Paige Valentine Photo Credit: She Is Aphrodite
According to the Oxford dictionary, Pure (of a sound) defines a perfectly in tune and with clear tone. Indeed, the latest single with the title borrowed from the adjective is fitting to the narrative and sonic enchantment that are every bit Paige Valentine.
In an era where contemporary hits are about the boom-boom cataclysm of electronic and inorganic reverberations, this track instead ensues honesty, a stripped-back revelation of a spiritual culmination of her past, present and surroundings, manifesting from years of lyrical refinement, and inevitably flowing into a catchment of musical bliss.
“I am a smiley kinda person, which is hilarious because I write really deep music.”Paige Valentine
One month since the release of “Pure”, the track is already on its way to hitting six figures in the number of listeners on Spotify. Valentine tells her story with palpable sincerity, foreboding and evocative, transiting into a controlled desperation in the chorus, brittle at times, and acquiescing in the final phase of a love cycle.
Despite of the gloom, the singer-songwriter takes us onto a journey of hope (or hopelessness), melodiously weaving through her emotional labyrinth. It’s no wonder Valentine is a five-time WAM nominee and Vanda and Young International Song Competition finalist.
The Fremantle based artist from Margaret River is refreshing as a performer and even more as a person as Sheldon Ang discovers in a carefree conversation about her latest single, predilections and writing roots.
Sheldon: Good to chat with you again, Paige…so I heard your gigs were sold out.
Paige: You too, Sheldon! Yeah, the last three gigs have been really amazing. I’m just taking a small writing break until the next two, but I’m so excited for the next shows.
Sheldon: In your first gig, I noticed that you were smiling while performing Pure – considering the song oozes with emotional matrix.
Paige: (Chuckles) I am a smiley kinda person, which is hilarious because I write really deep music. Sometimes when I smile – and I’m not even aware that I am doing it, is a recognition of being honest…not to have any ego, or not to have any gap between the audience and me. The lyrics are really truthful, and you’ve just got to let it flow – and that results in a bit of a smile. That song has been around for some time and recorded several times. So I had it marinating for a while. It has been a long process and it’s almost a relief to be able to play live again. It is like a cathartic release…to be singing to people at shows as I didn’t know when it was gonna happen again.
Sheldon: We felt that. And Pure is a very heartfelt song. Perhaps it’s a manifestation of a personal experience, or drawing that emotion from elsewhere?
Paige: Yeah, it’s a collective experience. I was noticing a few friends in long term relationships break up all around the same time. I did draw a little bit from personal experience, the effects of people with different careers and ideas. I was noticing it gets harder at times to keep re-imagining and evolving as two seperate people and apply that to the relationship too. It’s also about not checking in on your partner and getting to a point where you both are standing at different places and wanting different things and asking, “how did we get here”. I guess it’s about playing on the idea of trying to unravel time to the innocence of when you first meet someone.
Sheldon: What does Pure mean to you?
Paige: Wow…what it means to me…lyrically – letting go of a situation, to heal it…or reimagine it…and starting again and accepting the state of transition, progression and sometimes that does mean walking away. And if that is the end, the lyric in the song: “I don’t have anything to hold onto anymore” is exactly that, feeling like you’ve done everything you can. It’s about breaking everything down and going back to ground zero and starting again with or without the person you love.
Sheldon: And this trackis collaboration between you and Matt Gresham (X-factor, The Voice)?
Paige: From memory I think I adlibbed most of the lyrics. Matt had the chord progression in that melody…that de da da (can we break this) bit. It was just a jam…Matt had his guitar and I didn’t have an instrument. I started singing along to what he was playing, and told him I wanted a chord change and seeing where the song wanted to lift to and where it wanted to be vulnerable in parts. Most of it was written in the first two minutes and happened pretty organically. I think he could tell I was meaning what I was singing, he asked me “do you really want to keep going?” as he knew it was pretty intense. It was a really awesome song-writing experience – I’ll never forget it.
Sheldon: And you are a five-time WAM nominee and Vanda and Young International Song Competition finalist. So you’d know a bit about writing. What’s the art of great song writing?
Paige: (Chuckles) That’s a great question. And I think is combination of many intricate things; and the context of the individual too…the songs that you were listening to growing up, the relationship you have with music. What your parents were listening to, what inspires you. I think those aspects play a vital role in the way I express and write my songs. I like a lot of singer-songwriters like Paul Kelly, Crowded House, Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell.
And being a young kid, I think I subconsciously studied the way songs are written, without even knowing I was doing it. We had tape recorders, and I would record off the radio and I would write the lyrics and go onto the piano and I’d sing over and over again for fun…so that formula works for me. And over time you get a good feel for song structures, hooks, chord changes, dynamics and vulnerability in storytelling. So all those years of subconscious listening and writing were vital. Now I write lyrics anyway because I have to get them out of me, so I get my laptop, and pour out the poetry, and I may feel something that clicks.
