For the past decade or so, we’ve lived in a very fascinating reality where people can become famous overnight thanks to social media. First it was doing covers on YouTube, then taking good photos for Instagram, there was also Vine, and most recently TikTok came along, and we’re currently riding that wave.
For someone who has grown up in these times, it is not necessarily a life-changing event to see another influencer rise, considering going viral is honestly not the hardest thing to do nowadays. However, it is a pretty big deal to come across someone whose voice is so powerful it gives you goosebumps, someone whose personality is so captivating and sincere you wish you could chat to them in person, someone who clearly has such a bright future ahead of them you’re excited to even just witness the experience, someone like Valencia Grace.
At only 18 years old, UK-based talent Valencia has managed to become a household name in the musical side of TikTok with over 2.6M followers — I’d be really surprised if she hadn’t come up on your feed at some point in the past year. Her earnest personality bleeds through the screen, and with every cover she posts, her audience grows hungrier for more. Her incredible range and brilliantly creative mind have been encapsulated in 30-second TikTok videos until she finally presented her debut single, “It Was You,” available everywhere now via Ministry of Sound/Columbia.
The delicate single leans more toward the stripped-down side yet it’s overwhelmingly rich and full of emotion. You can certainly feel every word the young artist sings, and as the song grows, so does the feeling transmitted by such piercing lyrics, especially through the lines, “now I’m left with your mistakes […] so I have to start again. You gave me all your pain, made me run away.”
We talked to Valencia about her songwriting process, her experience becoming a public online figure at such a young age, and more in this exclusive Q&A.
First of all, congratulations on your debut! It’s pretty exciting to see and chat to a young artist at the beginning of what’s so obviously going to be a really successful career. How does it feel to finally officially release your debut single?
Honestly, it’s probably the most satisfying feeling ever. I’ve been enjoying the honeymoon stage and have been grateful for the time and flexibility I have at the moment, however, I’m ready to get out on the road and finally act on being an artist. To have my debut single out feels like the first step to an exciting journey. I am really looking forward to people finally hearing/seeing what I’ve been putting my sweat, tears, and energy into for the past year.
You mention the song is about “having the final say in a situation you had no control over” — how would you say the song allowed you to come to terms with understanding and processing this? Is songwriting usually a kind of therapy for you?
I found it really difficult to process and accept some things that went on in my life. I took to writing as a form of therapy. When I wrote my first song, it was the first time I was able to think about specific trauma without crying.
I remember finishing “It Was You” and just smiling thinking I might actually be OK. Writing helps me understand what I’ve been through and accept that it has affected me. I felt really lost, and writing “It Was You” helped me find some strength and power in a situation that lacked closure.
Let’s backtrack for a quick second. How did you first get into playing and making music?
There’s always been a piano in the house, and I remember when I was about 7 or 8 years old, writing an entire musical ready to get all my friends to learn it and perform it. Thankfully I didn’t. Got my first ukulele at around 12 and wrote my first proper song ever. It was a love song and one of the lyrics was “can you ask me out already?” So, it’s definitely quite iconic and all my friends know the lyrics to it.
I believe you wrote “It Was You” on the piano at your grandmother’s house. How did the song come about? Would you say that’s your usual process for coming up with melodies and lyrics and writing songs?
Yes, it started on the piano. My writing process starts off quite messy and then eventually comes together. For example, for “It Was You,” I felt this urge to sit at the piano. I then just start playing and whatever comes out, comes out. I recorded everything, start singing melodies, and sing freely knowing that my subconscious would let me know how i was feeling. I wrote down the words that surfaced that I connected to and liked. Then honestly, you blink, and all of a sudden there’s a song. It’s not always that way but for “It Was You,” it came together quite quickly.
Your original songs (from the snippets we’ve seen online) tend to be incredibly vulnerable and honest yet super poetic. How do you find the balance between those? Do you find it hard to be that vulnerable while sharing bits of you and your story?
It’s hard to find the balance. When I first started writing, I was only able to put into words exactly how I was feeling and sometimes it caused me to be quite revealing. The more I wrote and the more I understood myself lyrically, the more I’ve been able to write in a way where I connect and understand it 100% while still making it inclusive. It’s so important to me that when people listen to my music, they find comfort and relatability so that they feel heard and less alone. I do not find it difficult to be vulnerable in my writing. There’s a way of phrasing things where to you it means one thing, and to someone else it means something entirely different. All of my music is reaching from a deep place, so to me, it’s incredibly revealing.
Your music is very mature for an 18-year-old. You can definitely feel some interesting influences here and there. What artists would you say have had a big impact on you as a person and an artist?
The reason I approach music and my singing the way that I do is due to being entranced by big beautiful soulful voices. I’m attracted to artists who sing unapologetically.
At such a young age, it must be a bit shocking to have such a public presence on social media. Have there been any challenges you’ve had to face while navigating this and the music industry as a newbie?
There is so much judgment online. I think the hardest thing to navigate is how you approach reacting to negative comments and responses. I’ve had to accept that people have opinions. They aren’t always amazingly worded so I’ve had to learn how to not take them seriously and consider that it’s one drop of black ink in a massive ocean full of love and support. You can be reading thousands of great comments, then, find the one single bad one and it can easily throw you off.
Related to the above, what has been the biggest highlight of the entire experience so far aside from being able to share such an amazing song as your debut?
Definitely when I get private messages from fans sharing their experiences. It warms my heart to know that me sharing and writing about my negative experiences helps others. I’ve never felt I had someone like that for me growing up so, to be that person I never had for others makes me really happy.
Your voice is so powerful and you have such impressive control over your range, it’s really mind-blowing! Are you looking forward to performing live and interacting with fans on stage?
That’s so kind of you! and Oh. My. Goodness. Yes. I so am. It’s all been behind a screen so I’m really excited to see the faces of the people who are responsible for all this madness! I cannot wait to experience performing. I can imagine it’s a surreal experience as well as incredibly satisfying after having had worked on all of it behind closed doors for so long!
What’s a song you wish you would’ve written?
Probably any Queen song. But there are so many other brilliant songs out there that wish I had come up with.
What’s an artist you’d want to support on tour?
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
To give stuff time. We live in a very fast-paced world and it’s really easy to forget to take care of yourself and let time do its thing.
What’s a book, show, movie, or album you’d recommend your fans to check out?
Just, anything Motown. If you feel sad and wanna pretend you’re in an old timer movie, wash the dishes and listen to Motown. You’ll literally feel amazing. Your feet and body will move in ways they’ve never moved before, while trying not to break the plate you’re holding in your hand.
Finally, the million-dollar question — when can we expect more music?