Valerie & The sun - 10 Questions Interview
April White is a bandleader, singer-songwriter, piano player and producer-engineer. In private moments of playing the piano and singing, White creates intimate music to express her experiences and emotions. As if writing a journal of self-discovery and spirit revival, her inner life is brought to the foreground in her latest project, her self-titled album,Violet and the Sun. White’s previous work included collaborations with MING, Tricky's vocalist Costanza and Jon "Hobotech" Margulies as a member of the band Tiny Machines. Violet & The Sun is her first solo project which reflects her growth as a person and a musician. After living in NYC and Los Angeles, White moved to a wild and remote acreage near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon with her beloved dogs, cat and Nigerian dwarf goats. Her new home provides her with an endless source of joy and wonder. The miles of uninterrupted pinyon pines by day and countless stars by night give White a sense of interconnection in the universe which is intimately reflected in her music.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
I was working for a public relations agency in the Empire State Building in New York City, but was feeling unfulfilled. I kept thinking, "Is this all I came here to do?" A friend of mine suggested I try doing something I'd always wanted to do, to mix things up. So I signed up for a DJ class at Dubspot. This eventually led to me DJing too much on week nights and coming into work exhausted, which led to the end of that job. After that happened, I decided to run with my unemployment and devote all of my time to taking production classes at Dubpost as part of a work-study exchange. I continued to DJ during this time but discovered that I kept thinking, "I wish someone would write songs like [fill in the blank]." I took this as both a sign and a challenge to try my hand at writing the songs I wished someone else would write.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
I finished DJing at 4 am one night at 169 Bar in NYC, which is between the Lower East Side and Chinatown, near where the character Elliott from "Mr. Robot" lived, and the notoriously mercurial manager insisted I let his driver drive me home. I lived in Long Island City in Queens at the time, when it was still super edgy and 5 Pointz was intact. I didn't realize until after I got in the car with all my gear that the driver was tweaked out of his mind. He was twitching and fidgeting the entire drive, going 85 miles per hour, swerving around cars, and blasting music so loudly I couldn't even yell over it to tell him to slow down. I truly thought I might die the entire time.
What has been the high point of your music path?
This first album I created for my new musical project, Violet and the Sun, is definitely the high point in my musical path to date. It's the best songwriting and singing I have done so far, and reflects my growth both as a person and a musician. I still can't believe I pulled off so many ambitious productions--even with the help of so many talented musicians. We recently assembled the entire cast of characters for a video shoot in Jerome, Arizona, in a historic old house overlooking the valley, and I was in awe that all these talented musicians came together to make this vision and this project a reality.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
I feel like every song I write is on a mission to communicate something specific, whether it's an idea, an experience, an exploration of some thought or concept, or a hard-earned lesson. Once I know what needs to be expressed through the song, or at least the theme of that expression, the rest follows. Sometimes the lyrics come first and sometimes the music does. Sometimes they come as a package. Other time I discover, much to my delight, that two or three sketches from different times of my life are trying to "say" the same thing or explore a parallel concept. When this happens, I always feel compelled to unite them. In my experience, the latter is what leads to the most ambitious, dynamic and interesting songs, because I work tirelessly to figure out how to marry the unique sketches into a single expression.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
I am concerned since making money as an indie artist is so difficult that too many artists ultimately resort to writing music they think people will like because it sounds like something familiar. I would like to see more indie artists go out on a limb and do something truly unique: Create a new genre. Write something the world has never before. Experiment with new sounds and instruments. Because music has become such a commodity in today's world, I think the music industry needs to be reinvigorated by an influx of new music that does more than recycle accepted sounds and known genres. What the world needs now is music that surprises and creates a sense of awe and wonderment, and has something new and edifying to say.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
This is a total pipe dream, but if I could share the stage with Stevie Wonder someday, I think I might lose my mind or just vaporize. Of all the singer-songwriters who have most inspired me with their lyrics, singing and arrangements, he tops the list. Is there any song more beautifully crafted, written and sung than "Overjoyed?"
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
I'm currently holding off on creating a live show for "Violet and the Sun" until there is an existing audience and more demand for the music, since a live show for this project would require a large ensemble of musicians. In an ideal world, it might even involve an orchestra and/or choir. I have a grand vision for this, but I will need the capital and following to make it a reality. In the meantime, I'm focused on writing and producing the second album, so there is plenty of material to perform if and when that time arrives.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
The song "Violet and the Sun," which inspired the name of both the project and album was definitely the most challenging to write. It was one of the songs that came to me over several years and pieced together several sketches from three different times in my life. The verses were sweet and simple, the choruses were melodramatic and fierce, and the bridge was eerie and melancholy. How in the world would they all work as a unit? Marrying the three sections--both in terms of the keys they were written in and their inherently different vibes--seemed nearly impossible at first. But I was determined they were the same song. So I played around with different arrangements, vocal deliveries and instrumentation until the song finally landed. The end result felt like my musical thesis and I'm really proud of it.
What's coming up in the future?
I’m currently working on a second album for Violet and the Sun that will be called “Congratulations on Your Future.” One of the songs is tender and simple like “To Watch You Grow Old,” but the others in process are more ambitious, like “Violet and the Sun” or "Amaurot," uniting disparate musical ideas that are arguably even more unexpected. I am also trying to license songs from the latest album in the hopes that will help generate a following. I would love to work up a live show as well, and I have a creative idea for an experiential musical installation. But I feel compelled to first develop a demand for the live show and enough material for the installation/experience before proceeding with either.
Tell us where fans can access your music?
This music interview was brought to you by BWH Music Group