Usually with melody, it’ll hit me when I do something mindless like gardening for example, or while driving I might hear this melody in my head, then I’ll grab my phone and record into voice memos if I think it’s something significant.
Sheldon: Actually, Ross Wilson of Mondo Rock and Daddy Cool told me sometimes you got to let your antenna out and the lyrics will come to you.
Paige: Yeah exactly!
Sheldon: And you’ve just released a music video to accompany the track.
Paige: Yeah, that was so much fun. We had the best couple of days at my house painting the walls and building the props. We were really lucky as Covid restrictions had just been lifted. We shot it on a 16mm film, with local Fremantle filmmaker Luna Laure.For me it was like a romantic experience, old film cameras in my vintage house, hair and makeup, the best crew and the whole set looked amazing. There’s something about working with film because you can’t stuff it up and go back and edit it digitally at the time, especially if you have limited tape. I think I had two takes per section of the clip, and there’s an electricity of getting right the first time. And is really incredible to see the visuals of my song. Oh, there’s a massive hole caused by the fire in the clip and I’m looking at it right now.
Sheldon: You mean it is a real fire in the video?
Paige: (Chuckles) Yes, it is! That will always be a reminder. And because it was on film we just had to keep filming it.
Sheldon: I heard many great songs at your gig. Are they your originals, to be released at a later date?
Paige: Yes, they’re all my songs. Apart from one. It was nice to have the piano there, I’m usually pretty shy on that and save it for just songwriting at home, so that gave way to performing a lot of unreleased songs. I played a new song that I wasn’t confident called “Blue”, about when my parents came and visited me at Fremantle before the lockdown. I had a choice to stay or go back to Margaret River, but I decided to stay in Fremantle, and to watch them leaving the driveway and not knowing when I would see that next, was difficult. So I think playing that song especially to one of the first live crowds out of covid that all experienced their own loneliness or separation, that was a pretty powerful moment of the show. Also finishing on “Pure” was so special because I never thought after releasing that I’d get to perform it so soon.
Sheldon: I was photographing your show, so I wasn’t focusing on the lyrics. What’s the theme of those songs? Lovey dovey?
Paige: (Chuckles) Yeah, the four songs will be on the EP, sonically they are quite different…but they have that nostalgic, aching and longing and trying to reconfigure. One is lovey dovey (chuckles) or resistant to being lovey dovey, and that is mostly based on a Cranberries song that I love. There’s another song called Navigate which is recorded with a late-night disco kind of feel, and then a track Fool which is like a Lana Del Rey and Florence and the Machine type. And I think the four songs work really well, like it has that time stamp at a phase where I wasn’t really sure of myself, and I had to relearn myself in the city. This EP is a real time stamp of a big period of growth and I love the nostalgic tones in the production.
Sheldon: So your E.P. will be released in five months from now? Based on the number of singles you have.
Paige: Yeah, but I’m not sure If I can do that to my film crew, they need a break (chuckles).
Sheldon: Or you can get Around the Sound to record your gig like last time and have five thousand views in twenty-four hours.
Paige: Yes! Done!
Sheldon: You also mentioned in the gig that you are a fan of Jacinda Ardern.
Paige: Yeah, I just love the fact that she leads with kindness. And that applies to everything, including the music industry. As in you can be kind and strong and all of these amazing qualities, not one or the other. I really enjoy what she’s doing in a leadership role, showing so much strength and empathy and still be normal and relatable – she is just so human. It is so powerful and comforting to see and the world needs more of that. She’s incredibly inspiring, one of the songs I wrote with Dylan is written with her in my mind.
Sheldon: So what’s next for Paige Valentine?
Paige: Next is focusing on the next single and film clip. The next single is one of my favourites, so sitting down and fleshing out the ideas I have for it. Then working on releasing the rest of the EP with accompanying clips – seeing as I can’t tour nationally just yet. The four songs have a real nostalgic feel and I really want to put together a bit of a visual thread to match the sonic thread of the EP. I was in talks to do a national tour with Boo Seeka – however I’m not sure how that stands at the moment with the borders and restrictions, so for the time being I will stick to my formula of the release, small WA tour and film clip and keep building from there.
Sheldon: So hopefully the next time I interview you I’d be asking, “How well do you sit with fame?”
Paige: (Chuckles) I’m just happy to be writing and people connecting to it. And anything more than that would be a bonus!
Sheldon: Paige, it is nice talking to you. Hope to catch up with you again seeing you live down the next suburb from me anyway.
Paige: Nice talking to you again Sheldon. If you’re in the area, I will chuck your names at the door!