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Valerie Ponzio

Valerie Ponzio

Musician
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Valerie Ponzio

Following her appearance on NBC’s ‘The Voice’, singer Valerie Ponzio has used the experience as the springboard to a career as a professional singer. She is currently touring the USA with her partner Mike Minjarez, making country music that reflects her Latin-American roots and her musically immersed upbringing. The pair take their Aston Origin mic with them wherever they go…

The Voice
Valerie uses:
Origin
Different worlds

Valerie: “I grew up in El Paso Texas, on the US Mexico border, I was influenced by lots of different styles; pop music, Latin music and country music. My family was very musical, and I had performance outlets through church and school, especially talent shows. From a very young age I was always trying to get on a stage and sing and it was a mixture of everything I grew up on, genre-wise. I was fortunate enough to be able to keep pursuing music through high school, my parents were diligent with my guitar studies and I went to Berklee College of Music and studied guitar there. I’ve been very lucky to be in a position where I’m constantly able to write, perform, and study music. I look at old home videos and think ‘I always did music’.

I draw a lot from where I come from - I’m always bringing back a lot of my roots into my music. Sometimes it’s about being Latin, sometimes it’s about being from Texas, it’s about a mixture of different worlds.

As a child I was always trying to find a place to perform, even if it was just in the dining room and forcing everyone to watch me! I once worked as a cruise ship entertainer. Sometimes it feels like I don’t even know when, or how I started; it all just keeps going.”

Do I look like I sound like Johnny Cash?!

“I think that with the evolution of music you have to wear many hats, especially if you’re an independent artist. I’m not a master mixer or engineer, but I definitely know how to do all of it so I can get my music out. I arranged the songs for my Voice performance. I learned a good amount of production and writing at music school.

The blind audition is such an important first step on the Voice – it’s your first impression. I always thought that they did everything for you, but they definitely don’t, which is good, if you hear a different arrangement of songs on the Voice, that’s most likely down to the artist. As amazing as their house band is, they take a step back, they let you have an artistic ‘voice’.

Honestly, it’s the only time that you really have control over the artistic arrangement. They get more control after that. Anyways, they gave me my song, you don’t get to choose. It was ‘Ring of Fire’ by Johnny Cash, and I knew I needed to change the original version of it, It was not going to work with a low, honky tonk kind of version, because I definitely don’t sound like Johnny Cash! I took it to my computer and arranged the version I did on the show.

Now, being in Nashville and just being in country music, I’m learning and doing more co-writing. You can take little moments from your life and expound on them and I think I’ve been doing that - I’m just simplifying, taking a very simple moment growing up in a border town and bringing that to my writing. Mike helps a lot, sometimes I have really involved ideas, but he helps me spread it out a little more so people can really grasp what I’m talking about.”

North, South, East, West.

Mike: “Val had been working as a musician. In LA, you have to hustle to keep the lights on, so there was a lot of driving down to Orange County, and doing that, then she was going on cruise ships to different parts of the world. She was making her own music and releasing it, and we got to the point where we thought ‘why don’t we just do this?’ That’s when we made that crazy decision. Let’s get rid of our rent-controlled apartment, get in the car and go. We were travelling everywhere from Washington D.C. to San Francisco, just getting her music out there. We went North, South, East, West; everywhere. It was during that time that the Voice called. Crazy time, man!

Valerie: “We had recorded an EP, I was proud of that, and we took it out on the road to wherever we could. I did my gigs, but I knew it wasn’t really furthering me as a musician to do cover gigs every weekend (No offence to cover artists!) I have respect for the cover artists but it was nice to have some affirmation and get some recognition from the Voice reaching out after we made that big leap. Honestly, it’s been the best decision. We haven’t had any regrets.

Getting the message through

Mike: “We did a release from our set up at home though, it’s basically Logic Pro X, an Apollo Quad Twin, and the Aston Origin. We have Kontakt and various other plugins to help shape what we’re doing. Now we’re in Nashville, we’ll typically outsource recording to producers and studios and let them handle it, but in order to get it to the studio we have to do some of that magic here, so we have to have the right tools.

It’s been fascinating, the Origin. It’s been really key in getting to the heart of what we need, especially on the song we released last year called ‘My America’. We did that release, and people are always shocked when I tell them we did at home. We put it up against all of other recordings, which were with expensive microphones, and you would never know that we were using a $300, $400 mic. It’s really just amazing what we were able to do at home using just the Origin.  If we had not had that, or if we had a different mic, I just don’t think it would have worked.

Obviously the words are important in every style of music – but for that song they needed to cut through, we needed to hear what she was saying, and I feel like the Origin did a fantastic job of getting the message through.”

Our very first day in Nashville a friend of ours introduced us to this guy Justin Ebach, he was SESAC’s songwriter of the year… I gave him a call, he’s also a producer, I asked if we could do a tune. Val had just gotten off the Voice, we thought, ‘let’s do a song together and release it’, as people do when they get off the show. We get there and he uses a Spirit. We recorded our first single, ‘Love me When You’re Lonely’, with it and it came out incredible. I just happened to walk into that guy’s studio, use the Spirit, and fell in love with the Aston brand.”

Out-takes

Q. Who are your favourite artists?
A.
I'm a big fan of Jason Isbell, Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, Mariah Carey, Johnny Cash just to name a few!

Q. What was the first gig you ever attended?
A. Oh, that's a good question. I think it was the Christian band DC Talk back in the 90's. 

Q. If you weren’t working in music what would you be doing?
A. I think if I wasn't doing music I'd be attempting to run a bakery. Although, I'm definitely not the best Baker but I do enjoy baking as a de-stresser.

Q. What would your fantasy mic be? (i.e. one that doesn’t exist!)
A. Probably the one that Mariah Carey used on "Vision of Love" in the 90's.

Q. What are 4 words that you’d use to describe the Aston brand, or your experience with the brand
A. Awesome, Enhancing, Enriching, Bad-Ass 

What was the first song that made you cry?
I'm not 100% on this one but it could very well have been "Runaway Train" by Soul Asylum.

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