Vali on "Ain't No Friend of Mine" And Her Anti-Hate Movement
Vali has a preoccupation with haters that’s entirely understandable: from the eye of the tornado of negativity (in our country’s news cycle, and elsewhere), she’s responding with love. Exhibit A? Her new single, “Ain’t No Friend of Mine”, which is addressing the hate head on, and subsequently dismissing it. Oh, and there’s more where that came from: next up, an entire EP titled after the acronym of her single (ANFOM), the expansion of her movement, and a tour to connect with her fanbase, and, here’s hoping, to showcase her work with the legendary choreographer Laurieann Gibson (yes, the Laurieann Gibson, of Michael Jackson and Beyoncé fame).
In short: Vali’s got a love-centric, contagious perspective that we’ve long been in need of, and one that came not a moment too soon. Peep our full heart-to-heart with the west coast pop darling below, and stay tuned for her Friday playlist, coming later this month.
I’d love to start with your new single, “Ain’t No Friend of Mine”. Can you talk about how that came together, and what inspired you to write the track?
Yeah, well the song was co-written by T-Baby. He’s a producer from Jamaica. We had this idea to write a song about haters and just the life of being hated, especially in our society now. There’s so much hate. And it has nothing to do with just race, but it’s also religion, culture, and it’s just as simple as even your friends being haters. So we wanted to write the song for everyone who wants to go against that system.
Which is super relevant with today’s political situation.
Yeah, exactly, and I mean it can go down to just cyber bullying, there’s so much hate.
Cool, and that’s a part of your debut EP, coming out later this year? Tell us a little about that.
Yeah, it is. We’re still pulling it all together. I believe there will be five songs on it and it’s going to be called ANFOM—the acronym for “Ain’t No Friend of Mine”. It kind of has become more than just that record; it feels more like a movement. I wanted to create a movement with my fans and people who just enjoy the music, to just feel like they’re a part of something—bigger than even just me.
Dope. What has that been like, putting together your first-ever EP?
Well, this EP feels really personal to me because it has to do with bigger messages. Even the songs that have to deal with heartbreak, they’re a lot deeper for me. I have a song called “Limousine”, about wanting to have it all but not wanting to sell your soul, because it’s not as glamorous as it feels. Then there’s this song called “The Motive”, which is about letting go of someone, even though you love them, it’s sometimes the “letting go” part that gets us. So yeah, just bringing those songs together in a whole project to just bring everyone together, because we have so much to say, is what’s important. And I feel like sometimes artists aren’t as willing to collaborate with their fans and make them feel like they’re a part of a movement.
Totally. Would you say you got your start with being on “Dimes” with Wiz Khalifa? Do you think that’s what kicked everything off?
Yeah, definitely. I’ve been working with Wiz for a very long time; even just watching him and seeing how much of a rockstar he was and how he’d work in the studio—it really inspired me, so I finally asked him to get on one of my own records. I had been on a couple of his older records, when I was still figuring it out. Once we did “Dimes” together, it kind of opened the doors for me, even in the studio working with different producers and after that I decided to really hone in on my artist development and figure out what my voice really was saying. That’s when I met with Joe Wilson who’s now my music director and works on my management, and Laurieann Gibson, who I would say really honed in and developed me, and now we work together as management and creative to start this whole movement. But I wouldn’t have worked with her if it hadn’t been for Wiz, so everyone kind of feeds each other.
So Laurieann Gibson is kind of legendary when it comes to choreography. What’s it like working with her?
It’s like being trained to box by Mohammed Ali. She’s a coach, she’s an inspiration, she’s a mentor, she’s an artist. She kind of reaches in, grabs the most insecure parts of you, and lets you see them so that you can work on them. It’s been so inspiring to work with her.
Has music been something you’ve always wanted to do? When did you know it was your passion?
Well, I’m not sure if people know this about me, but my mom is Russian and my dad is black, so that’s pretty different. It absolutely affected my music. Both of them are musicians. My dad was actually a really famous black conductor for classical music, which was very rare when he was young because there are just not many African American conductors in classical music, so I grew up with that power and that energy. And then my mom was also a classical clarinetist, and is also a music teacher, so I grew up with the two of them training me and always making sure that I was surrounded by music. I owe a lot of it to them.
Cool, so it’s basically in your genes to be a great musician.
Yeah, I got the traits really young.
How would you say your sound and your style have evolved from when you just started out to now, when your EP is about to come out?
I think at the start, I’d say I was coming from a place of trying to fit in the mold that was put out in front of me, instead of creating one or wanting more from myself. You know, I was still trying to find my voice. And now I feel like I even approach my sessions differently, when I go in I just write from such a more real place—to try to connect with others more than just myself.
Any dream collaborations or dream projects?
Oh, I’d love to visually work with some major motion picture directors—that’d be so epic, to work with a Quentin Tarantino or Martin Scorsese. And I think musically, I’m a big Bruno Mars fan, because I’m a musician too, so it’d be amazing to get to play with another musician.
What’s next for you in 2017 and long term? What’s the vision?
2017, we’ll be releasing a lot more music, a lot more visuals, and I’ll be doing a lot more shows. I’m really excited about that because I want to get out of LA and start meeting my fans! I want to get out there and start reaching people and changing lives. And I guess it’ll just continue to grow in the next few years, that’s really where I see it going.
Featured image courtesy of Grizz
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