Michelle Valenzuela is definitely a force to be reckoned with. A unique artist in her own right, she translates the country genre into her own interpretation and makes one of the best sounding music out there.
Here at Country Thang Daily, we got to get to know the singer-songwriter a little more. She got to talk about her process, her influences, and her exciting new album! We can’t wait to see what else Valenzuela brings to the table!
Interviewing Michelle Valenzuela
Country Thang Daily: First off, what interested you in doing country music?
Michelle Valenzuela: They say country music is three chords and the truth and I think there’s power behind telling your story. I started writing songs when I was twelve years old and what drew me to country music were the stories.
I was always so intrigued by the honesty in the lyrics and I’ve always been very expressive, even at a young age. When I found out that Dolly Parton wrote “I Will Always Love You” and Carole King wrote “Natural Woman,” I knew that’s what I wanted to do when I got older. I became a student of these writers and their songs, and that’s how it all began.
CTD: Who are your biggest influences in music?
MV: My biggest influences in music are The Beatles, The Eagles, CCR, Carole King, Dolly Parton, The Carpenters, and of course Johnny Cash. When I was a kid I was surrounded by music. My family is very musically inclined and they are huge classic rock fans.
My mother is a fan of all the singer-songwriter stuff of the ’70s, which is how I built an ear for songwriting at such a young age. I also grew up singing in the church, so gospel music was a huge influence and I think country music and gospel go hand in hand.
CTD: The Latin flavor in your style certainly sets you apart from traditional country music. What can you say about that?
MV: I grew up in a small town called El Centro, California which is on the outskirts of San Diego but also borders Mexico. We had the small town country vibe but since we were so close to the border we had the traditional Mexican influence as well.
I love adding bits of Latin flavor to my songs wherever I can, while still staying true to the country music genre. I recently released a bilingual cover video of Folsom Prison Blues, and it received over sixteen thousand views overnight on Facebook alone.
We were so surprised, but I think what people liked about it is that we are doing something different within the country genre. I just wrote two new songs called “Beso” and “Dos Equis,” which have the same sort of feel as the Johnny Cash cover. They will be released early next year.
CTD: Can you talk a little bit about your process? How do you come up with new songs?
MV: It’s always a different process. Most of the time I’m inspired by love which I think is the strongest human emotion. Sometimes I’m inspired by other people’s stories, nature, books or even television.
For example, one of the hosts of the TV show The Real, Jeannie Mai, went through a terrible divorce and after hearing her story I was inspired to finish the bridge for my song “When A Woman’s Mind is Made Up.”
CTD: Congratulations on releasing your album, by the way! Can you talk a little bit about it?
MV: My album is called Bitter Pill and it’s available on all music platforms. I recently went through a terrible breakup myself and was inspired to write the most honest and raw material I’ve ever written in my career. I had a lot to say and a lot of emotions to get out. Music has always been my therapy and I couldn’t be more proud of what we accomplished. I say we because it takes a village.
It was produced by Steve Ornest at Total Access Recording Studios in Redondo Beach. Some of my favorite bands recorded there– such as No Doubt, Sublime, and Guns N Roses. I was also very lucky to have some of LA’s top session players: Matt Lucich on drums, Matt Denis on bass, Skip Edwards on piano, B3 and Pedal Steel and Steve Ornest on guitar.
We started recording these songs as a passion project and had no idea it would end up getting the attention it did. The lead single “Me and Maybelline” is now in rotation on several FM radio stations throughout California and has been reviewed by some legendary music magazines including Music Connection.