Monday, July 5, 2010

Artist Interview: Valerie Orth's "Faraway City" Comes Closer

Among the diverse and deep pool of talent that makes up the Bay Area songwriting community, Valerie Orth ranks as one of its most passionate performers. Whether playing solo acoustic, on guitar or keys, with an all-women's band or guest musicians, her commitment to careful lyric, dynamic melodies and showing up fully as an entertainer have kept her star on the rise. As she readies for the release her highly anticipated full-length CD 'Faraway City' Valerie took a moment to answer some questions about her music.
: Was there a pivotal moment in your singing and writing career when you said, OK, this is it?
VLO: It wasn't in my music career as much as it was in my other career, or my "day job." I was a grassroots organizer full time for about 5 years, campaigning for environmental, social and economic justice. My day job took over my nights as well, so I would work 80 or more hours a week sometimes and had no time for singing or creative writing. I missed it so much (I was in musical theater for about 16 years of my life) that I gave everything else up to give myself a shot at being a musician. It felt as if I couldn't NOT sing anymore. Now songwriting is my outlet to express myself both personally and politically.

DC: How did it all start? When did you first write a song?
: I am a late bloomer, in music-industry terms. Still, I can't remember what my first attempt at a song was, though I'm sure it was awful! The first song I actually finished and continued playing for a while is called "Suddenly," which I probably wrote in 2003 when I was starting a new organizing job after a nice break from "day jobs."

DC: You’re calling your sound ‘hard folk’—Say more about your sound and influences.
VLO: My biggest influence is Ani DiFranco, and I've looked up to her for about 15 years now, because she seems to do whatever she wants regardless of the risk and regardless of whether it's popular at the time or not. And she's always been ahead of her time. My sound has taken a life of its own, though, because I work at exploring and defining it, and I also listen to music from all over the world and all different genres: Zap Mama from Belgium, Ojos de Brujo from Spain, Manu Chao, Bjork, and lots of British groups of course, The Beatles, Radiohead, and all difference levels of rock from Tori Amos to Nine Inch Nails, and good political folk music like Tracy Chapman. I grew up listening to Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, Van Morrison, Indigo Girls and tons of female singer-songwriters. (And, I couldn't avoid listening to Frank Sinatra in my Italian-dominated household). I also really appreciate the local scene here in San Francisco.

You’ve a tight band. Do you write with them from the ‘ground up’ or do you bring them songs and the work out their arrangements?
I write lots of songs and bring the ones with the most potential into my band rehearsals for arrangements. I have collaborated on a few songs in the past with former band mates and songwriting teachers.

You've a new CD coming? How has this process compared with your other recording projects? Where would you like to see it go?
I started working on "Faraway City" in January, 2009. Though it took over a year and a half to complete, it was the best recording project I've ever been a part of. Jon Evans, my producer (Tori Amos's bass player) was a big part of that happiness, since, like a good teacher, he worked with me exactly where I was at — which was, basically, at the beginning. He's an incredible musician who helped re-arrange all my songs, and we brought in the best musicians in the Bay Area —Scott Amendola (Charlie Hunter) on drums, Jon on bass, Julie Wolf (Ani DiFranco, Indigo Girls) on piano. What an honor to have them rock out on my songs! I also had a blast creating and singing tons of background vocals on most of the songs on the record.
Ideally, I want "Faraway City" to go viral and be loved everywhere and support my addiction to songwriting and music. At the same time, I'll be really happy if my music gets out there enough to affect someone, to, ideally, empower a person to use her voice and stand up for herself. I am working hard to get better at my craft, and am excited to record my next album already!

I want to celebrate this new album that I am so proud of with everyone! I'm so excited for the night's line-up with Emily Wells and Kindness & Lies. So, come to Slim's (one of my favorite venues in San Francisco!) on Saturday, August 28, 2010 - Tickets are available now!

No comments: