Tilly Valentine is an undiscovered gem. Her quirky, credible pop is bang on trend but also harks back to Sophie-Ellis Bextor and Lily Allen territory. Classy stuff.
Her debut single “Coins” is released today (Friday 27th July) and is a very different, mesmerising affair – which Music Republic Magazine tips for much success in creating a wide spread awareness of this fresh new independent talent. Major label A&R suits take note.
Hailing from Oxfordshire, now based in London, we were given a sneak preview of the 21-year-old’s self-produced music video and the infectious single “Coins” some time ago, and all at Music Republic Magazine HQ were mightily impressed. So much so, we invited Tilly to pen a few words about herself and tell us her own story.
Once we read that, we were smitten even more and wanted a bit more of her time to complete one of our “Undiscovered Zone” artist Q&As.
So first, Tilly’s little summary about herself, and then a more in-depth insight into the artist and the person; Ms Tilly Valentine….
“My debut single ‘Coins’ is out now. Here’s a little background to how and why it all happened…I grew up in a small town called Witney in Oxfordshire. From about 12-years-old, my friend and I would attend every open mic’ night we could. I remember gauging a good reaction from the crowds. We’d always receive big grins and a loud applause.
Looking back, it was probably due to the fact we were completely oblivious to the raunchy and inappropriate pop songs we were singing. Someone asked us if we went to The BRIT School. I hadn’t heard of it before (surprising for an aspiring singer, I know), so I looked into it. It sounded incredible, but I had no hopes of actually getting in as the selection process only allowed 5% of students to be from outside the area.
I hadn’t been to London many times before, so surprisingly when I was accepted for an audition, the prospect of fending for myself at 16 (when I couldn’t even boil an egg) seemed fairly unrealistic.
When I was on holiday, I received persistent calls from an unknown number, so I ignored them. My parents thought it would be about PPI. It didn’t even occur to me it might be the BRIT School. Seven missed calls later, I decided to answer and was told I had received a place.
The craziest part is, they said that was the last time they were calling, and if I hadn’t answered I would have lost my place to the next person on the list!
Two weeks later, I was renting a small room in Croydon. I was worried BRIT might be intimidating and competitive, but it was the complete opposite. Everyone was welcoming, supportive and incredibly talented.
It presented so many opportunities for me, including performing in the choir for Sam Smith at Wembley Arena (I was particularly pleased I’d answered the phone for that one!)
I spent most of my spare time writing songs to keep myself entertained, but my guitar skills were somewhat minimalist. As no one else lived nearby, I decided to search for musicians to work with on SoundCloud, and that’s where I came across German producer, Mattis.
Mattis and I started working together by sending each other ideas back and forth on SoundCloud and WhatsApp. He would send me beats, and I’d send back recordings with my vocal and lyric ideas on top.
‘Coins’ was one of the first songs we wrote together, when I was 17. I couldn’t afford a studio set up at the time, so I recorded my vocal on the microphone attached to my Apple earphones. It sat online for a while and I didn’t pay it much notice, until I realised it was starting to get a bit of attention.
The next few years I continued to collaborate with Mattis and other SoundCloud producers from different parts of the world, and also met up with producers from London. I wanted to release ‘Coins’ as my first single; not only because it represents the start of my journey, but I get to explore a topic particularly relevant at this moment in time.
It’s so easy with social media to get caught up with materialism. My mum used to say the phrase, “some people are so poor all they have is money”. Coins is a reminder not to compare yourself or lose sight of the genuinely important things in life, (but told in a slightly playful and ironic way!).
I re-recorded ‘Coins’ in London’s Metropolis Studios, then flew out to Germany for the first time after working together for four years. Mattis and I mixed the track together in his studio and worked on new material. When I got back to England, the song had been mastered at Metropolis and sent out for release!
With absolutely no experience, very little budget and no idea what I was doing, I thought it would be a great idea to direct my own music video. It was filmed two doors down from my family home, and the videographer (and friend), Luca, helped bring my ideas to life.
The video’s concept represents someone being tempted with money and materialism; but shows them staying true to themselves. The combination of poetic and tongue-in-cheek phrases are complimented by minimalist trip hop production”.
The track got its premiere on BBC Radio 1 Extra a few hours before it was officially released. Tilly has had previous support from BBC Introducing. She also performed at the O2 Academy Oxford with BBC Introducing Uprising.
Music Republic Magazine – “UNDISCOVERED ZONE”…………….
Q & A:
- Your name and your age?
Tilly Valentine, 21.
- Where you were born and where you are based now?
I was born in a small town near Oxford, and now I’m based in S.W. London.
- Instruments you play?
The first instrument I learned was the clarinet, which I played throughout my school years. I had lessons in guitar and piano, but was mostly self-taught. More recently had bass lessons with the bassist who played for Whitesnake, Black Sabbath and The Brian May Band! He was very patient with me!
- Age when you started in music and what was your first public performance?
I’d always sung since I was very young. My first public performance was actually on my second birthday and I sang a song about my pinky finger (I think it might be a hit)!
- What song or artist lit the flame inside you to want to be a musician/artist.
I always knew I wanted to be a musician and loved a variety of artists, but I never felt I had that lightbulb moment that everyone speaks about. It wasn’t until I was 15 and heard Lianne La Havas’ ‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’ album, which I think was that moment for me.
- First song you wrote, at what age and what was it called, and what inspired it?
I started writing songs with my best friend when we were really young. I think the first song we wrote was called ‘Gullible’. I remember someone explaining to us what it meant, so we wrote a song about pretending to love someone and calling them gullible when they fell for it (pretty savage for two eight-year olds!)
- How many songs have you written (estimate) since you wrote your first one?Definitely over a hundred, if we’re including the bad ones.
