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Los Angeles-based songwriter, musician and filmmaker Michael J. Valentine

Studio Carry On Harry interview with Los Angeles-based songwriter, musician and filmmaker Michael J. Valentine

Tell us about yourself ?

Los Angeles-based songwriter, musician and filmmaker Michael J. ValentineMy name is Michael J. Valentine, and I am a Los Angeles-based songwriter, musician and filmmaker. I was born in Orlando, Florida and moved to Los Angeles in 1989. I landed my first job at Devonshire Recording studios where I met and worked with artists, producers, and engineers such as David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Ozzy Osbourne among many others. In 2016, I produced and directed Comix—Beyond the Comic Book Pages—an Indie Fest and Los Angeles Indie Film Award-winning documentary which also includes my original song “Everyday Hero”. I am a bit off a geek. I have always had a passion for listening, and playing music. It is in my blood. I write in many different styles of music but always keeping the messages positive. I am inspired by artists like John Lennon, who’s music has changed the world.

What was most attractive part for you to be in this industry ?

One of the most desirable things about being in the music industry is the great like-minded creative individuals who inspire me, from artists, to producers, musicians, and so much more.

Share some experiences that made you grow in life or profession ?

There have been many experiences that have helped me to grow in music and life. I think experiences are the biggest things, ones that change you or help define you as an individual. I am like a sponge absorbing everything I see and hear. These things keep me growing and perfecting my craft as a songwriter. One of the greatest early on experiences was learning to play guitar all by ear. The ear is the most valuable tool a musician can have and I learned early on by learning to play guitar by just listening to records. The first songs I learned were Joan Baez, and Neil Young songs. I am thankful for my parents and their patience and belief in me, and their support while I played drums through learning guitar with countless hours in the bedroom listening and learning songs. When I was in my early twenties, I played guitar in church as well as in a hard rock band at night. I learned a lot from those experiences. I try to learn from all my experiences and use that to make be a better songwriter, and human being.

Who inspired you ? How do you work on creating your own signature style ?

I am inspired by so much diverse music and so many things around me. It is hard to say exactly which artists influenced me the most but early on it was Neil Young. He could play rock, and then also play acoustic style music. Versatility in an artist is a big thing for me. If I had to name people who influenced me early on it would be people like Pete Townsend, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Prince, Lindsey Buckingham, Led Zeppelin, The Clash, and Hendrix. I also loved the 70’s Laurel Canyon music scene and punk scenes. These artists however different musically were doing their music straight from their heart and I could feel that. I also listen to more current artists like Dawes, Gregory Porter, Mumford and Sons, and Michael Kiwanuka. Music is a feeling and if an artist I listen to gives me that I will respond in a positive way. When I write music, I don’t consciously try to create my own style, I just write from within, and how I am feeling, and thinking in that moment. God gives me the gift of music. I try to incorporate all my life experiences, musical influences, and my philosophy of life into the musical canvas that I create. My style of music is a mix of all those things and more. I always strive to write the best songs I can, and no matter what style I write in musically, has something positive to say. The world has enough negativity, and all I want to do is help create a world that is not so dark and gray, but filled with light. My latest album ALIVE was written about what makes me feel alive inside.

What do you want to convey through your music?

Music can bring out so many emotions. Ones of love, loss, happiness, joy, sadness, anger, and past experiences. In my music I focus is on timeless music that both uplifts the soul, and makes you think. My musical background is steeped in church and spiritual music combined with my love for rock and modern music to create positive songs with a message of faith, hope, and love.

Story behind making of your new track / Album?

My latest album ALIVE follows my debut album Light from Light and picks up where it left off. I decided I wanted to record the majority of the album on my own in the comfort of my own space. It was 2021 and Covid was making it so hard on many, but I used this time to really focus on this new music. I wrote about 20 songs and recorded all the guitars, keys, bass, lead and back up vocals here at home. Then I picked 12 of those 20 songs and took those tracks to a studio, loaded the tracks into Pro-tools and recorded drums, and some percussion to them. Then I took those tracks to another studio to mix, and then mastering. It was a great experience because I was not looking at the clock and could take my time with the tracks.

Any interesting trivia about making of song ?

