The talented singer-songwriter-producer Valerie Ghent just released an anthem for New York City. Undoubtedly, it’s one of her best songs you will find on the 11-track album ‘Velours’. So, we chatted about her beginnings with music, the motivations behind her new single, the video clip, and upcoming live shows…
1 – Who in your life introduced you to music?
My parents were both musicians and composers, so I grew up with music all around – classical, jazz and electronic music. There were always rehearsals in home and concerts to go to. My father also had a recording studio in our loft in SoHo and showed me how to use the tape machines at a pretty early age.
2 – Can you tell us a bit about your formal music training?
I was always drawn to the piano – there’s a photo of me reaching up for the piano keys at age 1! My parents started me on the cello when I was 5 but I just wanted to play the piano and sing melodies. I had few years of piano lessons, then joined a rock band in high school – making music ever since.
3 – What was the first track you worked on?
The first released track I worked on was David Bowie’s song “TVC-15”, recorded while I was in high school with a band called Dizzy and the Romilars. I sang the lead vocal and played synth, and we pressed up a flexi-disk. “TVC-15” was followed soon after by a 6-song EP we recorded at Media Sound Studios. Before that, in grade school, I recorded lots of songs on my father’s 4-track tape machines.
4 – Why did you decide to give your new single “New York City Streets” an upbeat melody?
Actually, I didn’t decide anything! New York City Streets ‘arrived’ and I went with it. In fact, the melody arrived before the lyrics. I believe songs tell us what melody they want to be, what chords & mood they want to have – we just have to listen to what these nascent songs are telling us and do our best to realize where they want to go.
5 – How long did it take you to film the music video at the streets? Was it a fun experience?
It took six days of shooting to make the New York City Streets video, five days in the spring/summer of 2016 and one day just before New Year’s Eve. It was a super fun experience, everywhere we went people were singing along! We had a shot list that was 2 pages long – it was really important to us to film in all 5 boroughs. And I wanted a mixture of the iconic parts of The Big Apple as well as places that have personal significance to me growing up and living in New York. I’m ever grateful to Fredy Mfuko of Mission 101 Media, Elisa Zazzera and my husband Tom Bisio for trekking around NYC with me and a camera. Can you guess how many locations are in the video?
6 – Who wrote the lyrics and who produced it?
I wrote the lyrics and produced New York City Streets. I actually finished the whole song before the lyrics “arrived”. At rehearsal, a friend asked, ‘why don’t you write a song about New York’? It was great to put what New York City means to me, and what I love about New York City, into lyrics.
As for production, my vision was for a live, vibrant sound. So we recorded live basic tracks (drums, bass, guitar, piano) at Systems Two with long-time music family Tinkr Barfield (bass) and Kevin Johnson (drums), the killer rhythm section I’ve played with for many years in Ashford & Simpson’s band, and guitarist Robin Macatangay, who played on my Day to Day Dream album, and me on piano and vocals. Then I added percussion with Bashiri Johnson, and backing vocals with long-time friends and renowned vocalists Alfa Anderson, Dennis Collins, Keith Fluitt and myself on backing vocals. Then added B3 organ – nothing like real Hammond B3 – and re-recorded the lead vocal myself at Ashford & Simpson’s studio. Finally, we recorded the horns in France and NYC with Marc Borlet-Hôte (trumpet) and Nicolas Baudino (saxes) in France and Steven Bernstein (trumpet), Paul Shapiro (sax) and Dan Levine (trombone) in New York.
The song was mixed by Jérôme Buigues in France, and mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound. it takes a lot of great people to make a record, I feel blessed to have so many talented friends who play and sing from their hearts, and gave their talents to this record – they all brought New York City Streets to life.
That’s a great question and I listened to a bunch of songs about NYC before answering. Of course Frank Sinatra’s “New York New York” is one of the quintessential songs about NYC. I actually reference it with the lyric: “This is a place where you’re gonna find out / If you can make it”.
The difference is Frank Sinatra is singing about someone coming to NYC who wants to make it, whereas my song is from the perspective of a native New Yorker who loves NYC and can’t imagine living anywhere else.
