Today’s spotlight shines on San Francisco Bay Area native Elena Ovalle. Ovalle started singing publicly and writing songs at the age of twelve and pulls from personal experiences to write her music. Her music can be described as Pop and Soul, bluesy and catchy.
After singing through high school and college in choirs and talent shows, Elena move to Los Angeles and began to perform her original music in 2008. Her first single “Butterfly” was released in 2009 on a compilation album “Collect Effect: Hottest New Artists” which was distributed through Lyon Echo Records. Ovalle returned to San Francisco where she collaborated with beat boxer Constantine Abramson from Disney’s “Choo Choo Soul” and performed live around the bay area.
Her new single “Shoot Me Down” a pop song with blues influences and will be available on iTunes December 9th. The single was inspired by Florence + the Machine’s “Shake it Off” and Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang”. The chorus in “Shoot Me Down” was inspired from hearing Welch singing triplets. Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” and “Dirty Diana” also influenced Ovalle’s writing process.
Michael always had songs where women were seducing the man. They were the evil temptress. I wanted to write a song to reverse the script about how men can seduce women and how women fall for them.” – Elena Ovalle
Uncanny Pop: How did you get into music?
Elena Ovalle: I started playing music in 4th grade in band class. I started out playing tenor saxophone and played throughout middle school. I started singing publicly at 12 years old at school talent shows and caught the stage bug. I’m slightly introverted, but I love being onstage. I learned a bit of piano and minored in Music in college at San Francisco State University and learned guitar after college.
UP: What inspires you to create music?
EO: I have a fascination with words. I originally thought I would be an author, I wrote 80 page stories in 5th grade and thought I would be the next R.L Stine writing scary teen novels. I also wrote poetry before writing lyrics. I got into music as a teenager and after my mother’s death in my freshman year of high school (she passed away of cancer), I used music to help with my emotions. When I didn’t have anyone to talk to, music would be there. I decided to dedicate my life to music and knew how short life was and wanted to pursue my dreams. I wanted to write music to help others as others wrote music to help me. My writing of stories and poetry as a kid morphed into writing lyrics. Instead of writing a story where you capture every moment and texture, I shorten that moment into the most compact words to still convey the same emotion, but through lyrics of a song.
UP: What inspires you to write and when did you begin writing?
EO: I began writing lyrics in middle school. I use personal experiences for my lyrics. Traditionally, I write better lyrics when I’m upset and I’ve experienced a lot of heartbreak and grief in my life. I have a well of emotions to pull from to write lyrics. But out of the negative emotions, lately I’ve been focusing on the positive and writing music that brings a more inspirational feel. Like, being stuck in a well and getting the motivation to climb out and move on with life.
UP: What genres of music are you most influenced by?
EO: Pop is my favorite genre. I was inspired by Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Madonna and Mariah Carey as I was growing up. I love to dance and Pop music to me, is the best music to dance to. I also love Trance/House and R&B. I like the rhythm of R&B and the ethereal quality of Trance which I try to bring into my music.
UP: What inspired “Shoot Me Down” and what was the creative process?
EO: I was actually having an interesting night. I was alone in my room, kind of upset about a guy that disappeared on me. I was watching Florence + the Machine music videos and heard a triplet she was singing in “Shake it Off”. It’s very slight, and I think only singers would really hone into what she was doing, but that gave me an idea for my chorus “Down” where I sing triplets. But that night alone isn’t just a eureka moment. True songwriters have music on the brain, it’s like having ideas percolating for a while, waiting for the right moment where all the puzzle pieces come together. For months I was inspired by Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” for the themes of how bad women can seduce a man. I wanted a “bad boy” theme to a song, but just didn’t have the melody or anything yet. I just knew I wanted a song on that theme.
The other part to this puzzle was, what was it that bad boys were doing to me? Writing music, I’ve had advice given to me to actually think of a physical thing to help with lyrics. For example, a butterfly, what does it do? It comes out of a cocoon, it flies, etc. I’m a fan of Kill Bill and the first song in Kill Bill is Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang”, so the phrase shoot me down came together. I had images of bad guys after me. So, everything came together. I wrote the melody in one night and finished the lyrics shortly after. I was told John Lennon would toss out any song he wrote that took him longer than 20 minutes to create. This song was also a quick song to write.
UP: What future goals do you hope to achieve with your music? What type of future projects that would like to do?
EO: I’ve been sidelined for a while with a foot injury, so in the near future I will be back performing in San Francisco. I’m also working with my boyfriend who is a DJ on House and Trance music, singing on his tracks. I’m going to record my next pop single, “Be Here” which has an island flavor to it with a ukele. From there, I will be establishing my record label “Neon Lux Records”, releasing more music and hoping to perform more on the west coast.
UP:What’s the best thing about being a musician and what’s the hardest?
EO: The best thing about being a musician is the feeling you get on stage when you have a great performance. Knowing that you’ve inspired the crowd and they’re having as much fun as you are. Also, going into the recording studio with a great song and watching it develop. Recording “Shoot Me Down” was an awesome experience because one day, I was in my room, upset about a boy, and a while later, I’m in a studio with musicians and back-up singers adding their touches to the song. It was an incredible experience and I think anyone who hears the song can hear the collaborative effort put into this song. Also, the completion you feel when you have music recorded, you have a body of work that will last forever.
The worst, when you have a bad performance, which every artist has, and the self-doubt you deal with. I’ve had days where I asked myself why was I even bothering to do this? Am I good enough? But I would always come back to the love of music, and ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you sing like Mariah Carey or song write like Taylor Swift, it’s what you can bring to the table, and your love of the craft will shine through.
UP: What advice can you give musicians who are just starting out?
EO: Make sure you know music theory, it will help so much in getting the structure of your songs together quickly. Learn to take criticism. You can’t evolve as an artist if you think you’re the best thing since sliced bread. Be humble and when people give you advice or criticism, take it seriously and analyze it. Also, have that one person who you can trust and send your song writing to them for honest feedback. Everyone needs an impartial view on their music, don’t surround yourself with yes men.
UP: What artists are you currently listening to?
EO: I like Gwen Stefani’s new track, Baby Don’t Lie”, just downloaded Calvin Harris feat. Ellie Goulding “Outside” and been listening to Dash Berlin “Here Tonight” and some of Tiesto’s new tracks from “A Town Called Paradise”. Also some La Roux “Let Me Down Gently”.