Interview: Kiana Valenciano’s new partnership with Tarsier Records is set to bring Filipino music further into the mainstream

Filipino songwriter and pop artist Kiana Valenciano presents herself confidently on record. She’s been performing and releasing music for some time now and has been successfully building a profile for herself in her homeland of the Philippines, with a social media following exceeding 200,000.

Sitting across from me in Singapore last week, though, Valenciano is polite and friendly if not a bit shy. In the Lion City for Music Matters Live, Valenciano is one of a small contingent of Filipino artists performing as part of the independent music festival.

“I’m very honoured to be representing the Philippines,” she enthuses early on. “It never crossed my mind that this could actually happen. I’m very proud.”

A favourite on the Music Matters Live stage, Valenciano strode across the stage with a vocal quality that drew the crowds in and kept them in grooves well into the evening. Her musical style has developed significantly since her debut single “Circles” was released last year. Moving further into a distinctly R&B territory, Valenciano’s recent singles “Does She Know” and “Misfits” sees her channeling more Aaliyah and Brandy, than the cleaner cut electro-pop vocal “Circles” introduced Valenciano to audiences with.

“I think in the past year, I’ve really found myself.” she explains. “If you listen to “Circles”, it’s a more electronic-pop type of sound. With “Does She Know”, it became more R&B and pop and now with “Misfits”, it’s also R&B. R&B has always been something I didn’t do; that hip hop, 90’s R&B, soulful genre. It’s safe to say that now I’m making music that I love to listen to.”

A recent signee to the newly launched Tarsier Records, Valenciano has been connected with a group of fellow young Filipino artists who are aiming to bring this kind of sound out of the underground music scene in making it more accessible to a wider fan base.

As label head and musician Chris Lopez mentions as he sits alongside Valenciano, the presence of a label such as Tarsier enables Valenciano to explore more music opportunities not necessarily available prior.

“It has a lot to do with the landscape of the music scene in the Philippines specifically.” he says. “There are a lot of people who like this kind of music and there are a few of us who can make it, but there hasn’t really been one place for it to be come out and be heard and be supported in that way. Tarsier Records, is aiming to do that.”

“I think the one thing the three of us have in common,” Valenciano says of herself, Lopez and collaborator Curtismith. “is that we’re really trying to make a change in the mainstream market in the Philippines. Underground, it’s doing really well, but I think that the listeners in Manila aren’t exactly being engaged.”

Credit: Dawn Chua

For her own music, Valenciano comments on her personal creative growth over the past year and how being in studio and working with others has affected the music she has already made, and the music she is looking to make in the future.

“I was never a confident a writer,” she admits. “I realised that you’ve got to stop thinking about what people are going to think about your lyrics. Just go straight from the heart. You’re making this music for yourself. I’m making it for me. It’s a means of expression. When I blocked everyone out, I was able to just let loose.”

“It’s better to go into a studio with an open mind because if not, then it’s harder to work together. I’m lucky to have worked with Marcus Davis who did both “Does She Know” and “Misfits”, because we completely understand each other. Moophs as well, he worked on the remix of “Circles”. I gave him full control over that I trusted him with that; he came up with something that I fell in love with and that my following fell in love with. “Does She Know”, with Curtismith, I believed in him. I’ve been a fan of his for a while now, so I gave him complete control.”

With 2018 about to rear its head, Valenciano is working towards the release of more music and the idea of it has her notably excited.

“Something that I’m looking forward to is writing more, because I would like to believe I’m way more confident now.” she says. “Aside from that, it’s the people who I will be working with [that excites me]. It [Tarsier Records] has a really good roster of singers and producers. I’ll be able to experiment as well because these artists aren’t just R&B artists, some of them are electronic. I want to have a full length album or an EP out soon, so that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

 

Photo Credit: Music Matters Live taken by Dawn Chua.

Check out Kiana Valenciano’s music here.

Revisit all the artists’ music via the Music Matters official playlists at www.AppleMusic.com/MusicMatters.