Meet Seattle indie artist V. Contreras. This is an artist with a great indie soul sound and a sultry vocal style that makes her stand out with her unique sound that pulls inspiration from jazz, pop, rock and R&B. Being classically trained in pop, jazz, opera and rock, her vocals have strength and control that listeners will want to stop and listen to what she’s doing with her music. As listeners take pause and really hear her, they will feel the emotion that pours out through her music as she hits the big notes and then easily drops into a beautiful deep tone that is so smooth it flows perfectly through out each song.
This is the kind of artist that fans want to connect with because of how the music pulls the listener in. Subtle yet complex instrumentals paired with masterfully clean vocals that inspire people to sing along and aim to hit every note. V. Contreras is the type of artist that fans who love great vocalists will want to follow.
V. Contreras released her latest song “Like It’s Yesterday” in November and it got a lot of notice, even featured over on the Huffington Post where we caught notice of her new single and felt compelled to reach out and connect with her, not only because she’s one of our Seattle locals (she did spend some time living in LA too) and we love to support our local scene, but because her music deserves to be discovered by old and new fans. She’s doing something truly genuine.
I reached out to get to know V. Contreras and I think she’s someone really worth getting to know and her music worth listening to. No only is she a musical powerhouse, she’s also a grounded person who takes part in community, giving back, a foodie, a family person, dog lover and someone who’s looking at the bigger picture in the world around us. Check out her video for “Like It’s Yesterday” below and then check out our interview. Enjoy!
YesterdazeNews: When did you first start getting interested in music?
V. Contreras: I’m not quite sure because I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in music so I suppose I was very young. One of my earliest childhood memories was from when I was about 6 years old. I remember locking myself in the bathroom, where the acoustics were amazing, and I was just finding my voice. I must have sung for three hours straight. There is something about that feeling of your breath connecting with your vocal chords that for me is extremely peaceful. Even today, when I am feeling stress, I have to head to my studio to sing. I suppose singing for me is similar to running, yoga or mediation for others.
I’ve read a lot about your influences in music as you were growing up. You have been inspired by some of the best artists with Patsy Cline and Linda Ronstadt. Is there anyone in today’s modern scene that inspires you?
Yes. There are so many artists that inspire and amaze me. Even though I’ve listened to Solange’s “A seat at the table” hundreds of times, I still hear something new and thought provoking each time I listen to that album. I also love Rhye, Sabrina Caudio, H.E.R., Sza, Khalid, Emily King, Daniel Caesar, Michael Kiwanuka, SOHN, Jose Gonzalez, K. Michelle, LP….so many soulful artists writing really compelling lyrics with innovative sounds.
How do you feel about the current music scene in Seattle?
The music scene in Seattle feels as strong as ever. There seems to be a real soul movement happening in our region again. Perhaps something in the soil from the jazz days of the 1920’s is feeling a resurgence. As with most of the music created here, there is a common thread of sadness, beauty and a bit of darkness. I always find it interesting that very few pop acts come out of our region. It’s hard to wonder how much the weather might contribute to that. What excites me is the idea of further merging the innovation of Seattle based technology with music. Microsoft and Amazon could quite literally change the way that music is consumed (if they wanted to) and get us back to the times when music was a more viable career option.
Since the release of your album in 2014, to your latest single “Like It’s Yesterday”, what would you say that you’ve learned in your own music and writing style as you’ve moved forward with your music?
Lyrically, the content on my last album was pretty brassy and saucy and as a licensing attorney once told me “all from a feminist perspective.” I was a bit surprised by that take on my music, but I was raised by a Feminist Father and so I suppose that unconsciously has steered my perspective. The lyrics on my upcoming album and on the first single “Like It’s Yesterday” are quite a bit more emotional, sensitive and vulnerable. Due to everything going on politically right now, a lot of musicians have been talking about how creatively stifled they feel.
I don’t necessarily feel stifled, but I can see a shift in my lyrics. Writing about anything too silly just felt trivial in context to everything going on in the world. It was that I either write about what is going on in the world and get pissed off or I write about love and humanity and supporting one another. I try not to put energy into negativity, that just isn’t a healthy place for me to be, but who knows, I might be ready to get pissed off on the next album. But, this was the right approach for me right now.
