Valencia James is no stranger to hardship. After her family home burnt down in the infamous Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado, the singer wrote the single “Flames” to encapsulate her emotions while dealing with the tragedy. The Sydney, Australia based artist has honed in on her dark-pop music style and isn’t afraid of peering into the soul and writing about what’s real.
James loves to shed light on dark, deep, intimate stories and weave them together with powerful lyrics and vibrant instrumentals. I sat down with the singer/songwriter to get the inside scoop on her single “Flames” and how James breaks down emotional barriers to create stunning music.
Ariel Zedric: The inspiration behind your single “Flames” is very personal. Walk me through your writing process for this song.
Valencia James: So I started writing this song while I was on holiday in NZ staying by the beach during the winter. I was overlooking the ocean through a bunch of fog and the idea of “Flames” came to me so I started writing it out thinking about how easy flames can destroy things and I saw this as relating to how our words and actions can easily destroy relationships. Then, when I was back in Sydney, I finished writing the song with my producer and co-writer Nathan Eshman and co-writer Scott Groom, and my other co-writer Peter James. I went through a lot of thought processes as I was writing this song so it represents quite a wide range of thoughts and emotions for me. But one of the main inspirations I took to write the song was based off my mom’s house burning down in the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs, Colorado where my family lost almost all of our family photos, memories, and a few of my siblings and my mom lost most of their possessions as well. It only took a few hours for them to get the evacuation notice and the house to burn down so again I related this to how easy it is for our words and actions to destroy relationships just as fast as a fire can destroy a home and everything in it.
Were there parts you found difficult to write or record?
The verses were a bit more difficult to write, but the chorus and bridge came very easily. It was all pretty easy and actually exciting to record.
Overall, did writing about your experience prove to be cathartic? How so?
Writing is always cathartic to me. It’s really the way I get out any emotions I’m feeling at the time. This song represents a lot of different emotions for me, so it was definitely cathartic writing and recording it. I felt as if I was able to get out my anger and frustration in the song and that helped me deal with the situations I was facing so much better.
Do you have a favorite line from the track? Maybe something that sums up all your feelings?
I remember the line, “you live the life you lead, build homes or drop explosions,” always stuck out to me because I think it sums up how it’s always our choice how we respond in a situation and how it’s up to us to either build a relationship or to absolutely blow it up and destroy it.
‘Flames’ definitely has a dark and edgy style. Is that what fans can expect from your music in the future, or can you see yourself exploring something else?
So most of my music has quite a dark and edgy feel to it. My melodies tend to follow the emotion I’m expressing so if it’s happier, then it will still have that bit of edginess to it but it won’t be anywhere as aggressive as this song “Flames” is. But I would say my general tone is darker and edgier. I definitely lean more to that style of music, but I also enjoy a good “feel good” song so there might be a few of those in the mix as well. I like to give a little light within all the shade.
Speaking of, do you have any upcoming projects that you can tease?
I do have another song that I will be releasing over the next few months and it actually happens to be more of a “light” song as I would call it. It’s a bit more fun and upbeat but still carries that bit of edginess I can’t help but have in my songs.
Tell me about your move to Sydney, Australia!
I guess I’ve always been a bit of a risk taker, and that’s really the story behind my move to Sydney, Australia and now I’ve been living here for quite some time.
What is it about Sydney that you love?
I love the weather, the people, the beaches, and its overall vibe.
What’s one thing that you miss from the States?
I do miss the big cities sometimes and the hustle and bustle especially because I lived in New York City for quite some time. I miss the shops being opened until late at night.
Being a female in the music industry, have you had any obstacles thus far related to your gender?
I think sometimes it can be difficult to be taken seriously when talking about how I want a song to sound as I’m not technically good at putting together a track, but I’ve learned what I want and how I want my songs to sound. I may not have the technical ability to do that as fast and as efficiently as I want to, but I have many guys around me that do know how to. In all honesty, I don’t think that’s related to my gender. That’s just my level of expertise and understanding in actually creating a track/having the ability to produce a track. I’ve actually found my gender to be an advantage. That might sound weird, but every time I start to think that something isn’t working out because of my gender, I turn it around and see all the advantages I actually have as a female in the world of writing and artistry. Ultimately I think it comes down to an individual and how hard they work on their craft. I’ve worked hard at my songwriting and gained respect based off my hard work and discipline.
Who would you consider your support system?
I have so many people at the moment that are part of my support system. My husband is my main support system. He helps co-write with me and produces some songs with me as well. I also have a friend named Scott who basically knows everything technically possible about a song, so I send my songs to him for all the brutal feedback. He’s actually really helpful with feedback and I’m constantly learning new ways to make my songwriting stronger from him. I have quite a few more guys that I work with in general on songwriting, producing, etc… and then I have my girlfriends that are just crazy supportive of me and are highly involved in music as well so they’re always great for telling me the honest truth about what they think of my songs and being supportive of me through the whole process etc…
If you were to give one piece of advice to someone battling an obstacle in their life, what would it be?
There’s always tomorrow. That’s what I tell myself when a day feels like the worst day of my life. There’s always the next day and the next. I’ve learned in whatever experience in life I’ve had that whatever obstacle feels devastating or insurmountable, it doesn’t feel like that after some time. So keep working hard, don’t give up, and remember there’s always a new dawn on the horizon.
Any last thoughts?
Let your hard work and discipline speak for itself. Not everyone will like what you do, but keep working hard, be honest with yourself and others, and be willing to share the most vulnerable parts of yourself with the world. After it’s all said and done, we all crave connection, love, and understanding.
Featured image courtesy of Valencia James