Artistry: Artist Feature
Brave Soul Artist: Ra-Re Valverde

January 14, 2008 Print version       Other articles by this author

"..Normality don't exist for me...Mostly I live on the other side....Fine with me. I'm cream filled with such complexity. See love in unordinary things... ....I'm right where I am supposed to be... steady and my mind is clear...why can't you understand that I am who i am...won't let you decide for me...

Our premiere Brave Soul Artist for 2008 (and the month of January) is an individual, a woman, a maverick by the name of Ra-Re Valverde who lives her life "OUTSIDE THE BOX".
Growing up, Ra-Re was raised in a household with a strong independent and entrepreneurial spirit, and was encouraged to express herself. Her mother influenced her musical tastes, but the desire to actually explore her vocal talents was inspired by her grandmother, Zelphia Ann, who sang in the church.
Ra-Re attended the LaGuardia School of performing arts during her high school years. From there she would segue to Berklee college of Music in Boston (where she received a Bachelor's in Music Business Management)---a very pivotal point in her life.
During her time at Berklee, she met MCA Records R&B singer-songwriter Rahsaan Patterson, who promised her a background vocal slot in his band when she finished school. RA-RE co-wrote on the title cut from Rahsaan's third album and first independent release, After Hours.

In addition to her work with Rahsaan, she has traveled the world, working and touring with other talented artists such as Jennifer Lopez, Trina Broussard (Ra-Re co-wrote 9 songs on Trina Broussard's 2004 Motown release The Same Girl), Lalah Hathaway, and currently with Jill Scott for her 2008 "the real thing" tour. "Working with Jill has been another turning point in my career," Ra-Re says. "Lalah Hathaway recommended me when Jill was looking for a back-up singer for the 2005 Sugar Water tour featuring Erykah Badu, Queen Latifah and Floetry." The tour was already in progress when Ra-Re came on board---and needless to say, she fit right In.

After having witnessed Ra-Re perform live numerous times, I decided to reach out to her late last year, about being a Brave Soul Artist. I did so not only because I think she has an amazing instrument and skill for writing, but because she clearly personifies what it means to be an artist. Her music, whether written and performed by herself or others leaves a lasting impression on listeners vocally, lyrically and musically. After she received the invitation to be featured on the BSC site, she quickly responded with enthusiasm and interest in all of the work we do with BSC as artists. I'm excited, honored, and proud to present to the BSC family...Ra-Re Valverde. Open your mind, your heart, and most importantly your ears...and ENJOY!...

Can you explain what your name means?

-Ra-Re without the hyphen is RARE (meaning one of a kind, uncommon). Then there's my mother's own definition of Ra-Re meaning Sunrise - Sunset - which was derived from the Egyptian word Ra (Ra - the Egyptian God of the Sun). I later found out, while studying musical theory in high school, that my name also represents the second and third ascending notes of the chromatic scale (Ra, Re, Do) so being involved in music for me is not a coincidence ;)

Never Compromise Your Art- Talk to us about the thinking/motivation behind that statement.
Its a personal high to have the gift of expression, whatever the art, that is yours first! Of course when you share it with the world, the element of interpretation soon follows, but the initial thought is still your own. So many times artist are forced for the sake of "microwaved" success to be someone that they are not and that's not what being an artist is all about, to me. Everyone has something, but not everyone is lucky enough to be able to express it in their daily lives and if you are one of the lucky one's - I think you should do all that you can to protect your artistic vision without compromise.

What was your experience like attending Berklee School of Music in Boston?

Berklee was amazing and it was the shortest 4 years of my life ;)
I was all about the people that I met at Berklee and the level of talent that would later become my example. So many different personalities from different walks of life with this common thread. It's where I first learned to really explore all genres of music and take bits and pieces from everything to make it my own sound. Some of my best professional relationships are with fellow Berklee alums/musicians and I promise no matter where I travel, I always meet or see someone from Berklee and we share those experiences all over again.

Anyone who has seen you (and Trina Broussard) perform live with Rahsaan Patterson can see how well you work together. How did you wind up meeting and eventually working with Rahsaan & Trina

I officially met Rahsaan when I interviewed him for an article in my college newsletter, but had known about him and his music through his cousin who I went to high school with. I had a chance to go and see the show while he was in Boston opening up for Me'Shell Ndegeocello and after the show - he asked me to sing for him on the spot and told me that he would like for me to tour with him when I finished school. Of course I did not know if he was going to stick to his word at the time, and I think I called him before he called me for a friendly reminder and the rest is history. I met Trina at the same time, back in 1998. From the beginning, our chemistry on and off stage was sick, how we compliment and feed off of each other. It has everything to do with our level of friendship and support for each other's artistry. I don't think any one of us are afraid to let go and just be - because we know that one will pick up where the other left off.

You've worked with and written for a number of different artists? Who have you most enjoyed working/performing with and why?

Of course I can't name one. I have been blessed to work with them all for different reasons. Jill's performance game is real serious. She is such a brilliant character of herself when she is on stage, the way she relates to her audience and acts out the emotions in every one of her songs, it's powerful. With artist like Rahsaan Patterson, Lalah Hathaway, and Trina Broussard - performing with them is like singing background and being in the audience at the same time because you can't help but to be in the moment. It's an open platform for creativity and improvisation that is priceless. No show is the same and that is so much fun to be apart of. They have also each given me the opportunity to shine and they each challenge me to be greater at what I do.

