Singer, songstress, pianist and guitarist, Valentina Sounds will be making her Johnny Brenda’s debut this Friday, February 14th supporting The End of America. Born and raised in Italy, Valentina relocated to Philadelphia a decade ago to marry her now ex-husband with whom she performed in two local bands, Sparklepony and Sunshine Superman. When her marriage ended, Valentina spent the subsequent year composing the eleven songs that make up her first solo album, Bring on The Fire. The songs range from heartbroken to hopeful and highlight Valentina’s jazz trained vocals (she’s a graduate of University of the Arts) and feature members of Philadelphia’s beloved Huffamoose as her backing band.
When she takes the stage at Johnny Brenda’s, she will be performing as a trio with her backing singers. Ahead of the show, Independent Philly sat down with Valentina to discuss the album, Philadelphia and the magic of singing with others.
[ Interview by Jen Strogatz ]
Independent Philly: Bring on the Fire is your debut solo record and you’ve been in bands here in Philadelphia for the last decade. What inspired you to step out on your own and make the first “Valentina Sounds” LP?
Valentina: “I love collaborating with others, and I still do, but I wanted to be fully in charge of at least one project. That’s why I created Valentina Sounds.”
Independent Philly: How did you meet, Huffamoose, who play on your album and have played with you live? We love them here in Philadelphia.
Valentina: “I had the good fortune of meeting some of them at University of the Arts, they were part of the faculty there when I was a student.”
Independent Philly: You will be playing with your trio at Johnny Brenda’s on 2/14. What can audiences expect from your trio lineup as opposed to the full band line up?
Valentina: “With the trio, the lyrics and the harmonies are at the center of the show. We have prepared a performance filled with surprises, choreography, and fun three-part-harmonies that will leave you feeling like there’s hope for humanity after all.”
Independent Philly: You grew up working with your parents at their seaside resort in Italy. How does that experience and the experience of growing up in Italy influence your music?
Valentina: “I don’t think that working at the beach resort influenced my music, but living in Italy definitely did. My father and mother love music, they are the reason I listened to so many different styles growing up, and they are also the reason why I know all the words to their favorite Italian pop from the 70’s and 80’s! In Italy we also had a chance to listen to some European artists that didn’t make it to the USA, and vice versa. For example Skunk Anansie was huge in Italy, but I had no idea who Journey was till I moved to Philadelphia.”
Independent Philly: Bring on the Fire is sung in English. Do you ever write songs in your native Italian? Do you find easier or harder to write lyrics in English?
Valentina: “I have written a few songs in Italian, but I find English to be easier to write in. I can communicate long concepts in very short sentences in English, which is something that in Italian is impossible to do (we have long words and lots of grammar).”
Independent Philly: Philadelphia has been your home for the last decade. How does living here influence your songwriting?
Valentina: “I went to school for jazz here in Philadelphia, at UARTS (as previously mentioned), and jazz is a huge influence in my songs. If I hadn’t moved to Philly maybe it would have been a different kind of jazz or a different kind of rock. I think Philadelphia has a lot to offer, music wise, and I take inspiration from every single genre I listen to. I particularly love going out to live shows and listen to my friends play.”
Independent Philly: Bring on the Fire is a record written following the demise of the relationship. Was the writing and recording of this album a cathartic experience for you? Do you think creating helps heal a broken heart? What advice would you give to other creative types going through a similar experience?
Valentina: “It was absolutely cathartic. I definitely felt better after screaming “I FEEL LIKE POISON” for days! In all seriousness though, even when you “heal a broken heart”, you’ll always bear the scar. “Bring on the fire” is my “scar”. I need it to remember what I’ve been through, it will help me not to make the same mistakes again and it reminds me that I can create something beautiful even out of the worse situation. As I was working through my separation and my divorce, it also helped to have a goal I could focus my attention on.
I don’t know if this approach would work for every creative type, but it worked for me.”
Independent Philly: What are some of your favorite places to play in Philadelphia? Which venue in Philadelphia would be your ultimate dream to play?
Valentina: “Favorite places are World Cafe Live, The Locks, Ardmore Music Hall, 118 North, but also the smaller venues like Bourbon and Branch and Dawson’s Street Pub. Ultimate dream? Well, I finally get to play Johnny and Brenda’s Feb 14, that has been on my bucket list for a while! If I have to dream big though, I’d like to play at the Mann Center.”
Independent Philly: By day, you are a music teacher and have studied voice at University of the Arts. What do you love about the act of singing? You perform with backing singers and the three of you function as a trio. What is it about singing with other singers that excites you?
Valentina: “It’s hard to describe what I love about singing. I’m about to get a little metaphysical, ready? I get to translate my thoughts and feelings into waves that eventually turn into sounds. I get to touch souls with the vibrations that come out of my throat. I am the only owner of my instrument, and I’m the only one who knows how to play it. Singing is incredible. Singing with others is magic.”
Independent Philly: You have a Youtube channel called The Real Italian Kitchen. How do you choose what kind of meals you want to demonstrate cooking to your viewers? Which restaurants in Philadelphia do you recommend for an authentic Italian experience?
Valentina: “I’m not really posting much on Real Italian Kitchen these days, but I always tried to choose dishes that were both healthy and delicious. I don’t really go out to eat Italian food, why would I? haha!”
Independent Philly: You make music, you cook and you share both with the world. Where do cooking and making music intersect for you?
Valentina Sounds: “There are only so many notes, and there are only so many ingredients. And yet, every now and then, I get lucky and I create something that nobody has ever come up with before.”
Independent Philly: What can we expect next from Valentina Sounds?
Valentina Sounds: “More music, more food, more love!”
Don’t Miss Valentina Sounds at Johnny Brenda’s on 2/14. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 Day of Show. They can be purchased here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-end-of-america-valentina-sounds-tickets-88960087015?aff=clientSite#tickets
For more on Valentina Sounds, find her online here: