Lauren Silva created her electro-pop alter ego “Monti” to create emotional and thought-provoking music. The singer-songwriter’s tracks narrate her turbulent past, which includes living on the streets and escaping gang life and drug and alcohol abuse. Her debut EP, “This is You”, is particularly personal and encapsulates Monti’s experiences overcoming so many hardships early on.
Monti received her first record deal as a teenager, so her music and skills as a lyricist have been used several times in major cable networks and production companies. I sat down with the artist and talked hardships and helpful advice.
Ariel Zedric: How did you choose to be known in the musical sphere as ‘Monti’?
Monti: I suffered through many struggles and traumatic experiences in my life with a dark past. However as much as I’ve struggled, I have also overcome and experienced transformation. Monti represents that transformation and to empower others, especially the next generation, with the message that you do not have to be a victim to your circumstances.
Tell me about the hardships that you endured as a young child and how you overcame them. What’s something you found solace in during that time?
To escape the abusive broken home filled with drugs and alcoholism that I was born into, I ran away from home at a young age and dodged foster care systems living on and off the streets, escaping a life of gangs, mental hospitals, group homes, and drug and alcohol abuse. I like to say that I have had guardian angels here on earth that have shown up throughout my life to love, guide and mentor me. My first experience with this was during the time I was still on and off the streets and hanging out in gang life, I ended up singing hooks for several rappers in home recording studios and that lead me to meet Artist/Producer Lamar Lacañgan. He and his family took me under their wings and mentored me. Soon enough he started his Independent record label; O.Y.I.E. Records and offered me a record deal where we immediately started working on my first album where I wrote my first songs ever. That was the start of my career as a recording artist, but more importantly, that was the start of my transformation. I got so much more than just a record deal but a sense of unconditional love, community, and new possibilities. Lamar and his team clearly had a heart for inner city/at-risk youth and so they later started a nonprofit; O.Y.I.E. Music where I became their first success story.
If you could change the past, would you? Or do you believe you wouldn’t be the person you are today without that experience?
I would not change a thing from the past. I absolutely am who I am authentically because of all my experiences.
Where would you be without music?
Either lost, purposeless, incarcerated or dead to be honest. All my experiences pertaining to music saved my life as music was just a catalyst to so much more. The world of music and my musical talents brought so many people and opportunities for me to acquire and experience what was missing in my life from an early age; family, love, direction, purpose, focus. For the first time, I was introduced to the power of choice and to a whole new world that I could be in and could accomplish greatness in if I chose to and since then I continuously keep striving, persevering and working to become better as a human being for myself and for others to also hopefully make a difference in their lives.
Can you recall the moment you decided to write “This Is For You”? Is there any event in particular that inspired it, or was it more of a culmination of things?
Definitely a culmination of things. This EP is a project that has been a work in progress since 2015. I wanted to create something deeper with my music. I really wanted to share my own story and tell the stories of the youth that I mentor, about their struggles and my struggles growing up. I wanted to speak out to them and to the next generation, in general, to let them know that I’ve been there, and I made it out and therefore so can they. I met Josh Stevens through another project I was brought in the studio to work with him on and approached him on my vision for my next project. He believed in it and this led to me working with him and his company Stadium Music Enterprise where we worked on bringing this vision to life.
We wrote the first single, “Echo” which refers to our voices and the next generation’s voices to be heard. I found that I not only wanted the voices and message to be “heard” but to “echo” so it may continue to be heard by the next person so they can hopefully be inspired and so on… Then we continued to write more songs that were more personal for me and we even took some old songs I had released previously and had them remixed and remastered to complete this EP. We came up with the title last which was inspired by the tattoo I have on my forearm of my mic holding arm that reads, “This is For You” while I’m on stage performing. It seemed to make perfect sense to make this the title of the EP!
The inspiration behind each of your songs is very personal. Walk me through your writing process, at times did you find writing difficult?