As it pertains to making music, do you have a particular aspect of the process that you enjoy more than another? Writing/Arranging, Recording, Performing?

To be perfectly honest it's hard to choose one over the other. I love how each experience for me is bitter-sweet. There is vulnerability in each process that I feed from and fear at the same time. I love the moments when everything just flows and the song writes itself. From the first drum track to the last harmony, It's like a release in one breath. And then there are other times when I just have to pause and put it down because its not fluid and becoming forced. It will wind up being a really good idea with one verse and half a hook that I just can't complete cause the moment is gone. Writers block can be a bitch (lol) but I am learning to respect the moment and take the L sometimes. As far as performing live, I love the fact that those are moments that you can't take back and how the audience gets to see you completely emotionally naked. It's feels good to see how people are watching and listening and relating to you as an artist and as a person going through some of the same things that they might be going through.

Please explain the significance of your debut album's title, "A Beautiful Mess"

"A Beautiful Mess represents life, love and relationship! When you look at the lives of some of the most amazing artists, their journey is sometimes so extreme, and when you hear their music its filled with beauty and at the same time tells the story of all that love and pain. It's those experiences that allow you to create the story. The title tells of my want to be one of those artist who can portray my journey through my music - the good, the bad and all the colors in the middle. The outro to the CD says "Maybe I'm just his Beautiful Mess". GOD is the He that I speak of, and I though my goal in this life is to be pleasing in His eyes - I have accepted with the utmost humor that I will never be perfect..just "A BEAUTIFUL MESS"(lol)

You have a pretty wide range of sounds and genres of music on your album. Can you talk about your musical influences and the way those shaped the kind of music we hear on "A Beautiful Mess"?

My first love is Prince - all day. I love the fact that he is so bad ass and was never afraid to experiment and perfect his craft as well as be so bold to change the industry standards the way he did. I live for tone and melodies that linger when it comes to vocalists and I love to listen to the same record and hear something different each time!!!! I can't name all - but some of the artist that do it for me are Sarah Vaughn, Bobby McFerrin, Stevie, Bjork, Radiohead, Miles, Coltrane, Oleta Adams, and as of late, indie artist Georgia Anne Muldrow...the list goes on, but they all inspire me to discover me!

Our Brave Soul topic for January is 'The Chase-4Money/Power/Respect' (meaning we're examining the idea of competition & the pursuit of money, fame & success). The song "Love Will" on your album touches on some of these things. What are your thoughts on these issues?

"What happens when love don't pay the bills/How will we get by on a feeling/whose gonna understand how hard we try/what happens when love don't pay the rent and all the moneys spent/Who's gonna understand the time/I'm telling you love will."
People laugh when I tell them how that song was conceived. I literally just finished having a heated argument about money issues with the person that I was dating at the time and was so frustrated that I just went into the bathroom and started writing. It's a crazy notion that Love Will pay the bills, and when I perform that song live I always get those looks from people like - yeah right, but for anyone who has been a starving artist loving another starving artist (lol) that notion becomes the reality. The chase can sometimes be mean, especially as an independent when you don't have the support of the majors, but you have to remember that there is always someone listening and relating to your struggle. In faith, all things work themselves out - and Love for what you do is the thing that keeps you motivated.

What are your thoughts on the way that HIV/AIDS has been addressed within the black community in recent years?

Well - personally HIV/AIDS hits very close to home for me. I lost my brother years ago to the disease when HIV/AIDS was still fresh in every one's minds and still very very scary. In the recent years, I still see efforts being made to educate our community, but not enough. I think it goes beyond talking about the prevention methods of HIV/AIDS only we...also have to address the sexual promiscuity that is being portrayed and even encouraged damn near within the media. There used to be a time when artist and media outlets would clearly state or even show the use of condoms in videos, movies etc. as the example of cause and effect. We need to get back to that place where it becomes an open conversation again. We are dealing with a whole new generation that does not realize the severity of this disease because its not a major issue in the forefront of our minds. We all have a responsibility to not ignore the obvious - the obvious being that HIV/AIDS is still very much a major major issue within our community!

Individuality and truth. How important are these things when it comes to your artistry?
At the end of the day - its all you have!!!! Everything that comes from you should be a reflection of who you are and/or are trying to become. Without individuality and truth, you cheat yourself from living out your own unique experiences.

What does Ra-Re have on tap for 2008? What can we expect to see/hear from you in the future?

Right now, I am getting ready to go back out on the road with Jill for the "The Real Thing - 2008 Tour". Both Jill and Bailey's (tour sponsor) have given me the opportunity to promote and perform songs from A Beautiful Mess in a number of cities on this next run, so look out for those updates and details on my myspace page. I will definitely be in a city near you this summer as well - with my live band and I am so excited about that - its going to be next level for sure! In addition, I am preparing to go back in the lab very soon and work on some more material for the next project. Still mapping out the direction etc. so stay tuned!!!!

For more on Ra-Re Valverde, you can find her on myspace by clicking here: Ra-Re on Myspace and A Beautiful Mess is NOW available through several internet outlets such as I-Tunes, CD Baby, and Snocap.