She doesn’t want to smile like a “silly goose” just to get a good deal. 17-year-old singer and songwriter Valerie Vachlerová presents her song “Stupid Doll”, accompanied by a music video full of daring dresses and confident gestures in the midst of the artificial world. Valerie would like to aim at this world because of her love for music. And she has bold plans – to win the sympathies of listeners and to make a place for herself in showbiz…
How did you come to singing and songwriting?
I’ve been doing dance since childhood and music is a part of it. At first I sang just for myself, but then some people told me that I was good at it. So, I began to devote myself to it and I wrote my first song.
You wrote the song when you were 13 and its title is “True Face”. In this song you play the piano and sing. How did all of this come about?
First, my dad offered to have his fellow musicians compose something for me and I was then supposed to sing it. But I knew I didn’t want it that way. I didn’t want to sing about the feelings of someone else and I tried to write a song on my own. Nobody knew about it. Then I went to see my grandpa who had professionally devoted himself to music and who played first violin at the Karlín Theatre. I played him a phone recording of “one of my favourite singers” and asked him what he thought about it. “Good, it sounds interesting”, he answered, and when I told him that I had written it and sang it myself, he thought I was joking.
In “True Face”, you sing about pretence and denying one’s real self. What brought you to this topic?
People around me. Some of my schoolmates, friends. In this case I was inspired by a former girlfriend who began to be rude to me and then to the whole class. I began to think a lot about the fact that people are dissembling.
When you were 13?
Yeah, I already hated it at that time.
Why do you think people are dissembling?
Everyone has a mask that protects him or her against the evil of the surrounding world. I think people wear such a mask because they are very scared. When people take the mask off, they are actually completely different.
It’s been 4 years since “True Face”. Where have you gone since then?
At first, I didn’t have a singing teacher, but that changed with the arrival of Tereza Černochová. In just six months, Tereza brought me a great deal forward. But then she didn’t have time… Apart from singing, I also write the music, on my computer at home. Of course it’s slower than with a teacher. I’ve been self-taught for a long time, but that’s going to change.
Currently, you are promoting the song “Stupid Doll” with a music video. In the video, you change costumes a lot, you sing about acting according to a script so that you rake up the cash. An ironical stance towards showbiz can be felt in the video…
During making of the video for “Stupid Doll” I discovered that we have to pretend a little, because it’s all some kind of a big part. Each character that occurs in the video is specific – I’m there as a female athlete, a Native American woman… But these are always top girls, models that try at any cost to draw attention to themselves at the expense of “natural beauty”. It wasn’t hard to perform them at all (laughter). Showbiz is all around, I see it quite often. The video is supposed to say, look, all of this is not me. That’s why the beginning and the end of the video are framed by nature, from which I come and to which I return. I enter an artificial world, but I don’t want to be there forever.
How did you like making the video?
It wasn’t difficult, because I had already played in a full-length film as a child. But it’s true that film and music videos are two different things. In a music video, you play the part and you have to behave a little bit unnaturally. But I’m definitely not that shy not to play with the camera. However, it’s true that there are a lot of people that you don’t know at all.
Was it fun?
Huge fun. We had a lot of costumes and makeup. And each time it made a completely different character out of me. I always looked at myself in the mirror and said, “Yeah! And now I’m gonna be just like that!” Costumes, makeup, lighting, moves, dance, it all fits together, it’s interconnected, it gives me a specific character coming out of each particular personality.
Did you feel perhaps a kind of power during filming? Did you feel stronger?
I definitely didn’t feel like some shy little girl when I was standing in front of the camera and I was supposed to dance, for example. You feel that if it’s all actually happening, you are capable of something and you can show it. You don’t feel somehow weak in front of the camera. Your ego definitely grows. I remember that I had extravagant costumes, I was standing there and when I heard “action”, my ego definitely grew. At least I had such a feeling.
Who worked on the final version of the song “Stupid Doll”?
I wrote it at the computer and it was finalized by musician and producer Yarda Helešic. I sang it at home, added some basic beats and structure to it on the computer and then went to the studio to see Yarda. We then met again several times, I told him what my vision was, what I would like. I’m not able to compose completely by myself yet.
Where do you get inspiration from? Do you have any favourite performers?
I listen to everything. I don’t have a clean-cut style. I didn’t even, for example, look at tutorials for how to write songs and the like. I simply open a program on the computer and begin to play and find out what would go well. I sit there and try.
