Sitting under a ‘YAS QWEEN!’ sign in Brighton’s legendary Revenge bar, Claudia Valentina was hours away from performing on the GAY TIMES stage at The Great Escape – her first-ever festival as an artist. Since starting out in the West End when she was just 10-years-old, the singer-songwriter has been laying the groundwork for pop perfection for the best part of a decade. “I’ve literally been recording and writing since I was like 10 and before that, my whole childhood had been doing full time theatre,” she said. “I started in Billy Elliot in the West End when I was 9/10-years-old and it’s just always been constantly, I’d say like five years, doing every single audition you can do in America, every single session ever, written a million and five songs, so it has been a long process.”
The London-based artist captivated the audience at the night’s show on 13 May, effortlessly switching from bops to ballads during her 30-minute set. Songs like Seven and the soon to be released Sweat proved to be favourites with the crowd, which packed out the Revenge nightclub. The Great Escape is a three-day music festival that takes place every May, existing to showcase more than 450 up and coming artists from across the world by taking over 35 walk-able venues across Brighton and Hove, with this year’s celebrations having a special focus on LGBTQ+ talent through its partnership with GAY TIMES. Claudia, an ally of the community, said “it feels amazing to be able to use my platform to talk about it and to do a show like this, it’s super exciting.”
The Great Escape is your first festival! How are you feeling about performing?
First festival, I’m loving it. I’m so excited. I was meant to do Reading and Leeds last year, but then I got coronavirus the night before. It’s pretty peak, but we move and we’re here now!
You’re someone who started out in the industry at a really young age, working on the West End from the age of 10. How has the transition from that into a fully fledged musician been for you?
Well, I feel like I’ve been doing the same thing that I’m doing now since I was young and like, only ever wanted to do this since I was a kid and I had never thought about anything else. So yeah, just still at it – but it feels a lot more like things are happening now. So, that’s exciting because most of my life it’s just been like, groundwork. It’s exciting [to be] doing stuff like this.
So has it felt like it’s all moved really quickly at once for you or been a much more gradual process?
Not really, no. I’ve literally been recording and writing since I was like 10 and before that, my whole childhood had been doing full time theatre. I started in Billy Elliot in the West End when I was 9/10-years-old and it’s just always been constantly, I’d say like five years, doing every single audition you can do in America, every single session ever, written a million and five songs, so it has been a long process. So, it doesn’t feel like it’s gone quickly, but I feel like it’s a good thing because, everyone was saying it’s a blessing in disguise that it’s been a long process, and I waited a long, long time to release music and weirdly enough, I decided the week that it was lockdown so that probably wasn’t a good choice! But, I feel like everything happens for a reason, so I’m just trusting the process.
For some musicians, their first song will go viral overnight and they’re thrown into the spotlight. It sounds like you’re quite grateful you’ve had this time to really learn and perfect what you’re doing?
Totally, because for me I’m more interested in having a long career and being an artist that will have a whole world around it, and there’s only like, Rihanna and Rosalía recently that I’ve seen have created a whole brand and whole world around who they are and their personality, their music, their style – the whole thing around it is a massive empire. And there’s so many artists, especially nowadays, music is so transient and here and there. But, I want to have something huge, so I’m not disheartened by not having a quick thing. I want it to be a huge, long thing and however long that takes to get there, it’s a powerful thing.
You also clearly have a really big LGBTQ+ following as the announcement of you performing on the GAY TIMES stage at The Great Escape had a massive reaction. What does it mean to you to be an ally and use your platform to promote this?
100%. I mean, most of my friends are part of that community and, especially being in the arts industry and growing up in theatre, it’s always been all my best friends so it feels amazing to be able to use my platform to talk about it and to do a show like this, it’s super exciting.
What can people expect from you in the next year or two?
In the next year, well, very, very soon there’s another EP coming out. It’s on the way and I’m super excited about it! There’s a song on the EP which feels like the first time I’m showing people what my style is to a T and it’s a beginning of what I want to do. It feels very exciting, there’s lots of stuff planned for this year, lots of exciting things happening – I feel like everyone says that.
Well, it would be bad if you weren’t excited!
Yeah! It would be bad if I wasn’t excited.
What are your three favourite songs that you’ve recorded?
I only have like five released, but Seven is one of the three because it was the first song that I ever released and probably the most honest so far. The next single will be my favourite song I’ve released when that comes out and another one on that EP as well, which I can’t say the name of but it’s slower, it’s more of a ballad in the same world as Seven that’s coming soon that I’m really excited about – that will be another one.
And when you curate your setlists for shows like The Great Escape, how do you decide what you want to perform?
I mean, it’s difficult because I have a lot of music I’ve made over the course of my life that is way more upbeat, and that I will one day release and some of the songs that I’ve released are five-years-old, or a few years old, so it takes a lot of time to get those songs out and I will get to the point where those songs are released and I can perform them. But yeah, I love energy when I perform and I want to make everyone feel good and feel confident and have the best night. So, I think dabbling in a ballad moment is nice because I can sing and it’s my dream to be able to sing in front of people, but yeah, keeping the energy up and keeping everyone in a good mood and dancing – I want to one day do big shows and do dance routines and have a whole movie of it! I’m so inspired by the Fenty fashion show and I want my performances to be just like that.
So who are your icons? You’ve obviously mentioned Rihanna and Rosalia, but is there anyone else that has really inspired you?
I think musically, for me I don’t have any icons where I was like, ‘I want to be just like her!’ because my playlists are like a jumble sale of loads of different types of music. My brother listens to Spanish music, my sister lives in Amsterdam so she loves house music and I fuck with M.I.A. so heavily. Paper Planes was my shit growing up! I was in one of her music videos when I was like 12 and it was like the best day of my life. She was my icon and even now, I use her production all the time for inspiration in sessions because the production is crazy on her tracks like Borders, Paper Planes, it’s amazing – Bird Song!
Paper Planes was literally my song for at least four years.
It still is, it still is! Every time that comes on. Me and my dad used to sing it on the way to school. We had a whole, like, car dance routine to it.