For me, one of the beautiful things about NYC is that someone can come here for a day and be a New Yorker. NYC is one of the few places in the world, maybe the only place in the world, where you can arrive, decide you are a New Yorker, and you ARE a New Yorker. For someone who still wants to come here, or who just got here yesterday, or who has been here for 20 years – you’re all New Yorkers. Our big, beautiful city is open and generous and we welcome all!
Some NYC songs are about coming to New York and making it here (whatever “making it” means to you) from Frank Sinatra’s classic to Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”. Other songs are about particular parts of NY, like “Take The A Train” (Duke Ellington), “Tom’s Diner” (Suzanne Vega), “Rockaway Beach” (Ramones) and so many more. I think the closest maybe is Brenda Russell’s “Walking In New York” – which, although totally different, is a great song and great vibe!
I like to think “New York City Streets” is about the energy of New York, that driving force, why it’s the city that never sleeps, why people love to be here and come here, why people resonate with NYC all over the world. I wanted to share the New York City that I know and love and hope that comes across!
8 – I really enjoyed the laid-back funk vibe. Are you planning to release more songs with the same style in the future?
I’m so glad you’re enjoying our groove! Yes, we have lots more songs with that laid-back funk vibe – check out our album “Velours”, which features smooth soul, R+B, funk & ballads. Our new single “Feelin Alright” releases in March 2018 – another super live groove, upbeat, more killer horns & backing vocals. Can’t wait for you to hear it!
9 – Are you performing live soon?
Yes! I have two upcoming dates here in NYC at Ashford & Simpson’s Sugar Bar, on March 20 and 27, 2018. To celebrate the new single I’ll be the featured artist at Nick Ashford’s “Nuttin but the Blues”. And right after that, I have a tour in France, our first date is in Hyères in the South of France in April. Come groove with us!
Ashford & Simpson’s Sugar Bar, 254 West 72nd Street, NYC, 10024 reservations: 212.579.0222 sugarbarny.com
10 – Finally, What’s your favorite place in New York City? Why?
I love so many places in NYC. I love the West Village, where I grew up because it really is a Village. Although everything is more upscale than when I was growing up, the tree-lined streets and brownstones are pretty much the same. Villagers are friendly, the buildings are lower, there’s light, it’s really like village life in a smaller town, yet still in the heart of NYC. And I love the Hudson River. Biking along the river and singing to the sky has inspired almost all my songs and especially “New York City Streets”: “Head for the river, stare at the sky…I could go anywhere ‘cuz this city’s alive!”
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5 Years Later, Mallive Is Back With Innovative Music — Interview
After an enigmatic five-year disappearance, Mallive has returned and is prepared to take his rightful place among the dance music elite. Find out more in this interview and listen to his newest track “Wish I XX Love U.”
1 – It took you almost 5 years to produce your new music. Is there something that you regret not doing?
I happened to watch a live stream with Jamie XX where he talked about releasing music: the process of releasing work is as much a logistical one as it is an emotional one — feeling ready to put yourself out there. I wish I could have gotten to this moment sooner, and felt ready sooner. But, everyone gets there in their own time. The best time to plant a tree is two hundred years ago, and the second best time is today.
2 – How would you describe the current phase of your work in just three words?
Part 2: Anew
3 – Do you think is it time for producers to rethink the way they approach their music releases?
There’s a lot I could say here, but I’ll simply say: yes. But, you can approach your release however makes you happy. Always be adapting, but be true to what you are.
4 – Do you see yourself as an experimental artist?
To me, “experimental” means trying something new, and by that measure, I do see myself as an experimental artist. I put pieces of what I love together, and see where it takes me. The result isn’t necessarily “experimental music” as the term goes. But it’s something new.
5 – Why do you think your new single “Wish I XX Love U” is synonymous with innovation?
