Uruguayan jazz vocalist and songwriter Valeria Matzner has a new album recorded in Canada titled Anima. She incorporates exciting Brazilian and electronic music elements. Valeria discusses her work with World Music Central.
What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?
I always start my compositions with a melodic line. In my opinion, a good melodic line makes or breaks a song and if it is strong, it should be able to stand alone. Then comes the rhythmic idea and the harmony. Because of my background, I like rhythms that are syncopated. I also like harmonies that create tension and release and are somehow unpredictable.
Who can you cite as your main musical influences?
Too many artists have inspired me but I would say that my way of singing is definitely inspired by Brazilian singers like Elis Regina, Maria Rita and Joyce, among others. My compositions, however, are inspired by every inspiring musician and music I have ever heard from the Beatles to Piazzolla, from Gotan Project to Ruben Rada from Jorge Drexler to Radiohead from Jazzanova to Mercedes Sosa, Charly Garcia and from Fito Paez to Nirvana. I am a musical sponge, I absorb many styles and then come up with my own thing.
Uruguay has a great tango and candombe tradition, but you seem to be more influenced by Brazilian music. How did you come in contact with Brazilian music?
My mom loves Brazilian music so she would often play it at home. I love the way of singing: effortless, rhythmically challenging and so deceivingly simple. I also love the incredible composer from Brazil like Milton Nascimento, Chico Buarque, Joao Gilberto, Jobim, Lenine, etc, etc.
You sing in various languages but when you sing in Spanish, it feels more natural. Will you continue singing in Spanish?
Absolutely, Spanish is my first language and I will always sing in it. But I also think that singing in different languages allows me the opportunity to communicate with a larger audience.
Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.
I made my first recording when I was 19. I was the singer and composer of a grunge rock band fused with the native sounds of Ecuador and Peru. In 1994 my band was invited to play at the South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, followed by a tour in the US.
Before all that, however, I studied classical guitar and was part of the Uruguayan national choir. Then I moved to Buenos Aires in the mid 1980s where I found myself in the middle of a musical movement that was sweeping the nation and taking over radio stations and venues. When I went back to Uruguay I started my own band and that was it until I moved to Canada.
In Vancouver I studied jazz and electronic music composition and it was there, at music school, that I started realizing the incredibly rich musical background of my native South America. I decided to fully embrace my musical background and a fusion of all my different influences was born.
How are you adapting to life in Canada?
It was very difficult at first. I felt like a “frog from a different pond” (como sapo de otro pozo) but I was slowly able to find my place and to learn to appreciate the Canadian ways of thinking and behaving. Canada is a country of immigrants and Canadians, for the most part, are very open to embracing different cultures. Toronto, specially, is a very multicultural city with people of all religious, cultural and musical backgrounds. I love that.
If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with whom would that be?
Wow, too many to name but off the top of my head I would say Jorge Drexler and Bono for their lyrics and poetic way of looking at life, Milton Nascimento and Peter Gabriel for their musicality, Elis Regina for her phrasing, David Bowie for his edge, Radiohead for their creative force and any new and up and coming musician who I find interesting.
Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?
At the moment I am concentrating on promoting my album, Anima, putting a tour together and writing music for my next album.