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Q&A: Lisa Valentine on morbid poets, iced crotches

Jeffrey Fox

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Songstress Lisa Valentine Sings My,My,My

Lisa Valentine, an award-winning local singer-songwriter, is inspired by old blues greats like Sam Cooke and poets like Robert Frost and Dorothy Parker. She shares her song “My, My, My” with The Orion Tuesday at the Amtrak station on Orange Street. Photo credit: Jeffrey Fox

Local soul and R&B; singer Lisa Valentine grabbed a coffee and chatted with with The Orion about being raised by her mother and grandmother, the irony of her stage name and how she writes such soulful tunes Tuesday at Empire Coffee.

How long have you been a singer-songwriter?

I’ve been playing and writing songs since I was 16. When I came to Chico, I was hopping on the open mic scene, and I picked up gigs at art shows with just me and my guitar.

You’ve won best vocalist and best singer-songwriter at the Cammies in the last two years. What has inspired your lyrics?

My grandma gave me tons of poetry books when I was younger, and that inspired much of it. Also, listening to a lot of older soul music, like Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Gladys Knight and the Pips.

Your grandmother must have been pretty influential.

Yes. I grew up in my grandmother’s house, and her and my mom raised me together. She started reading me pretty deep poetry at such a young age, like Robert Frost and Dorothy Parker, who became a favorite of mine and had a twisted way of making light of morbid things like death. I guess that’s just weird for a kid though (laughs).

What is your song-writing process like?

Usually, I will come up with the lyrics and chords for it at the same time, and it will take about 30 minutes or so. Sometimes I will be driving or doing something and a melody or lyrics will come to me, and I will try and piece them together later and it just doesn’t work like when I sit down and do it all at once.

Is Valentine your real last name?

No, but I was born on Valentine’s Day, and I like the old black-and-white Valentino films. I also think it’s funny, ’cause so many of my songs are about heartbreak and sadness. So being related to Valentine’s Day is kind of ironic to me.

You started an Indiegogo fundraiser last year for your first EP. Will you be doing another campaign for your next project?

That is a matter of when I get back together with Dave Elke (recording artist, performer and Butte College instructor). He’s going to help me produce this next (EP or album) as well. I also am trying to get together with a keyboard player and really develop some of the songs more. I’m kind of leaning toward an EP. I love seeing a full album and the artwork and all that, but it takes a lot of money and it takes more time, and I don’t know how much of that I have.

Anything funny happen while you’ve been on tour?

(Lisa Valentine and The Unloveables) had a show in Santa Cruz, so we got all our stuff ready and Ben Sallmann, our trombone player, was like, “I wanna drive my car, it is kind of her last adventure.” So we take his car, and about 45 minutes into the trip we are sweating to death, and Ben lets us know that his car doesn’t have air conditioning. We’re all just dying, so we get these ice packs. The guys had them, like, in their crotches, and I had one in my shirt and on my neck. (Then) we got to Santa Cruz and we got lost. The trip was just crazy. We finally show up at the venue all sweaty and exhausted, and it was just funny.

What does your musical career look like?

I have an agent now who is promoting me, and he is suggesting I move to the Bay Area to get more of a following there and to be around more musicians who want to play a lot of clubs and things. Right now, though, I just want to focus on recording and hopefully get into some cool festivals and events where I can be more showcase, rather than in a bar where there’s lots of noise and people not necessarily there to watch the performance.

Jeffrey Fox can be reached at [email protected] or @FoxyJeff on Twitter.

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Q&A: Lisa Valentine on morbid poets, iced crotches