Behind the Music: Interview with Tilly Valentine

‘It’s so encouraging to have support from people who have been in the music industry for years.’

With her latest release ‘Calendar Girl’ signalling a new sound, we chatted with Tilly Valentine to find out more about what 2021 has in store, the impact of radio play, and what it really means to be an independent artist.

Firstly, I’ve read that you feel 2021 could be your best year yet. Why is this and what can we expect? Many collaborations! Working with different writers and producers is one of my favourite parts of songwriting, and I’ve got tracks coming up with a whole range of new people. I’m very excited to release my latest stuff.

What are the biggest musical and non musical influences that steer your sound? Well in terms of musicians that inspire me, I love Tom Misch, Lianne La Havas, HONNE, Olivia Dean and Amy Winehouse – to name just a few! I also take inspiration from poetry and sayings, and like to dig deeper into the meanings of them.

Where is your go to place for writing new tracks? Writing for me doesn’t have to be in a particular place, it’s more about who I’m writing with, or what I’m writing about.

And when writing a track, is the process led by the music or the lyrics? For me personally, I always start writing with a song title in mind. This also gives me direction for the concept I want to write about. I will tend to lead my writing with lyrics as it’s important to me that I’m able to put across what I want to say. The melodies, production and lyrics tend to come hand in hand depending on what complements each other musically.

Who else is involved in your music/other aspects of your releases? As I’m an independent/unsigned artist, all of my music is self-released meaning I tend to wear many hats when it comes to managing my music, PR, marketing and all of that. The actual music is created by a range of people; I write and perform all my own music, but I have some amazing co-writers, producers, and musicians who help along the way and contribute their talents to the songs.

“My forthcoming new music is all a bit different so I’m excited to hear what will be people’s favourite.”

What does a Tilly Valentine recording session normally involve? LOTS of tea! It’s an ongoing joke that before every session, I have to text to check there’s milk in the fridge!

You’ve previously collaborated with ebdl. How did this alter the process of creating a track? Working with Ed has been great, and we write together really naturally. The process is very organic and it often starts with a title/concept and one of his beats, and it comes together pretty quickly. It’s easy working as two people as we can bounce off each other’s ideas.

How does it feel to have received praise from people so well known in the music industry, and what was your reaction when you heard your tracks on Radio 1? It’s amazing to see how many high-profile DJs etc care about smaller artists and are able to play the music they genuinely like despite labels and figures. When I first heard my track on Radio 1, I just kept refreshing the BBC radio page afterwards as I couldn’t believe it was real. I then proceeded to call my Mum and basically anyone and everyone I knew! It’s so encouraging to have support from people who have been in the industry for years.

How has your previous education at BRIT school shaped your musical career? The BRIT School provided such incredible education that taught me so much, not only about the broad topic of music itself, but the industry and the lifestyle of musicians and freelancers. It definitely gave me the right expectations and taught me to work hard.

What is a music/non-music based fact about yourself that people would be surprised to find out? Before I was an original artist, I had done backing vocals for Sam Smith and Rod Stewart. Sam Smith’s were whilst I was at BRIT School, when we managed to get a night at Wembley. It was pretty amazing! The backing vocals for Rod Stewart were whilst I was at university, and for a recording. Sadly I never got to meet him in person!

“Working with different writers and producers is one of my favourite parts of songwriting.”

What was the last gig you went to and why does it stick in your mind to this day? Lianne La Havas performing with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Need I say more?!

When releasing your EP ‘Nothing Left To Say’, did you know the new sound of ‘Calendar Girl’ was on the horizon? I’d written ‘Calendar Girl’ during the summer before my EP was released. The idea behind the ‘Nothing Left to Say’ EP title was to sum up my previous set of songs, in preparation to introduce new sounds for the new year. My forthcoming new music is all a bit different so I’m excited to hear what will be people’s favourite.

And on this, what’s the story behind the new release and what impacted the change in musical direction? ‘Calendar Girl’ evolved very naturally, and it didn’t have a specific plan to change musical direction. I’d wanted to write this song for a while, and during the writing process we just let what was best for the song happen. I didn’t feel I needed to try and make it fit into a certain box or genre.

What are the blessings/curses about being an independent artist? Blessings: freedom to release what and when you like, feeling proud of achievements earned by yourself, collaborating with incredible musicians to make things happen! Curses: Trying to work a full time job alongside full time music, the amount of time it can take to get things finished, occasionally feeling limited with who you’re able to reach.

So what have been the biggest learning curves in your career to date? Being an independent artist has taught me quite a few things, but one thing I love to focus on are artworks and the ideas behind them. One thing I’ve learnt is that artworks can still be creative and meaningful without a huge budget. My EP artwork, as well as my ‘Calendar Girl’ artwork, were both shot at home in my living room during lockdown – even possible on an iPhone self-timer!

And finally, many of us have turned to music more over the past year. Which artist/band have you listened to most recently and why should others add them to their playlist? The artists who have got me through the lockdowns have been Olivia Dean, RAYE, Miley Cyrus and Yebba. Add a few tunes and you’ll soon hear why!

Thanks Tilly Valentine for chatting with Listen to Discover

Find out more about Tilly Valentine at:
Track Review: Tilly Valentine: Calendar Girl

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