by Dave Carew
Valerie Larsen is a gifted, New York City-based singer-songwriter who performed her compelling—sometimes quirky—music at the Liahonaroo festival in April. Prior to her performance, Val met with me briefly (after I had presented a morning seminar), and gave me a copy of her new, three-song EP Two Lovers? by Val & the blue Cap. I told Val I’d be happy to review her EP, but hoped she would do something for me in return: answer the three crucial questions I had asked all musician-participants at my workshop to answer. I explained to her I felt this three-question exercise was a crucial meditation for all musicians who want to connect with a deeper sense of who they are as artists. In turn, it helps them more effectively communicate who they are to the media and to potential new fans.
Val accepted my invitation, and, after some serious reflection, sent me her answers. But before we get to them, let’s go back to her EP for a moment:
To listen to the three songs on Two Lovers? is to meet a very promising new artist. From the opening piano strands of “Like That” you realize you are in the hands of a rising young talent who could give Ingrid Michaelson or Sara Bareilles a run for her money. Delivering “Like That” and “Stand a Chance” in a voice that is at once assured and vulnerable, Valerie Larsen offers not only compelling, jazz-influenced piano pop, but a sign post to an obviously promising future.
And then there’s a surprise: Just when you feel you have Val’s sound down, she ends her EP with “Two Lovers?,” a song so quirky, funny, and playful it could easily fit on the Juno soundtrack beside bouncy ditties by the Moldy Peaches.
Nice stretch, Val!
To hear and/or download Two Lovers? by Val & the blue Cap, visit valandthebluecap.bandcamp.com.
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A brief “Underground Nashville” interview
with Valerie Larsen
UNDERGROUND NASHVILLE: What do you feel is unique and distinctive about your music?
VALERIE LARSEN: I think the most distinctive element to my music is my voice. People are often surprised that such a big sound comes out of a little white girl. I’d also say my lyrical content. I’m heavily influenced by my theatrical background. Often my songs are telling a story or are dramatically directed to one very specific person.
UN: Why do you feel compelled to write and perform music?
VL: For writing, it’s about working out the big questions in my head, finding the perfect words or images to describe and communicate exactly what I’m experiencing. The more specific I am, the more people relate and say “that’s exactly how I felt; I just didn’t know how to say it.” I’ve experienced that with my favorite artists and, for one thing, that’s why they’re my favorite, and for another, that connection inspires me to find those hard words that will connect me with others.
As far as performing, specifically, when those connections happen in real time with several people in the same space, the energy is amazingly fulfilling, and binds all those present together, through the common experience. Humans need that and live performance supplies it. I like being an instigator of such a good thing.
UN: Why should we, as listeners, care about Valerie Larsen’s music?
VL: This question seems like an opportunity for me to sell something. But honestly, I don’t think anyone “should” be interested in any particular artist’s music unless there’s something about it that moves or inspires them. So rather than say listeners “should” be interested BECAUSE of something, I say the listener WILL be interested IF a sincere connection is made between the art and the experiences of its audience. Some people won’t connect with what I have to say or how I choose to say it, and that’s okay. My goal is to reach as many as I can and provide an opportunity for those connections to happen.
David M. (Dave) Carew is writer/editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter.” He also is a freelance book editor, publicist, seminar and workshop leader, and advertising/marketing/public relations writer.
Do you want to help homeless people in Nashville learn culinary arts and other employment skills that provide a specific, effective path off the streets? Please visit Lambscroft.org. Please also consider coming to ParkLife, the benefit concert for Lambscroft, to be held in Sevier Park in 12South on a Saturday in August or September (date TBA soon). Thank you.
Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective, offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”