I’ve heard your three songs, which are all in English. Why English?
It’s better for me to sing in English, because it’s more melodious compared to Czech. And I also want as many people as possible to understand the texts. Maybe it’s too daring, but it’s tempting to think that it could be also played abroad.
How do you work with English, since it’s not your native language?
I study it at school. I have some private tutors, but of course that’s not enough. When I remember writing “True Face”, for example, it was completely terrible. I worked with Google Translate – I wrote the lyrics down in Czech and then I tried to put it into English. It didn’t make sense at all. The lyrics were then rewritten, my friends from America helped me as well. Now I’m learning English quite intensively, I have special afterschool lessons. Everytime I write something in English, I give it to my friend who comes to teach me at home. With him I discuss what I want to say with the text. He tries to find the most suitable word or phrase so that it corresponds to what I want to say.
Would you not write songs in Czech?
A lot of people say that if I want to reach the Czech market, I should also have songs in Czech. And if I ever want to try my luck abroad, they will definitely ask about the response of Czech audiences to my music. So, I decided to write songs also in Czech in the future. But it will be pretty hard to write something good…
What direction would you like to go in, in terms of music?
I would like the most to do live performances, because I love concerts myself, the atmosphere when energy flows between the singer or band and people. It fills me with life and energy. I would like to experience such a response to my own songs at concerts. Moreover, concerts are also a way to get fans. I could put a video on YouTube and wait for it to get lots of likes, sure, but that’s not exactly what I want. I would rather see that people are interested in my music at concerts.
For that you need to have a sufficient number of songs and a team of musicians…
To perform live, I will definitely need a basic band: a drummer, a guitarist, a pianist, a foundation that I can rely on. In the background, there would be some electronic music. I’m working on new songs. I would like to have at least eight ready and perform them live. That’s the plan. It won’t be easy, because I’m not a well-known performer. I have to find people that I get on with and who get on with me as well and together we will look forward to playing in concert together.
How would you present yourself to listeners?
I don’t like when someone pretends to be someone they are not and probably never will be. But I know, of course, that if I want to break through somehow, I have to enter into the world of media and commercialism. The song “Stupid Doll” is a bit about that, so now I’m contradicting myself a little, because I sing that I don’t want to be that commercial girl, but now I will – if it goes well – enter it myself. Maybe I will be exposed to the temptation to pretend. I would have to decide what I want to look like in front of people. Should I behave so that they like that above all or so that I like it myself? That’s what “Stupid Doll” is about. What I don’t want to be like.
And what do you want to be like?
The way I am. To be perceived as someone who behaves naturally. I don’t want to look like some pretty fancy girl who thinks that the world is waiting only for her and that she sings better than Adele. I would like to be perceived by people as what I’m like in real life. Not cast super smiles at any rate, not upload one sexy photo after another to Instagram. Just draw someone’s attention.
Apart from singing, songwriting and dancing, you’ve also tried your hand at musicals. You participated in a competition for Dance of the Vampires. What was that experience like?
We found out about the competition only after it had ended, but we tried to send them my recording anyway and they liked it. They told me to come to the competition for the lead role. I was totally stunned by that. And because it was a musical that was brought over, the Austrians and the Americans made all the decisions. The conductor liked me, it was recorded and sent abroad. In the end, it didn’t come off. They said I was an interesting type, but I still had a lot to work on. It was a good experience for me to be able to work with people from musicals. Maybe they will get in touch with me someday. [laughs]
Would you go for it?
It would be great fun for me, because it’s a combination of everything that I like – music, singing and acting. But it requires a lot of hard work, a good singing range, a combination of all three skills. But as I was told, in order to be able to perform in musicals, I still need to work on myself.
What are you willing to sacrifice for your music career?
I’m going to turn17, so it’s very hard to tell myself “now you will write songs, so you will give up on this, and you will devote everything to that”. It’s hard for me to immerse myself in it completely and force myself to do something properly. I want to do what other teenagers do, hang out with my friends and have fun. It’s very hard to combine things, also because I collaborate with my dad who is suddenly also like a manager and producer, not only my dad. For example, he tells me to prepare a song by a deadline. Some time goes by and I realize that I haven’t done anything at all. I like it a lot, but it’s hard for me to dedicate myself to it completely at the moment. But at the same time I know that if I want to achieve something and do something at my best, I will have to plunge into it entirely.