At the moment, I’m focused on combining two elements. As I call them, kineticism & emotionality, or beat & heart: something that makes you move, and something that fills your heart. Your favorite bassy track at the club, and your favorite ballad to listen to on the night bus home. My single “Wish I XX Love U” puts the two together, so you get the driving energy with soaring melody, and quick hits with moving chords. You’ll hear it on the dance floor, and hum the vocals when you’re looking out the window before pulling up the covers and drifting off to sleep.
6 – What do you hope your listeners take away from this track?
A sense of energy & sentimentality. And a hug! Go hug someone.
7 – What is it about? What’s the inspiration behind it?
This song is about intimacy & acceptance.
The lyric is “wish I didn’t love you, but I do”.
To love someone, to become intertwined with another is terrifying. You are responsible to them, and they, to you. But that’s what it’s all about: to be something more than yourself. So be here, be brave, and love them anyway.
8 – How do you go from the Future Bass sound to the fresh vibe that you’re displaying in your present-day music?
Years of writing. I took 2018 off to finish school, and after that, I’ve been churning through hundreds of ideas. I went through many different genres and styles. In 2018, Disco and House like Daphni, then to electronic bands like Roosevelt in 2019, rediscovered piano in 2020. In late 2021 and early 2022, I found a number of producers, mostly from Australia and the UK doing something I’d never heard of before. These artists: Jamesjamesjames, SWIM, Skin On Skin, Duskus, and Salute, helped me solidify a new sound: dance music for your heart.
It’s tough! If you’d talked to me in 2021, I would say social media is bad for your health, bad for humanity, and that no one should have an Instagram. I still sort of believe that, but I also understand that it’s a useful way to share. As an artist, it can help me get the word out. But, as an artist, I am also pressured to make my life and work into content for the algorithm: not good. If there’s something I come back to, it’s this: “a life is not lived online”. Whatever cool thing on your phone is the tiniest slice of what life is: there’s so much more outside the screen.
10 – What else can we expect from Mallive in the next months?
More (-: I’m committing myself make great, moving music. I’ve got more tracks in the release queue (an EP?) club edits that need to find a home off the dance floor, and at least one more show this fall. Stay tuned via Instagram or text HUG to +1 (855) 684-1950.
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Shallou Talks New Song “Us” And The Creative Process Behind It
Shallou took some time out of his busy schedule to speak with us about the creative process behind “Us,” his latest collaboration with ayokay. Read the interview to learn what he hopes listeners take away from his beautiful EDM song.
1 — What truly inspired you to write a song like “Us”?
I’m lucky enough to be in a happy and healthy relationship that feels like I need to cultivate and protect. Sometimes the outside world gets to be too much and causes a lot of stress in your life, and all you want is to go somewhere you can just enjoy your existence with the person you love.
2 — What qualities do you think makes this tune different from your previous ones?
This one is happier and uplifting – it feels like something you would hear in a Kygo set and also has a sweet message. Something about my vocal tone makes it a little less poppy and genuine, but it’s as lovey-dovey (and possibly cheesy) as I can get!
3 — What goals did you want to achieve by working with ayokay?
ayokay is impressive because of his ability to write vocals, produce and engineer all by himself. As someone who likes wearing many hats as well in the creation of a track, there’s no one better to work with than a fellow writer-producer-vocalist who understands the electronic space, and how to balance that with Pop elements. We’ve run in similar circles for many years and I think both our fanbases have been pushing for this collab for a while.
Sometimes an idea will come out of nowhere, or I’ll hear a track that inspires me and I want to hit the studio and make something immediately. Other times I sit down to write with not a single idea and I just start tinkering on the piano or with the voice notes app. The will to create is not always spontaneous, but the flow of taking a track from start to finish always is. Melodies pop into your head as you’re building out a song – same with possible drum sounds or lyric ideas so the song is always changing moment by moment.
5 — How do you find that balance of planning everything and then maintaining a creative self as well?
I honestly delegate a lot of the planning to my manager and label. I’m always paying attention to the overall plan for my music, but I’m always most zoned in on creating. To me, it’s the only way to stay sane and have longevity in the music industry!
6 — How many days or weeks did you spend in the studio while producing “Us”?
