Photo courtesy of Jasmine Valdes
I began my long week by hopping onto a Zoom call with the exquisitely-talented and ever-beautiful Jasmine Valdes, who was wearing a black one-shoulder top, with the layer of a grey sweatshirt that gently lays right off the crook of her shoulders.
In our conversation, we spoke about all the nitty-gritty details of her EP, "aftermath." This emotional project launched on Friday, July 9, 2021 on Spotify, Apple Music, and pretty much every other music streaming platform out there.
But now that the "waiting game" is over, let us catch up with Miami-native, Shifter Fest Vol. I performer and singer-songwriter Jasmine Valdes!
Shifter Mag: It's been a year since you performed for our first-ever volume of Shifter Fest. How have you changed or grown within the last year?
Jasmine Valdes: First of all, I can't believe it's been a year, but I know I've learned to take myself more seriously over the last year. I think when I was doing Shifter Fest, I was planning on releasing these songs anyways, but I was still kind of like, "Oh, I'm just going to play some songs." But over some time and with coaching from my boss who does songwriting-coaching and stuff, she was like, "You're an artist. You need to treat yourself like an artist." So I've been growing into that as I did each and every release. And now with the EP, I'm like, "Okay, well, I guess I'm an artist now." Now I have to treat myself like I would if I was working with another artist, so I think that's a big growing thing.
SM: Not to mention that you just released your first EP, "aftermath." What does this project mean to you?
JV: Oh gosh. It means a lot, honestly. It's more than it just being my first EP or my first release. It's like, really big growth. I mean, it kind of ties into what I was saying before, like taking myself more seriously because for the longest time, I was writing songs with no objective, I was just writing to write, which is not a problem. People do that all the time, but I always felt like I had an identity crisis when I was songwriting. Am I just writing as a hobby? Or because I was studying music business? And I was like, "Do I want to go into the business, or do I want to be creative?" It was just a lot of this or that.
The more I started writing songs that I liked, I knew I wanted to put them into a project. The more I was like, "Oh wow. This is me adulting, like me growing into the position and the career that I want to do." On one end, it was very satisfying because this was actually working, like I'm releasing music. On the other end, I was going through a lot emotionally during that time. This EP revolves around a relationship and the different levels of grieving and growing from that. It was me coming to terms with what it was that I could feel or what it was that I could pick apart. Because it wasn't something that I could blame, it is what it is. So I wrote from that perspective and then that emotionally helped me because I was growing out of that.
SM: How was your writing process, considering the difficulties of having to write from such a vulnerable perspective?
JV: It's so funny when I think about where I was emotionally for each song, because the first song I wrote for the EP was "waiting game" and I wrote it in 2018. I went to New York for this holistic songwriting retreat hosted by my current boss. And when I went to that, it was the first time [my partner and I] had broken up and the first time I've ever been dumped. Like, I had never been in a relationship. And I remember being at the retreat and getting put into a songwriting room with two other girls. I was just like, "I don't know what we're going to write about, but this is what I'm going through. What's everyone else going through?" And then the other two girls just agreed that we should use my break-up as the inspiration behind the song. We worked our way through it and it became the song "waiting game" and it went very well. All of the other writing translates in the same way. "i just miss being in love" was the first time that I actually got down to sit with Giancarlo Alfanno, who is all over this EP. The first time that we wrote, it looked like a therapy session. I was on his couch in the studio, laying down, face up with my hands on my chest and just ranting to him about this relationship. And he was just being very perceptive and actively listening. Then he mentioned how this sounded like a song, so we ended up writing it right there and then that turned into "i just miss being in love." All of the songs are me just getting my feelings into words and turning them into a song. It's literally like therapy.
SM: What was your favorite song to write?
Photo courtesy of Jasmine Valdes
Jasmine Valdes: Oh, my favorite one? "for the better" was the one that was the most painful to write, but it became my favorite. I think "settle down" became my favorite, but "for the better" was really up there. I started writing "for the better" towards the end of the relationship, so I was writing from vulnerability and I to show him that I'm working on myself and that he should be working on himself for the better of this relationship. But I couldn't finish the song; I didn't have the last few words. We were working on our relationship for a couple of days, then me and him finally broke up. And the day that we broke up, I went back into the studio to finish it. We finished it that day and it was done, like signed, sealed, delivered — heartbreak, tears, bullets. But it became my favorite one because it was so honest and so vulnerable.
SM: Was it always your plan to write in a somber way? Did you have intentions of writing in a different connotation?
JV: Everyone that knows me describes my songs as "sad girl vibes" because I love the twang and the vulnerability of it. In my opinion, I think sad songs sound really great; Billie Eilish is a great example of that mellow, sad vibe with the exception of a couple of songs. I was in such a weird, emotional state that this was the only way that makes sense. Like I'm not going to sit there and write a happy song. Like "waiting game" was supposed to sound happier and I think it's the happiest sounding on the EP, but it's still down there. It just came easy to me. It was the most like a ballad and pull-at-the-heartstrings vibe. I just think I got really comfortable in it and I think that I'm way too comfortable in it. I've been trying to write a happier song and it's just not coming, but it'll come at some point, one day. But it didn't originally happen like that. It was just kinda like, "Oh, here's another thing that's going on that still fits a sad vibe." It just felt weird to me to try to be writing a pop hit, but not feeling really popular in the moment.
SM: With that somber vibe and your mention of Billie Eilish, who else do you pull from for inspiration with songwriting and producing?
JV: I was really into FINNEAS' "Break My Heart Again." I think that's what influenced a lot of "i just miss being in love," to be honest with you. I love this band called The Paper Kites; I have them tattooed behind my arm. They're very mellow and descriptive and sad. They're not depressing, but it's something that you can listen to and just melt into a couch, whether you're sad or not, and just feel it. On a weird end, I was so obsessed with Julia Michaels because she's very pop, but her songwriting style writes for everyone. I was really diving deep into some of her songs and liking how she did this or learning from her stylistic choices.
Photo courtesy of Jasmine Valdes
SM: Pulling back a little bit from the EP, you said something earlier about whether or not you wanted to go into the music business or be a creator. What's your journey with that?
JV: That's a great question. I think I'm just playing it by ear. I originally wanted to go to law school and do entertainment law for a while, but I was primarily growing up in the event and festival industry. So I worked in that for a long time, but I don't think that I'm identifying with that culture anymore or that work ethic. I finally put music out and like creating songs, so I think that is the forefront. I think I'm going to keep riding this wave for a bit, but I gave myself a mental deadline of figuring out what I think sticks to me the most and then deciding, but I'm in no rush to figure it out yet.
SM: What do you hope to do next with your musical journey?
JV: I definitely want to do shows. I just want to build a band where we can perform together. If I could take Giancarlo with me everywhere I would, but he's a full-time working man and that's just not realistic. But I do want to do shows really bad. It makes me nervous to think about doing shows, but I know it's a good thing to just do it. And then start crafting another project, hopefully.
SM: What words of wisdom do you have that you'd like to share with our shifters?
JV: Honestly, just do it. If there's one thing that you've been wanting to do for a really long time, especially if you've been waiting for so long to do it, just do it! It's worth the risk and the anxiety that you have in the moment but just get out there. Putting yourself out there is always worth the risk, whether it turns out great or not, you still will learn something from it and it's always going to be great for you in the long run.