In terms of the music, with most of the songs that I write, I create tracks that act as the template for each song which I give to the incredible musicians who play with me before we start hammering out parts. This time around, Martin (Feveyear) wanted to keep a lot of the tracks I programmed. So, half of the songs have tracks that I programmed as the foundation of the song. That is new and definitely gives the album a fresh sound. I think the result is that this album is much less 1960’s and much more R & B. I also wrote one of the album songs with Jeff Fielder and two of the others with Mycle Wastmanwhereas the last album I wrote in isolation. Creating with others is one of my favorite things and gives such a fresh perspective. They are both incredible musicians and naturally took the chords to these songs to places that I would not have gone without them.
Why did you choose this style of music?
I don’t feel like I choose anything when it comes to music. I am inspired by my life experiences, by the music that I’ve been exposed to and by music mentors who have challenged me.
I learned to appreciate really strong female vocalists when I was very young. While growing up, we took so many long road trips to visit relatives and my parents used that time to introduce my sister and I to various artists, mostly incredible singers like Patsy Cline, Linda Ronstadt, Barbara Streisand and Heart. Those were formative years and I was extremely drawn to their strong, emotional vocals.
Jazz has been very instrumental to my style as well. When I was 12 years old, a music mentor took me under his wing and started teaching me music theory and introduced me to all of the great female jazz vocalists, my favorite being Sarah Vaughan. This led to an opportunity to front a 25-piece adult jazz band. When I look back on that, I had no idea how fortunate I was to have that opportunity and am so grateful now.
My intro to songwriting and love for R & B began when I was 19 and moved to LA for an opportunity to work with Grammy nominated songwriter Steve Dorff. He wrote songs like “Through The Years” (Kenny Rogers) and “Take Good Care Of My Heart” (Whitney Houston.) My Sister and I recorded many of his pop ballads and his songwriting always surprised me with his clever lyrics and gorgeous vocal melodies. I think about his writing style often when writing now.
Eventually this led to an opportunity to be a member of an R & B girls group. It was made up of my Sister and I and two African American women who grew up in L.A. I will never forget the first time we got in the studio and Tawanda (she went by Lady) sang her solo on the first verse. My Sister and I literally started bawling. Lady was raised in the church in Carson and the emotion in her voice was something I had never heard before. This was also one of my first opportunities to write music. The label we were working with wanted us to be self-sufficient. We had been singing music written by others and they hooked us up with producers who created tracks with A and B sections. We were asked to write vocal melodies and lyrics over these tracks. Nowadays this is referred to as top-lining and is super common in EDM and Hip Hop now.
After being exposed to so many styles of music, trying to find your sound can be difficult. When I was in the R & B group in LA, I waited tables at The Daily Grill. I waited on a man named Walter Lee (former VP of Capitol Records) and we became fast friends. He mentored me on the music business and acted as a father figure in a time when I was very young in a big city with parents far away. Although he passed away many years ago, there is this one Walter quote that will stick with me forever “never follow music trends when writing or working on your sound. By the time you catch up with the trend, it will be over. Find your sound, stick with it and eventually it will be relevant.” That is pretty much genius.
Is there a new album on the horizon?
Yes. It is essentially done. Drums, bass, keys, strings and horns have been tracked and the vocals are complete on all but two tracks. I’ve been a little stuck lyrically on those two songs so I am seeking inspiration for those and will cut the vocals as soon as the lyrics find me.
What does 2018 look like for you, musically?
I’m planning to release music in a few pieces throughout the year and will be playing a few festivals, which will be new for me. In terms of writing, I want to form a women’s writing coalition where a bunch of ladies can get together and write together. I think the female perspective is more important than ever right now. Additionally, I do teach and mentor several young ladies and have been thinking about how I can continue to expand and evolve that.
What do you want listeners to hear or experience in your music?
I just want to stir up emotion. It could be sadness, anger, laughter, joy, strength, it really doesn’t matter, as long as it makes you feel something. Musicians create music inspired by something they feel and all we want is for someone else to share in that.
What are you doing when you are not making music?