- Do you write alone or with co-writers? If co-writers, who?A mixture. As I mentioned, I started song writing really young with my friend. After that I began writing alone on guitar or piano, and now I mostly work with producers. Four years ago, I started working with a German producer called Mattis that I met over SoundCloud. I recently had the chance to go to Germany to work with him in person for the first time!
- Do you write lyrics and music? Which comes first?
Yeah, it can be different every time, but most often I find the general concept of what the song should be about comes first. Mattis and I have a fairly unconventional way of writing, so we start by sending each other ideas back and forth on SoundCloud or WhatsApp. We record separately; he would send me beats from Germany and I’d send back recordings with my vocal and lyric ideas on top, and then it all comes together.
- Bullet points of your music career/achievements to-date?
* Played the O2 Academy Oxford with BBC Introducing Uprising
* Sang in the backing choir for Sam Smith at Wembley Arena
* Gigs including Sofar Sounds, The Borderline, Notting Hill Arts Club
* Written with a variety of producers including DJ Fresh
*Flew to Germany to work with SoundCloud producer, Mattis
*Recorded and performed at Metropolis Studios
*Released debut single ‘Coins’
- What music has been released so far? And what format and dates?
A few years ago, I uploaded some of my demos to SoundCloud. I couldn’t afford a studio set up at the time, so I recorded my vocal on the microphone attached to my Apple earphones! Since then, my first official release ‘Coins’ has been recorded and mastered at Metropolis Studios.
My debut single ‘Coins’ is out on 27th July – available everywhere (Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, BandCamp etc etc)
- Name your 3 main influences?Tom Misch, early Lily Allen and Lianne La Havas.
- How do you describe your own music style to a stranger who asks: “what kind of music do you play/sing”?
I find it tricky describing my own sound, because a lot of people describe it differently! I’ve been doing jazz since I was 16, but I have now added a lot of electronic elements and gone down a more chilled electronic route. Predominantly my main influence is trip hop, but I’ve also been described as r&b, low fi and neo-soul… so you can be the judge of that!
14. Who are you listening to right now; bands/artists?
I’m very lucky that the majority of my friends are amazing musicians, so I actually mostly listen to their music! But some familiar names I also love are Billie Eilish, Moonchild and Nao.
- What is the most personal song you have written and its background?
It’s called La Luna, which means the moon. I wrote it about feeling so pushed away by someone that you might as well live on another planet. I used to perform it live, but I don’t know if I’ll ever release it.
- Who would be your dream collaboration as a songwriter and as an artist; naming one living and one deceased person to write with, and to record or to perform on stage with?
Tom Misch and Amy Winehouse.
- What do you want your music to say about you?
I want my music to be conversational. I like to touch on real topics but in a playful way, and not take things too seriously.
- Best compliment you have read or heard about you and your music so far?
A sound engineer once said my pitching was so consistent that I was like a robot. Is that a compliment?
- What is the dream for your music?
For people to sing my lyrics back to me at a concert, or to hear my music being played somewhere unexpectedly.
- Who is your biggest fan?
My mum. That’s surely everyone’s answer, right? My Grandma was a close second, but then she came to one of my gigs and played Candy Crush the whole time.
- Do you want to be famous?
Famous is probably not the right word, but I want to be successful in what I do and have my work recognised.
- How many gigs have you done and where (countries or towns and cities if only UK).
I couldn’t tell you an exact number. I played in Oxford a LOT when I was younger, and mostly in London now. Apart from that I’ve played in Guildford, Reading, Liverpool etc.
- Strangest gig you have done?
Probably a pub gig my friend and I did in my local town. There was literally nobody there apart from our parents, and to make it worse; even the sound engineer and the bar staff went outside. A career highlight!
- Best moment in music so far?
I played the O2 Academy in Oxford with BBC Introducing Uprising. With Oxford being my hometown, I’ve seen so many of my favourite bands play there, so getting to do it for myself was a special moment for me. I did my work experience there about six years prior, which made it seem even more surreal.
Probably gonna have to be that pub gig.
A: X Factor?, B: The Voice? C: Britain’s Got Talent? D: Gouge your own eyes out with a rusty pen knife?
Is there an option E?
- Day jobs you have done…………………?
Obviously, I’ve done the standard retail jobs and making coffee etc… and I worked on a building site. I’m quite petite and was one of the few females there, so I did get some strange looks, but it was surprisingly fun!
- Your favourite musician joke (or any joke if not)?
Q: What’s the difference between a musician and a pizza?
A: A pizza can feed a family of four.
- Pet hate?
- Guilty secret?
I want my song to be played on “Made In Chelsea”, like, really badly.
- What two recordings could you not live without if you were stuck on a desert island?
I’d probably choose ‘Something’ by Snarky Puppy featuring Lalah Hathaway. I’m always in the mood for that, even when I’ve overplayed everything else. Plus, it’s seven and a half minutes long, so I feel like it’ll help pass the time. I’d obviously then have to whack out “The Sweet Escape” by Gwen Stefani. Not only is it a great throwback for a hot day, but it would make nine-year-old me very happy.
- If you believed in reincarnation; who or what would you want to come back as?
- Plans for rest of this year and next year?
Lots of writing, recording and gigging! You may spot me on a few feature tracks too…
On 4th September , I’m playing a Sofar Sounds at a secret location in London. More gigs & tickets will be announced later on my website!
- Please provide a personal message to our readers, as to why they should listen to your music and go see you live – in one or two paragraphs. “My debut single ‘Coins’ is OUT NOW with the official music video. ‘Coins’ is a reminder not to compare yourself or lose sight of the genuinely important things in life. I perform live in a three-piece electronic set up, so come along to one of my shows and enjoy some chilled tunes!”
Top (Gold) Photo: Luke Hopkins