Victoria Canal: Presence And Thoughtfulness And Joy

emilytreadgold #4, Features

Victoria Canal's haunting melodies and emotional lyrics make the perfect combo, her new song "Chamomile" feels so soothing. Her set at last year's SXSW was one we couldn't get out of her heads so when we saw her on this year's list we were so thrilled to see her again. We talked about the importance of building a community, the new Feist album, and music being a labor of love.

Well, let's just get started with what would you consider-- I'm always kind of interested in the turning point in people's careers where they're like, "I'm going to pursue music full-time."

Victoria: I've known that I wanted to do music ever since I started playing the piano when I was four years old. My grandma was a piano teacher and choir leader at church. Pretty much since the first day that I sat on her lap and watched how she played and started to learn, music has just been the only thing I ever wanted to do. So I always knew that I wanted to do it for a living from the very beginning.

When did you start kind of pursuing that as a career?

Victoria: I guess when I was 13, I started gigging and recording on GarageBand and stuff. And I recorded my first EP when I was 16. So I guess when I was 16 was really when I had gigged for a few years and started to take more interest in what it would be to tour and build an online following and record and things like that, so probably around 16.

What has kind of been the biggest change in the music industry for you like someone that's been doing that this long?

Victoria: I mean, there have been so many changes, namely just how artists and music is discovered. TikTok, obviously, was not a thing. Instagram was hardly a thing. It was like. It was mainly just Spotify playlists, and playlisting would be what gets you discovered, whereas now, I think everybody wants it, but it's a cheaper commodity. It's like going viral among fans on TikTok is the only way. And so everybody's pining for that and then hoping that once you make a song go viral, you can follow it up with other viral things and make a career that way. I think it's always been finicky and kind of luck of the draw. But the thing that excites me about it now is that it seems like it's in the hands of the people more so than ever. And it's kind of democratized music a little bit.

I agree with that. I think it's a little bit more of a level playing field. I think that's such a nice thing about social media. And people think everyone's got some advantages. But I mean, it comes down to good songwriting, I think, too.

Victoria: Well, good songwriting, consistency, and building a good team around you are all things that need to happen, like in cahoots, to make a career happen and to make it last. Honestly, I don't think it's any better or worse than any other industry other than the fact that it's not unionized in any way. So, it's a little bit like the Wild West for musicians and songwriters and producers. There's no standard other than what the big corporate people tell you is the standard. So that's one thing about the industry that hasn't changed: it's exclusive on purpose, and no one's really completely protected. I think that is something that I would look forward to seeing some change in.

I feel like you're such a good songwriter, can you walk me kind of through your process? I feel like it's like so emotive.

Victoria: I keep a journal every day. I'm always jotting notes and ideas, recording voice memos, and just kind of keeping that muscle working. And then every once in a while, when I have the chance, which would maybe be a couple of times a week or a few times a week, I sit down at an instrument and look over the things that I've collected and see if there's anything that I'm trying to synthesize and put into a song. And sometimes I do it with other people, which can be just more fun. Sometimes, I do it alone, which sometimes is more profound. It's nice to have a blend. And currently, I'm finishing my album. All the songs are written for it. It's a process of having the recording do justice to the song. The challenge is always figuring out how to use the production as an elevator rather than a squisher. I don't want to squish the song into less than what it was before.

With this album, how do you know when it's ready or when you're satisfied with it? Are you a perfectionist, or do you just kind of know?

Victoria: I am so deeply a perfectionist. But at the same time, I think I'm realizing that all there is is the process. The outcome I have no control over, but the process is the only thing that I can influence. So, I'd rather do that with presence and thoughtfulness and joy rather than tension and pressure and sort of despair over what might happen to the music. I think I've done it with the last couple of EPs as well. I just kind of do whatever I want and just kind of surrender to people who will resonate with it as they will.

What keeps you motivated to create every day?

Victoria: I don't know. It's just a calling. It's just a sense of purpose. Thank God for music. That's like what gets me out of bed, you know what I mean? It is my reason, and I think everybody needs a reason. Usually, I think it's healthiest to find something you like to do, to be that reason rather than have it be something else, so I'm just lucky that I like it so much.

