Photo Credit: Zoe Ventre
Valentin Prince is a 17-year old blues/funk/soul musician based in Somerville, MA.
This interview (christened “an interview of interruptions” due to the amount of people stopping by to either congratulate an artist or show off their Halloween costumes) was taken at Labfest (Somerville) in late October 2013.
I hear a lot of blues influences in your music. Would you say that you were particularly influenced by any blues artists?
I did have the classic rock phase like every teenage boy does, but I listen to a lot of jazz.
I listened to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix, of course, but they only go so far and then I got into jazz…Wes Montgomery is one of my favorite guitarists.
Ideally, I’d like to be in a jazz trio later on.
I played a lot of Guitar Hero when I was 8 or 10 years old and this game is like a metronome – you’re playing all the rhythm all the time. It creates a sense of rhythm in your brain and its a very cool thing to be on tempo all the time.
You did a lot of covers – White Stripes, Black Keys – and then all of a sudden you went Eminem on us!
Its kind of a novelty thing and its also me trying to branch out and try new things – I want to be as versatile as I can be, so I said ”I’m gonna learn a rap song, I want to try and do a rap and see if I can do it!”.
Learning it makes you appreciate what rappers do, first of all, and it makes me better at enunciating – giving every syllable its own space, you know?
Every single syllable, every word has its own place in the rhythm and learning a rap song made me better a singer overall, so that’s something that I would recommend to every musician, to try and rap a song.
Its also a crowd-pleaser, an interesting “what is this guy doing?”.
When you think back to your childhood, was there a moment when you looked at a specific artist and said “This is what I want to do, this is exactly who I want to be”?
Honestly, it wasn’t until recently that I started taking music very seriously – I tried a lot of instruments like bass guitar, piano and never really stuck with it.
I don’t really know why I stuck with a guitar, because there’s a very hard learning curve to it.
I never took formal lessons, I never learned to read music, so it was more of an enjoyable experience – instead of playing video games I would go and play the guitar and I think that its extremely important for getting good at music.
You have to really enjoy it every time you do it, but also challenge yourself at the same time – you just build up on what you’ve learned over and over again till you get to the point where you can finally really express yourself with your playing.
I’ve been playing for 10 years and now when I pick up a guitar its a very unique experience, its very artistic, its very emotional too. I can really get out some feelings, things that I fight, its incredible what I feel like I can do sometimes – I’m surprised at myself!
As far as singing – I only started singing two years ago, was always too bashful to sing. That’s a whole another thing which I’m still working on – spending a lot of time doing vocal exercises, a whole another instrument you have to learn, but when you can do the two together, people are gonna really like you.
In terms of career – most musicians don’t make money, so I don’t know if I’ll get there.
I’m 17 right now, so I have a lot of time.
That leads me to another question – what about the future?
You’re very young and you already got quite a vocabulary (White Stripes, Black Keys, Eminem)
My older brother was homeschooled by my father from the first grade onward and I went to public school up until freshman year in high school, but then I
dropped out and became homeschooled. It was a way to educate myself – I’ve always been interested in reading and educating myself, so people my age are
still in high school, they’re going to be graduating a year from now.
Whereas I already had a lot of experiences – I worked in a bookstore for awhile, did a lot of open mics and did some gigs in bars, so I feel that I got a jumpstart. I’m not going to let that go to waste – I know that I’m talented and I have a potential to do something great, though it does take a lot of work to make something happen.
Since I have the time I’m practicing doing vocal exercises, writing songs, getting stuff together, so that we could go somewhere when I find the right people – say, a bass player or a drummer.
I’m not counting on it as a definite source of income – I have other things lined up for that.
Let me ask you – What if in 1o years music won’t bring you any fame or money – will you still be doing it?
Music for me is, primarily, a source of pleasure and a source of expressing myself.
To make it a source of income would be great, but that’s not what its really about – that’s a whole separate thing.
Professional musicians oftentimes sell themselves short – they play songs they might not want to play, they play covers and so on.
I know a guy who plays in a bar for 300 dollars a night, but he has to play pop covers and…
That’s not what you want to do, I assume?
No. However…if I can have multiple things going I would be willing to play what people want to hear if its going to pay for my rent and then I can go and play with my jazz trio or whatever the eff.
That’s just how it is – this business is very difficult to make money at.
A lot of it is not even being talented – its knowing the right people and being persistent, its being in the right place at the right time.
I just want to see where it goes – I have other interests like cycling, riding my bike across the country, but its definitely my passion, so we’ll see what will happen.
I’m hoping that this interview will be very famous.
So do I!