A summer afternoon filled with fresh air after the rain. The sun just came back out and I am here in one of St. Petersburg small cafes, interviewing a young and talented singer-songwriter Valerie Warntz, 20. We ordered some bergamot tea and with my eyes on the menu in search of proper dessert, I couldn’t help but ask her this question first.
• I know you are a vegan. Can you tell me more about it: was it a trend you followed or a rational decision you made?
— You know, I don’t care about trends at all. It’s just my lifestyle — she pauses and smiles — I am a very squeamish person. I can’t even drink something from one cup twice: I always wash it again or just take another. My vegan story started from one stupid article: it said that in chocolate may be ground bugs, because they can hide in cacao beans. I was 14 at that time and I took this very close to heart, so I got rid of chocolate for 2 years, 2 months and 13 days. I do remember! — she laughs so sincere, like a child — So this situation made me think about what do I eat at all, BUT being vegan isn’t about food only. I realized how wrong and disgusting it is for me — to eat animals, to use clothes and stuff made from them. I got rid of all of it very fast. Now it’s 6th year of my vegan lifestyle.
• Impressive, good to know you understand what you are doing. Now let’s talk about your music. I have just finished listening to your EP Crazy Dreams and I have a question that I haven’t seen interviewers ask you very often before: why did you choose this particular title for your EP? What is the story behind it?
— Thank you for this question — she smiles again, she does it often enough to assume her disposition is of a nice nature — this is an album about me in my teenage years: mostly about my 16s. What is it like to be sixteen? It is falling in love, it is crying because of the school grades, it is hanging out with your friends and trying to discover who you really are... It is DREAMING — she pauses and you can see it in her eyes she dreams BIG and now those dreams are starting to come true — teenagers’ life is full of crazy things and decisions. It’s like a mess, it’s unstable. This is why I called the EP Crazy Dreams.
• Interesting explanation, I can almost feel like I am back to being a teen again. How about telling us the reason why you thought these four songs would be the best choice for your first EP?
— I think these 4 songs show my real feelings and teenage thoughts very well. The most popular one, I Don’t Love You Anymore, is a song about heartbreak. In fact this song is about my first relationship experience — she looks down as if revisiting the memories that inspired the hit song — but I love this song, and I always did. It doesn’t hurt anymore as it did in 2015.
• I can agree on this entirely, as a songwriter myself, I know it feels great to put emotions into a song, and it does not have to mean you always feel the same way about it. Well, as a fan I am also wondering when will we hear your unreleased stuff if ever?
— I plan to put some unreleased songs on my upcoming remakes of both albums. Better to say, I will replace some existing songs.
• As far as I remember your song Be My Baby became a huge hit among your listeners. How did you get an idea to write that one?
— Oh, yes. I was really surprised of its success because I didn’t even plan to make it something huge. I wrote this song for about 15 minutes and just dropped it. That’s all. But I like this song too, it has... a sexy sound — she giggles shyly — Exactly.
• Definitely the sexiest you sounded so far. Now, you are known to do everything yourself: you write your own lyrics, compose the melody, sing the vocals and back vocals, produce and record all the songs yourself. How does it feel to be so involved with your own music?
— It is hard and the sound quality still isn’t perfect, but it’s really important for me to get involved in making my own music. Even if I had money for professional recording, I would pay for it only if I could assist and co-produce my tracks. I’m the workaholic, for sure. I can spend 5 hours choosing sound of drums which fits the song. I can spend my whole day playing the guitar and recording various strum patterns. I always have my voice recorder near me because music ideas can come very unexpectedly. I love this process so much.
• Apart from working on your own music, you took part in tracks of various artists like Travellers by cellardoor, Desire by JD and Grown Apart by Alex Crxss. How does it feel to collaborate with someone else? Is it the same experience when you sing other people’s songs?
— It is very exciting. I love collaborations for many reasons, and one of them is that it lets you try various genres. I mean… My own albums have their certain concepts and at this stage of my life I don’t write something POP/EDM/etc. But why not trying it in collaborations? Usually, while doing that, I sing other people’s lyrics but not always. For example, in Grown Apart lyrics are mine. There are some people who are much closer to my genre though. Halcyon Limerence, cellardoor and you are extremely talented, so creating something together makes me so fucking excited and happy every time. We will record something for your album, right?
• Consider this reply to be my agreement. It is so nice talking to you, and I am honestly in awe with your hardworking abilities. Now, a few random questions, if you don’t mind:
Question 1: If you could choose any person to eat dinner with who would that be?
— Lana Del Rey, surprised?
Question 2: Name three people who inspire you and tell us why.
— Lana Del Rey — because she is unique, she has her own style and she’s been trying hard to reach her goal for about 10 years. Taylor Swift — she is a true star and a businesswoman in one. She knows how to make amazing shows and how to gain attention without freaky stuff. Also she has a talent to write very relatable songs no matter Country or Pop. I love both genres. And third — my Mom. She is very kind, lovely and strong person. She has a lot to be inspired of.
• I could have guessed at least one of them. It was nice talking to you, Miss Warntz. Keep doing you with your art and we will stick around to listen to it.
— Enjoyed out meeting, Lana! Looking forward to our winter Perfect Holiday (if you know what I mean).
And long were the hours we spent talking about things we both love and drinking delicious tea in a cosy café. So long that daylight faded into the night and the city’s fresh air soaked us in. Till the next time we talk, Valerie Warntz.
P.S. She did change her cup when she finished her first one. A very lovely human being you are.