When I’m not making music or working at Seattle Theatre Group (I’m the Director of Sales and Patron Services at STG), you can find me teaching vocal lessons and mentoring young students. I also donate my time mentoring for several STG programs including Moore Music @ The Moore and Young Songwriters Lab and sing for and with children at events in hospitals in collaboration with Melodic Caring Project.
When I have down time, I am a sucker for an amazing meal at one of the many incredible restaurants that we have in Seattle and enjoy a beautiful glass of red wine, especially a bold Washington Red. This past summer I got a new puppy (Oso) who consumes lots of my time and I love spending time with my Husband, Family and friends. We can throw a mean dinner party.
What do you think about the state of our nation today?
Oh, where to begin. There are so many important issues at the forefront right now. To me personally, equality for women and racial injustice are on my mind daily. The #metoo movement has exposed the horrific things that women have been dealing with every day. I too have been a victim of sexual assault and I was too scared to say anything. For the first time in a long time, women feel supported in sharing their stories. It is extremely sad that it takes an actual movement to make women feel supported enough to come forward to expose the truth and it’s really been horrifying to learn what has really been going on.
Furthermore, the fact that Tarana Burke started this movement a decade ago and has hardly been mentioned (and was not included on the cover of Time Magazine recognizing the movement), just proves how black women continue to be marginalized. I mean, come on, this was a perfect opportunity to tell the story in its totality and you eliminate the woman who started it?
Additionally, Money and entrenched power which have debased the very idea of politics continues to prevail. A simple example [among hundreds of possible examples] is the stranglehold that the National Rifle Association has on the political system. In response to the Las Vegas massacre, Wayne LaPierre first goes straight to the media claiming that any attempt to restrict the sale of assault rifles would be an unconstitutional deprivation of their rights to bear arms. Then, once the focus goes on bump stocks, the NRA claims to support banning bump stock legislation. Then gave congress an out by insisting the ATF should be the entity to pass it, knowing they have no authority to do so. And our illustrious elected congress persons sit back and do nothing. They simply won’t run the risk of angering their constituents with any attempts at compromise. Campaign contributions would dry up instantly if an elected official strayed out of the parameters of the zero sum game.
How about locally in Seattle and all the issues we have here currently and how the city is changing?
Mental illness, the drug epidemic, and lack of support for our veterans, all of which are leading causes of homelessness are some of the issues I think are the most important for us to tackle. Affordable housing is a hot topic right now that is really critical for us to figure out. Cities who do not have affordable housing, become homogeneous.
We have such a vibrant arts community and that will be one of the first things that we see go away if we cannot keep artists here due to being priced out. There is a lot we could learn a lot from NYC who not only has an abundance of artists and non-artist low income housing but they also have middle-class rent controlled buildings. We can’t leave out the middle class. There is a fine line between middle and lower income households and if we don’t support the middle class, we are going to be headed to a two class city.
Are you involved with any charities or are there any causes you involved with?
There are a lot of causes that I am passionate about. Things like ensuring that our youth have exposure to the arts, musician’s rights, equity in the workplace and beyond, and anything that supports women and children are causes that I tend to gravitate towards. Specifically, I support STG, KEXP, KUOW and Melodic Caring Project, all of whom bring something special to my life in a different way.
With STG, I have had the opportunity to work alongside our Executive Director and Attorney Bob Ferguson to help pass the BOT bill to create equitable access to tickets. I spent some time as a member of the Pacific Northwest Grammy Board and enjoyed participating in Grammy’s on The Hill in Washington DC in 2016 and also donate as much time as I can locally with the Grammy’s meeting with our legislators about musician’s rights, a cause that I am very passionate about. Of course, I participated in the Women’s March and in 2018, I will be seeking new opportunities to support Women’s rights.
Is there anything you’d like to let your fans know about you that you haven’t had a chance tell them or anything you’d like to express to them?
I just want to say Thank You. Thank you for supporting me and for listening to my music. Being an independent artist without the marketing dollars of a big record company isn’t easy and my fans are everything to me. They inspire me every day. I keep doing what I’m doing because of them.
Thank you V. Contreras for taking the time to get candid with us and let our readers learn about who you are! We are looking forward to the new music to come in 2018! Readers, connect with V., you will find some amazing new music!