Those who watch Wendy Williams are familiar with the term “best friend in my head.” It’s where you don’t know and/or never met someone, but you’re convinced you’d be besties for life. As soon as I’d seen what the reality on a plate songstress Valeree said about her single, “Broke” and talked about Alanis Morissette – I’d determined she was a best friend in my head. So whenever the air clears and live music resumes – I will be there to support her as she takes on the Los Angeles music scene. We talked about what that scene may look like in the future, inkable lyrics, and so much more in this back and forth exchange.
Kendra: ‘It’s Fine, I’m Fine’ is your sophomore release, following your 2020 debut, ‘Masochist.’ Is this second release songs that you wrote around the same time as the ones on your debut that you just felt weren’t quite ready or were these inspired by the crop of chaos that occurred last year?
Valeree: It’s a bit of a mixed bag. I don’t think I’d completed writing any of these songs until after I’d finished recording “Masochist”, but I did start writing “Broke” about six years ago. I had a very different version written back then, and I knew I didn’t like what I had overall, but I also felt like there was something special there that I wanted to come back to, so I always had it on the back-burner waiting for the right inspiration.
That moment finally came probably about a year and a half ago, not long before the pandemic hit, where I got inspired and blurted out what is now the chorus of “Broke” while driving, probably on my way home from a serving shift or something. When I got home, I knew I wanted to piece it together with the song I wrote six years ago, so I did that and changed some of the other lyrics, wrote a new melody and chords, and that was pretty much that.
Everything else on ‘It’s Fine, I’m Fine’ was written after recording ‘Masochist’ but before the pandemic hit, with the exception of “How Can You Love Me.” I wrote that song during the pandemic in June or July, just before recording it. That one was definitely at least partially inspired by the chaos of the pandemic, as I don’t know if I would’ve felt quite as suffocated and trapped by the relationship that inspired it if I wasn’t locked in a house, unable to see anyone or do anything.
Kendra: Okay, so I’m in love with “Broke” because, um, same. As a freelance writer – I have a lifetime pass on the struggle bus this song plays on. This song is anthemic for so many reasons, even before the pandemic. It highlights this sort of cycle of working to simply rent a room and sleep, something so many young adults face. Why do you feel millennials, and now Gen Z, are stuck in that nightmare way of living?
Valeree: Haha, thank you! I’m glad you love it, but also – so sorry you relate! I’ve got a great response on “Broke” which I have mixed feelings about, because I’m stoked that people like it and relate, but it’s also so sad how many people are on this struggle bus with us.
I hate to get preachy, but I could go on for DAYS about how broken our system is in America and how capitalism is a trap designed to keep the poor poor and the rich rich. I have a lot of advantages; I’m white, I grew up upper-middle class, my parents are college-educated – there’s a lot stacked in my favor, and I’ve still been homeless several times, and I still cannot get out from under the poverty line.
I also think college, at this point, is a giant scam. Young kids are going into debt in the hundreds of thousands and graduating to a workforce that asks them to intern or work at minimum wage for five years while their debt accrues interest. It’s just insane. But without a degree, you’re stuck in my position, only really able to get jobs in service industries or sales. Not to mention rent prices and costs-of-living continue to go up, but the federal minimum wage has stayed the same for God knows how long. If you can’t tell, I’m a big Bernie fan. I think we need a system overhaul.
Kendra: You’ve got a lot of great tattoos going on that I noticed in the video for “Broke.” To you, what lyric off ‘It’s Fine, I’m Fine” do you feel is the most inkable?
Valeree: Thank you! That’s a really interesting question. If it was me, I might get something from Deity, maybe even just “fall to your knees” or something, because that’s just the kind of person I am, but I don’t know if that’s for everyone. I think “wouldn’t it be nice to work to live instead of just survive?” is one of the more hard-hitting lines from the EP, but it’d make for kind of a depressing tattoo. If someone were looking for something a bit more positive, maybe “I love who I am, I won’t put her to waste” from “How Can You Love Me” or “The best things in life are free” from “Broke.” This is tough!
Kendra: Another thing I noticed about you, is that lyrically you have this sort of emo/pop-punk spirit. Did you grow up listening to those types of artists at all?
Valeree: Funnily enough, I never really got into either genre too much. I feel like I was the one millennial on the planet who didn’t have an emo phase. Don’t get me wrong, I got down to all the big hits, but that was kinda where it ended for me. I did grow up obsessed with Alanis Morissette, I was super into bands like Green Day, Garbage, etc. and I got really into Fiona Apple a bit later in life. I’m also a die-hard Nirvana fan. I feel like they all kinda had a similar lyrical spirit to what you’re referring to, and I’m sure that’s influenced me a lot. I consider Alanis’s lyricism to be one of my biggest influences even though our sonic styles are very different.
Kendra: You’re one of the many transplants living in LA. With that, do you have any kind of random advice for other musicians thinking of making the move there that they may not have heard before?
Valeree: Hmmm, I guess I’d say, don’t move here until you’ve made it in your hometown. You’re going to be a lot better off here if you come with a little bit of clout, as annoying as it sounds, and it’s just so incredibly expensive to live here that you’re gonna want any advantage you can get. I think you should be selling out all your hometown shows before you consider making the move. Also, just know – most venues will try to make you pay them, not the other way around. I will not do pay-for-play, but that also takes a lot of venues off the table. Always be nice to the sound guy!
Kendra: How do you feel the LA music scene will recover from the ongoing closures?
Valeree: I honestly have no idea. It’s really sad seeing a lot of venues closing or barely hanging in there. The fact that we don’t know when everything will open up again makes it hard to guess what’ll happen, but I do hope there’s some kind of revamp in the scene. So many venues do pay-for-play and pre-sale, which I think is predatory on small artists. I hope we use reopening as an opportunity to restructure the system for live shows here.
Kendra: It’s hard to have a definite answer when it comes to future plans given the current state of everything, but as far as what you can control when it comes to your career and creativity – what do you have planned in the coming months for yourself?
Valeree: I’m very excited to say I’ve already recorded another single which I’ll be releasing very soon, and I have several more ready that I just need to record! Being independent, it’s generally a long process for me to record because it’s expensive and I don’t have financial support from a label or anyone, but I’m trying to get in the studio and record more ASAP.
I want to be releasing consistently throughout 2021. I also wrote a full album in quarantine that I want to record. When touring is an option again, I’d love to try to get on the road! I’m just hoping to be as active as I possibly can this year. A lot of it comes down to money, but I have been enjoying filming music videos and I always love recording, so I’m hoping to keep doing as much of all of that as possible.