I feel like a lot of people like the idea of being a musician and not the practice, and I feel like that reflects in their work if it feels like a chore.

Victoria: I think it's like, with the process, I'm trying to find the joy in it because I think you're right. You can read it in the music. You can read the energy of what's been around the music, I think. That said, though, do you ever listen to Feist?

Yeah, I love Feist.

Victoria: I saw her live the other day, and she was incredible. It was one of the best shows I've ever been to. She was doing this new album. She's touring this new album, Multitudes. And I was recording my last EP in the same studio as her a couple of years ago. She was across the hall, and it was my first time meeting her, and she sat at the main big table in the middle of the room of the big, shared space. She had her head in her hands. She was like, "Oh, my God. My album, I just can't figure it out. It's never going to happen. I just don't know if it's any good. I've lost all perspective." And she was freaking out about whether or not her album was any good or if she was going to be able to finish it in time. They were up till 4:00 AM every night trying to finish it, and she had so much tension around it. Then, cut to two years later, I go to see her play the album live, and I've listened to it during the day before going to see it, and it's the perfect record, and the show is just extraordinary. It just goes to show, actually, contrary to my earlier statement, I think maybe the blood, sweat, and tears do actually work and help the music become something amazing. It's all the things at once: trying to feel as much joy through the process and then also recognizing that the suffering and the pain through it is part of the process - it's part of the beauty - because it's part of life. So, as much as life that you can inject into the process, the better the music will be, I think.

I mean, it's one of those things. It's like nothing worth having comes easy. I'm glad you brought it up because now I'm going to go do a deep dive in her album later. We touched on this a little earlier, but do you feel like you have a good strong music community? How important is that to you?

Victoria: Community is everything to me. My friends are my safe haven. I feel like I pretty much only hang out with musicians. This year, I set the intention to hang out with more non-musicians. Actually, specifically more film and TV people, and it's funny, and I have magically been meeting so many. I just found that when I was in school, I was kind of not socially included, and I felt different because of my limb difference. I never really felt like I belonged. Then I started going to music school and met a bunch of musicians. I was like, "This is who I want to hang out with. These are my people."

That was when I was 16, and since then, I've just wanted to be around musicians all the time. It just makes me happy. The only issue is when you get comparative because I find that when you start to get better at something, it's like the more you improve, the more you're desperate to improve to match up to what you think is the standard or what you think is amazing. I have struggled with comparison my whole life, so it's tricky to not let the admiration and connection spill over into envy and comparison because that can really take over. And it's kind of an insidious beast.

I always wonder how people deal with comparison, especially something like music where there are so many musicians. How do you kind of talk yourself down if you start to feel jealous of someone?

Victoria: I think the quickest way to talk oneself down is just to talk to someone else about it. When you connect to a friend who has probably gone through something similar, you realize that it's not a unique feeling. And to me, that's really comforting because I'm like, "Oh, well, okay, this is a little monster that everybody has in their brain." And if I can actually really understand that it's an unreliable narrator because I'm talking to someone else, and they're like, "Fuck, I feel bad about this person." And you're like, "Huh? I would never even think to compare you to. You're doing completely different things." You know what I mean? So I think it's always useful to get perspective.

I love that. I love that. And South by Southwest, we're all excited. And I saw you perform last year at South By. What keeps you coming back to South By?

Victoria: I like South By because I get to see a lot of my friends or people that maybe I haven't met in person who are out there doing the thing and maybe still on the rise. And I just find that there's a lot of undiscovered talent there or bubbling talent. So I just love how many friends I tend to make through South By every time, just going to different gigs. And just as a fan, I love it. And then if I get to stick a couple of gigs in there, too, then that's a bonus. You know what I mean? But yeah, mostly, it's like, again, that sense of community. I feel like a lot of indie artists who are doing exciting things kind of flock to South By.

Keep up with Victoria on Spotify, Instagram, and TikTok.

Be sure to catch her at SXSW this year!

Emily Treadgold

Facebook Facebook