Alex (ayokay) and I met up one time and wrote the melody and lyrics but the track wasn’t produced at all, it only had just a synth and voice. I took what we had and produced it out a bunch, and then we sent it back and forth online until we both felt like it was done.
Definitely. Sometimes I like to think of it as an ode to my cat. 🙂
8 — Is there a particular genre that you’re interested to explore in the future?
I’ve been working on a bunch more dancey stuff that still has that Shallou sound to it. I’ve also toyed with the idea of doing an Indie Folk side project.
9 — Are you thinking about dropping remixes for “Us”?
No official ones, but there’s a little remix contest going on in my Discord – I put the stems there and producers have been creating their own versions and posting them there. It’s really fun!
10 — Besides music, are there any other outlets you express yourself with?
I’m working on a couple of short film ideas (I have a full one written) because I’ve always loved the visual space. I still have a lot to learn, but it’s really fun fantasizing about directing something someday.
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Exclusive Interview: setstill On Creating A Multi-Genre Album
Electro Wow is pleased to present you with an exclusive interview on the creation of a multi-genre album titled ‘thefool’ by Minneapolis-based artist setstill. Discover how this 10-track project came together despite complex circumstances.
1 — What inspired setstill to create a multi-genre album?
Ever since I downloaded Logic and started to learn how to make music back in 2016; the thing that I’ve always loved and has always been the most exciting is discovering how recorded music is made. Personally, I really enjoy and have a lot of respect for all sorts of music, and I’ve found that learning about each one’s unique culture, expression, and creative process pushes me to grow as an artist and as a person.
2 — How would you describe the different sounds on ‘thefool’?
I honestly wouldn’t know where to begin with describing the sounds. I like to design and apply sounds that carry something with them. Sometimes I discover it in process, and sometimes I’m imagining the sound in my head when something is at the forefront of my mind.
3 — Are you trying to reach a larger audience with this eclectic style?
I would say that I had no intention of reaching a larger audience, but also no audience in particular. Just like the theme of the Tarot; the songs are for whatever the audience needs to be.
4 — What was the process of creating your new material like?
The process of writing this project was hectic. I had COVID at one point, felt disconnected from people, just quit an awful job, and was struggling to make sense of a lot of what was going on around me. Partially due to how that affected my mental health, and partially due to the complexity of life.
Since I had COVID at the time, I did the collaborations remotely. COVID sucked a lot, but it’s awesome how musicians all learned to collaborate remotely. I initially asked Garland to help with a couple of tracks that featured keys as I’d never reached out and my keys were synthetic. Garland is big on dry real keys, and the recordings brought a lot of character and depth to the songs.
WOOTZAbility is a good friend and phenomenal artist/producer/rapper. He wrote and recorded his verse in less than a day on a song I sent him, but it was a weird track at first. Reflecting on the song and his verse; I ended up switching it to a more recent beat I did which really made it shine next to the lyrics I had.
6 — How did you choose the artwork for the album?
I wanted to emphasize the homegrown nature and human element of the music. A good friend of mine I met in college, Isaac Hill (@esoteric_bullshit on Instagram) is an awesome human who makes the most incredible and unique paintings. The style was perfect and I really wanted to support them and we both agreed it would be perfect. So I commissioned the painting and Isaac was able to make it and send it over from Washington.
I went back and forth between being somewhat specific and being completely obscured by the theme. I ended up being inspired by Tarot after learning more about it and decided that it would be perfect.
8 — Have you ever had a tarot card reading?
The only one I’ve had definitely led me down the path to creating/releasing this project the way that it is.
9 — Are you dropping music videos anytime soon?
I made the one lyric video for the song “lovers,” and even that was sort of a lot. Music videos are a lot of time, money, and work that no one is paying me for. They’re a feat to put together independently. Definitely in the future though.
10 — What about performing in concerts or live shows?
I’m a huge introvert with a lot of stage fright, so I don’t play a lot of shows. But I’ve been preparing some live shows now with Original Beginnings where we’ll play a bunch of songs from our catalog! Catch us on September 17th at Powderhorn Porchfest and October 15th at Cosmic Coffee. 🙂