Interview: Valentina Brave on music, the outback and why the patriarchy must end
Valentina Brave recently released her first single ‘I Met A Man’, premiered on Women In Pop last month, a rollicking track which hits out at the patriarchal society we live in. Created and written in outback Australia, Brave’s remarkable music has a uniqueness, a sonic edge that intrigues and excites in a way few artists achieve with their first release and is well worth exploring. We recently caught up with Brave to find out more about her background, her music and why we all need to embrace the recent surge of feminine power.
Hey Valentina! You released your debut single in November and this week dropped your first video - how are you feeling?!
There’s a lot happening! I am crazy busy coordinating a whole school Christmas concert event for the community where I live in the Northern Territory which involves dance, music, bands, acting, props building and Santa Claus landing in the bush! We are two weeks out and in daily rehearsal mode, melting from both how incredible the kids are and how hot it is up here at the moment. And I also just happen to be releasing my first ever single and EP! It’s super fun though and I’m loving having so much creative energy around me!
If we can go right back to the beginning, what are your first memories of music?
My dad says I was singing melodies back to him as a baby before I could talk - I love that story so much. I don’t remember doing that but I do remember him resolutely saying that I was a ‘singer’ and so I just always believed it. My childhood was all music and singing harmonies with my dad, aunties and uncles in my grandmother’s kitchen. I sang with them in between running around with my little brother and cousins collecting bones and finding treasures in the bush. Music and my family. That’s where it all started.
Are there any particular artists who inspire you or influence your sound?
I grew up making it my life’s mission to sing every single note from Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston! My mum loved Patsy Cline, and we had Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and all the country greats playing in the car. I studied classical vocals at the same time as playing in jazz swing bands (on drum kit!) from like 12 years old and I fell in love with the rich harmony and romance of jazz standards. My best mate’s dad also played blues and I remember that being another huge musical revelation for me. Such a mixed bag!
I am inspired by so many artists for many different reasons. Erykah Badu opened my mind to weaving in spirit, philosophy and the mystic in lyric writing. Nina Simone continues to be such an epic feminist, powerful political voice. Michael Franti is uncompromised in his political, global dedication to bettering ourselves as human race. Mama Kin navigates music, motherhood and life so beautifully with such honestly and integrity. The music she creates really resonates with me, she cracks me open. This is why I asked her to produce the EP (Wildflower) for me. There was no one else at that time that in my heart of hearts, I felt I could trust more. I could go on and on but generally it’s not just the music but also the way artists use their platform for the greater good to be of service.
Was there a moment when you decided you wanted to make music a career?
Yep! When I was 7 years old and performed on stage for the first time with my Dad at the Crown Hotel in Toowoomba.
Your debut single ‘I Met A Man’ is an absolute killer (in a good way!). You actually began writing the song 8 years ago – why the long journey from inception to release?
It’s a song that started in a moment of pure frustration. I had a quick ‘blah fucking blah’ moment that was pretty much just a release valve. It took me a few years to come back to it once I was revisiting old songs, getting tracks together to potentially record.
Has the song changed much over those years?
It’s been through a few incarnations and it changed drastically again once we got into the studio. It’s literally the track that we were like, “It’s got something but..?“. Dan (Mama Kin) really helped me nail what I was actually trying to say and Matt Smith, my insanely musically intuitive guitarist and dear friend, really took it to the next level once he started messing with guitar amps and those hectic textures.
I never thought it would be the single because I didn’t think it summarised my ‘sound’ as such. The other tracks on Wildflower aren’t heavy rock vibes at all. They are textural, kind of cinematic dark souly vibes. ‘I Met a Man’ is definitely one of my favourite tracks though and once I came up with the concept for the video I knew it would be a super fun and a powerful piece of art.
Can you talk us through the production process and the recording session in Margaret River?
Dan had some really inspired ideas about recording two stereo main vocals. I was singing it pretty tame and she was like, “nah man, this has gotta get dirty!” I had a couple of swigs of whiskey, got fired up and smashed out two vocals separately. We played them back together and they had this cool, shattered effect where I‘d sung the phrasing differently in each take. Then we all went pretty crazy recording as many sounds as we could from the actual room to get the junky drum sound thing happening. Banging shit on the corrugated iron walls, smashing the metal laundry tub, hitting and smacking anything that made noise.
You’ve spoken previously about the song being born out of your anger at the patriarchal society we live in. What do you believe are the main problems we are facing today?
Such a huge question. I feel we are facing a reality where we’re collectively having to relearn what our value and place is in the world after a few thousand years of patriarchal rule. Things that we have been made to feel are our weaknesses are actually our strengths. Traits like empathy, sensitivity and connection to the natural world. Historically, women were honoured for these inherent gifts and talents. Old stories from across cultures have the Goddess in her many forms as central figures of divine wisdom. This was all but erased. Women are having to dive deep into their old wisdom and remember this. Many women I know are doing this important work. Trying to heal the parts of themselves that have been severed and traumatised over generations and generations. It is this work we are doing personally and collectively that has led to such a huge resurgence of feminine power. Words like Authentic, Sovereignty and even the word Feminism itself are being used so frequently right now because they are the frequency right now!
In particular there has been a lot of discussion lately on gender equality in the entertainment industry – do you think we have reached a turning point in how we view the way society is run and how we view & treat women or do you think it is a case of just words with very little follow through actions?
I believe many people want change and also want help to understand how to change, but this is lifetimes of ingrained culture we are untangling here. There’s a remarkably long way to go before women are genuinely in a space of equality. But the conversations are happening and the fundamental beliefs are being challenged and that is at least one way to hopefully help incite the paradigm shifts that will eventually get us there.
What do you think needs to change for us to live in an equal society?
Where to even start? But let’s start with balanced numbers of Aboriginal people and women in positions of power and leadership in both government and across all corporate business.
You wrote your upcoming EP Wildflower in Arnhem Land – how does working as a musician in the outback influence your craft?
The people I live with, the country itself, the grief and trauma here along side ancient sacred culture and song, the heat, the rain, the exposed relationships, the dirt. It’s the most incredible place and I have tried to weave these deep beautiful feelings I have into the music I write and the art I make.
What’s next for Valentina Brave?
I have another bunch of songs that I am really excited to record, but firstly I want to share these songs, do some shows and sing on some stages! It’s been a while I’ve been hiding up here in the bush so I think it’s time to hit the road and play some music out in the wide world.