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Interview | Five Minutes with London based Songstress Val Maugenest

Val Maugenest is a singer / songwriter with various musical influences and a stellar vocalist who has just released her very first project entitled 20/20 , which is a great body of work. I had a chat with Val to find out about the creative process of the 20/20 EP and what it entails to be an independent unsigned artist. 

How are you? 

I am good thanks! Very busy and a little stressed at the moment as I’ve got less than a month left of my degree, but looking forward to finishing it all and starting a new chapter.

Who are your main musical influences and why?

Ah there are so many that it’s hard for me to name names (off the top of my head: Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Jazmine Sullivan, Billie Holiday, Sade, Frank Ocean, BANKS and many many more) but the main reason I love the artists I love is because they’re innovative, true to themselves, talented and just amazing at what they do.

How did the process of writing 20/20 begin ?

It began with me writing the base of ‘Pieces’ and ‘Chances’ acapella on my own; as I don’t really play an instrument that well I practically always start with a lyric and/or melody idea and work from there. I knew for these songs what I wanted them to be about lyrically and the feel I wanted for them (Soulful and gentle for ‘Pieces’ and powerful and fierce for ‘Chances), but the start of the ‘20/20’ EP to the finished product took a fair amount of time and went through a lot of changes along the way!

Who is the producer behind the music ?

The producer behind the ‘20/20’ EP is my friend and classmate Barney Lister. He’s a crazy talented guy (the kind that can do everything: produce, write, play drums, play guitar, rap etc., it’s incredibly frustrating ;)) and he’s also the one that got me into the Soulection style music which was a big inspiration for this EP. Barney will be releasing his own tracks/EP and remixes soon, as well as producing for others, so keep an ear out!

How have people responded to the project?

The response has been really great. Besides getting lovely comments and support from my friends and family, I’ve had the honor of having write ups/ reviews/ features and having EP songs included in playlists by quite a few music blogs that I love (Get West London, Salacious Sounds, Et Music Pour Tous, Purple Melon, Genre Confused and more) and the ‘20/20 EP even charted for a hot second in the Electronic Album UK iTunes chart!

What would you say was the most difficult song to write on the EP?

I’d have to say ‘Pieces’, just because I had such an idea of what I wanted it to be about and sound like and then kept changing my mind, adding & leaving bits out (any artist will understand that situation ;P). I am incredibly happy with how it turned out in the end, so I’m glad I (and my producer) kept on it until it was just right.

You mentioned that you are currently at University and I was wondering how are you managing to balance music and educatio ? What are you studying ?

Well thankfully I’m studying music (I’m about to finish my BA Honours Degree in Creative Musicianship – Vocals at ICMP) so a lot of what I did for the EP I could also ‘use’ for uni and vice versa, but simply doing a degree and wanting to do your own project(s) on the side is incredibly time consuming and can get overwhelming! But I’m very glad I’ve done what I’ve done and am very happy with the results.

What else do you have planned for 2016?

At this moment it’s a bit up in the air as I can’t really see passed finishing my degree haha, but the idea is to stay in London, work on new tracks (I’m already writing for it and talking to some producers about collaborations) and release a single hopefully in October!

List your five main prince tracks that you loved?

  1. Little Red Corvette (personal favorite; that riff and the end!)
  2. Purple Rain (Masterpiece & anthem.)
  3. The Most Beautiful Girl In The World (childhood favorite)
  4. Clouds ft. Lianne La Havas (Two of my idols together)
  5. Black Sweat (Love this groove and the video!)

(I was incredibly shocked and sad to hear about Prince’s passing. I unfortunately never got to see him live and always expected somewhere that I would down the road, so now knowing I won’t be able to is rather spirit crushing. However his music will be with us forever and will remain as magnificent and inspiring as always <3)

Will there be visuals accompanying the EP?

There will be an acoustic version on video that I have recorded with the Reload Sessions (out in June) and I’d love to do a music video for one of the songs, but I’m not sure that will happen for this EP…

Lastly, do you think that as an unsigned artist it is easier or harder to break through?

It’s difficult to say. There’s a definite up and down side to being an independent artist vs. being signed to a (major) label; as an independent artist you have full control so you can do (and can not do) anything you like. With the internet and sites like YouTube and SoundCloud you can release your music to the public and if you have some funds, you could for instance use online promotion companies to help get your music to people’s ears, but having a record company behind you, of course means having connections and immediate interest/attention that you as an independent artist (starting out) wouldn’t have. I guess it all comes down to who you are as an artist and where you want to go; what works for you now could very well change later on.

Stream the brand new EP

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