Megan Mortensen, a.k.a. the artist known as Valeree, is an up-and-coming Soul-Pop artist who is quickly making a name for herself. As a singer and songwriter, she puts her whole heart and soul on her music, creating something that is relatable to many listeners. Just ahead of the release of her EP, it’s fine, i’m fine, we got the chance to do a video interview with Valeree.
It was a fun conversation in which we really get to know more about her and her inspirations. As she sips from her Tina Belcher mug, she talks to us about her stage name. For her, it represents somewhat of an alter-ego, a side of her that allows her to tap into a creative musical zone. The origins of which are borne out of an interesting and funny story.
“Whenever I would go to bars, I’d just get approached all the time by guys I didn’t want to talk to,” she said. “So, I would give them a fake name and I just started using Valeree every time.”
A name once used to repel men she wasn’t interested in is the same name that’s attracting people to her and her music. Interesting how it worked out that way.
Music has been a part of her life since she was born. Her parents got her into musical theatre very early on and she fell in love with it, mostly with one thing. “My favorite part about musical theatre and all that was the music, definitely. I liked the acting. Did not like the dancing. It was really all about the music for me.”
The 25-year-old singer was writing songs her whole life. It was her personal outlet. But Valeree didn’t start thinking about pursuing music until she wrote a song that she felt was actually good. Once she shared them with people, they were impressed, giving her the confidence boost she needed. “That was what sort of took off my songwriting,” she said.
She grew up listening to renowned artists such as Lauryn Hill, Alanis Morissette, Alicia Keys, Amy Winehouse and The Beatles (the poster of which was hanging on the wall behind her). But her biggest inspiration is a legendary artist known for her iconic voice.
“Etta James is my favorite singer,” Valeree says. “Her voice just has so much soul and you feel every word. You don’t even have to listen to the lyrics to know what she’s trying to say, you know. That’s just such a gift and her voice is so incredible.”
You can definitely hear the influence Etta James has on her. Valeree sings with such passion and soul that you can feel her music too. She’s even stated that a song on the EP, “Ain’t I A Fool,” pays an homage to the late great singer.
On top of that, her songwriting is unapologetically raw and heartfelt. That’s what makes her music so grounded and relatable. We asked about her songwriting process and how she is able to make these songs that speaks to the heart. For Valeree, it is all about being in the moment.
“I recently wrote a verse that I liked and then just stopped. I just kinda ran out. But I’m frustrated because it was really good and I was very inspired in the moment and I don’t know if I’ll ever,” she says. “It’s hard to recapture that same feeling so that’s why I think it is important to finish it in one because at least the feeling will be cohesive.”
We talked about her song “Deity,” the second track off the EP. It’s a sexy, empowering song that plays with sex and religion, something that she’s always wanted to do. The themes are similar to Hozier’s “Take Me To Church” but Valeree spins it and takes a different approach.
“I realize after I wrote it that it really feels like a song that’s very much about female empowerment,” she says. “I think that’s something that I’m always trying to put into my music and I just want women who listen to my music to feel good and feel powerful and feel like they’re in charge of themselves so that is kind of like the underlying theme of the song to me.”
The music video for “Deity” is special because it marks Valeree’s directorial debut. She took the reins for this sexy visual to take away the male gaze and showcase women from different perspective.
“It was so important to me that there was a woman directing. I didn’t want it to be like ‘Oh show her ass here.’ I didn’t want it to be about that at all,” she says. “The song to me is for women so I wanted the video to just as much be for women.”
Then we talked about her most recent single “Broke“, which released in February. It is a pop song about struggling in a working class society. The song went viral on TikTok, gaining 142.7K views and 33.5K likes. The song came out at a time where many people are struggling to find jobs and make adjustments during this pandemic.
She wrote this song when she was 19. It was based off her own personal frustrations with capitalism and how working hard doesn’t necessarily mean success and security. “There was like a month straight when I was 21, where I worked every single day and my shifts would be between 10 and 12 hours and you know I did not get ahead and it’s been very inconsistent and I know I’m not the only one.”
Even though the song was conceived a little over six years ago, the message hits harder today given the situation everyone is going through. “Yeah, it’s really funny that it came out now during this pandemic and everyone being as poor as possible because that was not the intention,” she says. “I really didn’t plan for this to happen this way.”
That’s the power of TikTok. It can make anything and anyone go viral. But its impact on the music industry is much greater. We had a deeply introspective discussion about its impact on music. Valeree mentions how TikTok (and the internet in general) has slowly taken away from control from labels as to what song gets popular.
“I’m really interested in TikTok’s impact on the music industry,” Valeree says. “[It’s] really interesting to me because their algorithm is so based on what people like and it has so much power that it’s catapulting songs that never would have been picked up by a label.”
She mentions “Driver’s License” by Olivia Rodrigo and “Say So” by Doja Cat as perfect examples of songs that took off thanks to social media.
Record labels are known to have major influences on what music gets mainstream air time. They had power in uplifting any song they wanted. But TikTok has changed that. Valeree even talks about how Billie Eilish became famous by making music that sounded completely different yet attracted millions of listeners.
“She was doing something new and that’s unsafe for a label. I just think that it’s cool that it’s allowed different music that’s not just the same thing we’ve heard a million times to take off and I think that’s affecting the really big artists too and allowing them to start incorporating cool different things, new things and it’s just very exciting. I’m excited about all of it.”
The journey of an independent artist can be rewarding. One of the reasons why Valeree chose this route is having creative control and freedom over her music. They are free to produce the kind of music they want to make without having any pressure from executives or labels. But independence does have its costs.
As an indie artist, it is not as easy to record and make music. The costs of studio time, band members, producers etc. comes out of their own pockets, which can be financially challenging. But she is finding ways to make it work, given that she’s also working as a server.
“Yeah, I have been serving and making music for a long time and it definitely feels like having multiple [jobs]. And I do. I have two serving jobs so it’s like having three jobs and it’s like having two jobs that pay for my third job. So it’s a grind for sure.”
This is not uncommon either. Many independent artists work jobs while pursuing music. We’re so used to thinking that artists are getting by with just their music. But the reality is that it’s not always the case. We often see the finished product without seeing the hours and hours of hard work that goes into it. And Valeree isn’t afraid of letting people know.
“Yeah, I don’t wanna hide it. I want to be honest and let people know that I could have a million streams and still have to have a day job. It’s just the way it is. I think it’s a lot of people’s experience, they just don’t show it on the internet.”
As we finish this fun and engaging conversation, we asked Valeree what we could expect from the EP. She answers excitedly, saying that there is a lot more instrumentation on this project than before.
“You’ll hear a lot more piano, little bit less guitar. The songs in general are a little more stripped back than they were, instrumentally. Also, a little more vocal range is present on this album. I think that the production is a little different.”
Valeree is a humble and down-to-earth person who was fascinating to talk to. She is clearly passionate about her craft and watching her talk about songwriting was interesting. We’re excited to see where she goes from here. It’s only a matter of time before she gets her flowers and achieves her goal making music full-time.
Be sure to check out her EP, it’s fine, i’m fine
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