I’ve found each writing process to be different depending on who I’m working with. I am very influenced by the different energy that’s in the room. Sometimes it’s very easy or impossible to write about something that I am currently going through. For this particular EP, it started with collaborating with Josh Stevens. He and I were in the studio along with one of my mentees from the nonprofit Hope Generations who was joining us for his first time experience in a recording studio and writing session. Josh played piano and I sang, and the melodies and lyrics just developed from there. We write very well together as it always comes naturally to where the songs feel like they write themselves and we are just the vessel. It is not always like that with every writing session though. I’ve found that it just depends on the person. There were other songs on this EP that I wrote years ago that were a little more difficult to get finished but I still believe that writing process served its purpose as well to make the song come out the way it did.
Overall, did writing about your experiences prove to be cathartic? How so?
Not actually. Music has never really been a therapeutic tool for me. Occasionally I get some release when I perform some of the songs live on stage but for the most part, the writing process is actually one of the most tedious times for me because I’m more concerned with wanting to make sure that the listener and my audiences will get it.
Do you have a favorite track on the EP? Or would that be like asking you to choose a favorite child?
They definitely all have their own purpose and personalities like children do. I think they are all the same as far as what they mean to me, but each has a different meaning. I would have to say that the one that’s closest to my heart is “Echo”. It refers to our voices and the next generation’s voices to be heard. I found that I not only wanted the voices and message to be “heard” but to be a heard loudly as a declaration and “echo” so it may continue to be heard by the next person as well so they can hopefully be inspired and so on. Also, one of my mentees joined us in writing on this song as part of his first time experience in a recording studio and songwriting. We also had the Hope Generations youth choir sing on the choruses.
Talk about working with producer and songwriter, Josh Stevens! What’s one thing he’s taught you that you don’t think you’d have learned otherwise?
I met Josh Stevens through another project I was brought in the studio to work with him on and later approached him on my vision for my next solo artist project. He saw the potential and believed in it this started our incredible musical relationship with him and his company Stadium Music Enterprise where we worked on bringing this vision to life. When we went in for the first writing session, we were in sync. As the song progressed over time, he also found his own voice in the single as he did the feature on it that was also an experience she shared from his own story. Josh has become a mentor and friend. He has taught me SO much. I would say one of the things he’s taught me is that there is a need and a care for what I have to offer this world by being exactly who I am and sharing my vision and message with the world exactly the way I go through not just music but in everything that I do as I expand as even more than just an artist but as a brand. He’s become one of my top favorites to co-write and work with for sure and I can’t wait to see what we do next!
As someone who has been in the business since a young age, what’s it like being a female in the music industry? Are there some things you’d change?
It definitely has its unique challenges and obstacles, but I’ve continued to stay focused on what it is I am setting out to do and have stuck to my values and beliefs and for the most part have had great experiences with likeminded people. Once I became someone who got more clear on my commitments and stood firm in what I believe in and who I am, I have noticed that more (either male or female) have come along to join me for the ride and/or guide me. To this day, I have incredibly honorable men of integrity and respect whom I’ve had both personal and professional relationships with for 10+ years that I give credit to being who I am today. I think if I was to change anything, I would want to change not only the way women are viewed sometimes but more so in the way a lot of women view themselves and for all, no matter the gender, to stand firm in who they are and what they believe in and not conform. I would want to change the focus on being more about what it is we’re each set out to do instead of focusing on how hard or challenging it is to be a woman in this world and industry.
What has been one of the most memorable moments of this year so far?
My U.S. Tour that I just finished. It was a huge victory for us all!
If you could give one piece of advice to someone undergoing hardships in their life, what would it be?
This too shall pass… It could always be worst and if you recall a time in the past, I’m sure you can find a time where it was, and you made it through, and it got better. Allow yourself to go through it and look for the blessings as there always are even through the worst tragedies. Pay attention to all that is going on and I promise there is always or there will be an opportunity to inspire or even save another life as a result of the hardships you experience. Find what really matters to you and what you’re committed to and in that, you will find your true purpose. You are not a victim to your circumstances ever.
Any last thoughts?
Our “legacy” really is the most important thing. We’re only here for a short time and each of us has been given a gift that has the power to impact people and the world immensely so make sure you’re really doing what you want to be doing as you’re the only one who can do what you do.
No matter where you come from or what you’ve been through, you can make it, if you choose to…
Featured image courtesy of Monti