I knew this was an important album for me to make and that it had to be filled with strong melodies and positive themes I believed in. The style of the music had to have a blend of harder rock style sound at times, as well as some more acoustic styles like I had done before. The themes were also very important and range from songs about gratitude, self-empowerment, and the power of our spiritual calling. The title of the album expresses my emotions about music and how it makes me feel truly ALIVE. I want the listener to dig deep and ask themselves what makes them feel really ALIVE. ALIVE is a musical awakening in many ways for me and signifies feelings of freedom, and living in the moment. The songs on ALIVE are special to me, each having its own story. The first single “Brave” came to me one day as I was strumming my guitar in front of the TV watching the news and seeing these first responders putting their lives on the line and showing courage without hesitation. That is when I thought how important it would be to have a song that acknowledges people like that, but also anyone who shows courage from children suffering from disabilities, to firemen, nurses, doctors, and even those who strive to do something that they have never done. These people show that courage and inspire me, as I hope the song inspires the listener. Then there is the song “Thankful” which is a song I wrote after being down and out and how things were dark for me, and then I read about gratitude in a book, and inspired me to think of all the things I had to be thankful for and I was blown away by how blessed my life really is. There is also the John Lennon inspired “Soulshine”. I was listening to a lot of John’s music and when I would hear a song like “All You Need Is Love”, or “Imagine”, the concepts of the songs are simple and positive, and easy to understand and make you want to sing. I want to have songs that have positive messages, to inspire this generation. Another song like that is called “Human Kindness” where the song says that Human Kindness, is not so hard to do. Being kind is such a simple gesture that the world needs more of.

People who you would like to thank ?

I am thankful for so many great things in my life! Working with others and collaborating is such a great experience and, on this project, as much as I did much on my own, I could not have done it, if it weren’t for people who helped along the way. My wife Lourdes Mae who has an amazing voice, and did tons of backup vocals that really added dynamics to the sound. Michael Kramer played all the drums and helped with getting all my songs into Pro-Tools and ready to mix. He plays for the song and is very open to my input on rhythms and drum fills. I am also thankful for Roxy Flo, as she is so easy to work with and helped me editing my vocals and backup vocals and fixing any timing issues in the songs. Also, Patrick Burkholder for the amazing mixes he did. He has a great ear and understands the sound I am going for. I also had the fortune to get Grammy-Award winning mastering guru Buck Snow to master the album. Life is good and I am blessed I am thankful for so many, especially God, because without his wisdom and light I would not be writing songs and playing music. My wife is not only the love of my life, but the best supporter in what I do, and without her I would be nothing. I also am thankful for my parents who always supported and encouraged me to do music since I was 10 years old and all I wanted to do is play drums and I would bang on all the pots and pans and anything that made noise. I am still kind of like that today. 😊 My family is also something I am blessed to have and be close to. Life is good and have so much to be thankful for, even my mistakes.

People who you would like to work with and people you idolize to be like professionally ?

There are so many artists and producers I would like to work with! I like to work with people who inspire me and bring something to the music that makes it better. I would have loved to work with John Lennon just to experience his energy and vision. Also, one of the best musicians/performers/songwriters/voices in music Prince on a rock album that would have had hints of RnB, funk, and soul but kicks butt and has inspirational messages, and plenty of great guitar solos. I think his work ethic and passion for music was real and I can relate to that as it is hard to find musicians who are that focused all the time. I would also love to work with Steven Wilson. He is a brilliant artist/musician that seems to always have a vision for his music, and changes and evolves on each album. Michael Kiwanuka and Broken Bells would also be artists I would like to work with as well as voices like Ann Wilson, or Kate Bush. There are so many I am leaving off but that is a good start. Oh yeah, Paul if you are McCartney reading this, lets talk. 😊

Where do you see your music 3 years from now ?

I see myself continuing to do my passion for creating and performing music. Also doing documentaries, and other shows I have developed, and even a unique music convention I am working on. I will always be happiest being creative and hope that I can continue to create music that can move people, and has meaning to them, like great music has done for me.

How would you like to stretch your boundaries of genre in future projects ?

Most artists hate to be categorized when it comes to their music, and progress and evolve. I write music and put it out and leave it up to the listener to make up their minds on the style of my music. On my song “Brave” someone said it was a cross between Ryan Adams, and U2. I will take that because I love those artists. I always want to keep evolving musically but not being afraid to go back to my roots. I have always been into to all kinds of music and want to be able to bring parts of that into my music to create my own style. I have already brought aspects of rock, funk, gospel, rock, and country to my sound. One direction musically I would like to go, in the future, is blending my acoustic pop style with synthesizers to create something unique, with hints of 70’s and 80’s synth sounds and add some rock elements to that. Another direction is a cross between Paul Simon’s Graceland, and Peter Gabriel’s “So” record, with a bit more guitar, and using tons of percussion.

Message for Fans and listeners. 

All I can say is if you listen to my music, you will find your inspiration. As far as advice, just always be true to yourself, and follow your heart. Don’t over complicate things. Be sure to slow down enough to experience life, and all your senses. Everything else will come.

 

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