business, you continue to learn as you go. Both schools provided a solid foundation. They also enabled me to meet people from different walks of life and I realized that there was so much more to music that I had to digest. I still have very close relationships with friends/musicians from Berklee and LaGuardia and am still taking from both experiences. I would encourage anybody in music to really study and research their craft whether on your own, or within an institution because creatively it helps put into perspective the things that you may hear or do naturally as an artist and allows you to expand on those ideas.
9. Do you play any other instruments besides singing?
Yes and no. I play around with acoustic guitar and I play enough piano/keys to write a song but by no means do I consider myself a "player". not yet anyway, but one day soon - I promised myself that! (lol)
10. I see you have a few shows coming up The Key Club in Newark and at Triad in Manhattan. Will both shows be full sets?
The Key Club date is actually a music business seminar in which I am a featured panelist on, but I will perform an acoustic set as well. The Blowout Lounge show @ the Triad Theatre is a full set - so please come out and rock with me on May 1st @ 9pm!!!!! (plug)
11. When you perform live, what is the band lineup?
As of late, it has been mostly acoustic, because that is just easier while I am out on the road and I also love the intimate setting where you can really hear everything around you. Otherwise it is drums, bass, guitar and maybe keys, with 1 or 2 background vocalist. Nice and simple, as long as the groove is right, we keep it moving.
12. Are you working on any other projects you can tell us about?
Some things are still in the works, but Trina and I have discussed working on a duet project in the near future. You can also catch me on a few compilations coming out later in the year. My main focus right now is to promote A Beautiful Mess and continue to perform live because it gives me a chance to give this project a rebirth if you will. People are just now getting a chance to hear what I have been creating over like a two year period so I am excited about the live performance aspect. I am also back in the lab working on the next release, brainstorming etc. and I plan to release the next CD in early 2009.
13. Going back to your writing process, do you work on ideas at home in a studio at first then develop them in the studio?
For the most part, I tend to write and record at the same time, and I know that might seem crazy but at times, it is the best way to capture the emotion and the moment while its still so brand new. Sometimes if you have too much time between recording the demo and actually recording for the finished product, you have played the song so many times in your head thinking about what your going to do, and how to perfect every line and you can lose some of the spontaneity. So my usual process is to write a verse, track it down press pause write the hook, track it and so on.
14. Tell us about some of your personal and musical influences?
Prince is numero uno for me and has been since I was a little girl stealing my brother's cassette tapes. His albums "For You" and "Purple Rain" (which I had to hide from my parents due to the lyrics) were major staples for me. Other influences are Chick Corea, Bobby McFerrin, John Lee Hooker, Sarah Vaughn, Ella, Nina, Stevie, Gnarls Barkley, James Taylor, A Tribe Called Quest, Bjork, Radiohead, Sting, Miles, Coltrane, Bilal, D'angelo, Oleta Adams....the list is endless and I can't possibly name them all. I am learning that as one-sided as the music industry may seem as of late, there's always new music to be discovered whether thru archives or underground. You just have to listen for it!
15. How do these influences bridge into your music?
I am still discovering my own voice and there's really never anything new under the sun so I as an artist try and take bits and pieces from what I admire to make them my own. What I love to hear as a fan of music first is tone, and movement throughout a song. I love when melodies and lyrics are at times so simplistic and then on the flip side sounds and arrangements are coming from every direction in a song and you hear something new each time you play it. Or when you hear that one lyric or vocal expression and it makes your rewind a million times to relive it. Stevie does that for me every time and it makes music timeless. I try to emulate that and want to portray all of those feelings thru my music so that its constantly new in some way.
16. What was the last 3 artists music you've purchased?
Gnarls Barkley's "The Odd Couple" especially the song "No Time Soon" is on heavy rotation (it's brilliant).
Bilal Salaam's "Blah - Time Between Asleep and Awake"
Erykah Badu's "New Amerykah".
17. Can you name some indie artists that you've seen live that have had an impact on you?
Haven't really had the chance to check out to many shows while on the road but I can name a few...
Peter Hadar (Memories of The Heart) - he is wicked live and just let's it all go!
Georgia Anne Muldrow - have yet to actually see her live, but I think she is an amazing talent!!!!
J Davey - who I know just recently signed to a major...I love what they do and their overall sound and style is crazy.
Please check out Ra-Re Valverde this Saturday April 24th singing backups with Rahsaan Patterson at Irving Plaza and at her own show May 1st at The Triad Theatre. Please check the flyer below for all the artists on the Blowout Lounge event.