Back in April I reviewed Spanish singer/songwriter Virginia Labuat’s English-language debut, Night & Day, and the review couldn’t have been more positive.
Sometimes when I read reviews I’ve written some months later, I’ll find myself thinking that I poured it on a bit too thickly, that I perhaps gave too much praise, thus coming across like a silly fanboy. That is certainly not the case here.
Having listened to Night & Day dozens of times since reviewing it, I almost wish that my review had been more positive. Not that this is really possible, but suffice to say that I completely adore the album and I’m already quite certain that it’ll rank very high on my list of favorite albums of 2013. It’s just one of those instant classic records that has a genuine timeless quality about it. From the swinging sensation “Main Street” to the ‘60’s flavored jazz of “Get The Check,” there’s an air of authenticity throughout the album that always makes it feel as though its songs are actually from the era they’re inspired by. What makes this truly astounding is the fact that the album also sounds contemporary at the same time, calling to mind such brilliant albums as Duffy’s Rockferry, Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black and Adele’s 19. The big difference is that all of those albums are rather heavy-hearted, perhaps lacking in the fun department. Not so with Night & Day. Virginia is clearly a serious singer/songwriter, but many of her songs are light-hearted and even feel whimsical. During “Eighteen,” for example, she sounds like a giddy teenager with butterflies in her stomach as she sings, “I love you more than yesterday, I love you more than I can say.”
The very first time I listened to Night & Day, I found myself curious about Virginia, wondering about her influences, how she approaches songwriting and other such things. I really didn’t think I had a shot at interviewing her, being that she’s one of Spain’s most popular singers, but, much to my surprise, she agreed to do an E-mail interview. And so I am quite happy to bring you the following Q&A with one of the most talented artists I’ve had the pleasure of covering since starting Love is Pop… Enjoy!
Your discography lists three albums, Labuat, Sweet Home and your new album, Night & Day. Have you always been a solo artist — looking at Wikipedia, it seems like the Labuat album was a group project, was that the case? If you were part of a group before, when and why did you decide to become a solo artist?
The rest of the band that formed “Labuat” were the producers and the composer. They were in the shadow of the project. I kept on solo to be honest with the public and mostly with myself. This album was a punctual project that happened to be my first recording. But what I always dreamed of since I was a child was to publish in solitary, with my own stories, my own songs, my own musical world. This is why I decided to go solo. It was either this or nothing. It was inevitable.
Your born name is Virginia Maestro Diaz — when did you decide to use the name Labuat? Is there a story behind it?
Of course, there always is. When the composer of the first album offered me the project, he added the name change too. I thought that though it was risky to change my name, it was probably a good opportunity to start from scratch with a new name, a new project, new intentions, mostly considering that the phase of the Reality show I had just got out of had ended.
Risto (the composer) offered me the name change as a marketing strategy and since I know nothing about publicity, being a friendly voice, I trusted his criteria on everything and decided to go ahead with the decision. “Labuat” was the name of a Barcelona jazz venue where he had listened to this style for the first time.
Virginia is a very common American name, which was especially popular during the ’50’s. How did you come to be named Virginia — were you named after somebody in particular, for example?
Really? It must be fate that my name was popular in the 50’s and that I’m crazy about the aesthetics and the music of that period, don’t you think? I at least find it a strange coincidence.
The truth is that there is not much story that I’m aware of regarding my name. My mother liked it and my father agreed. But there is a little anecdote about me. I was a surprise in my family, the smallest of the three sisters and my conception was a little accident… There is not doubt that they were happy about my existence but I sometimes like to tease with the idea that I’m the artist of the family because I was conceived in a “foolish moment”.
Your new album, Night & Day, is entirely in English. Are you fluent in English?
Not really. I lack practice, I would need to live where you live. I understand it quite well but I need to dedicate time to write and speak in English. All the English I know I learnt in school and some extra lessons. It’s always been helpful to listen to songs in this language and the need to translate them when I was a child. I always enjoyed it more than my own language.
Did you write all of the songs on Night & Day yourself? If not, who did you collaborate with and how did the process go? And do you prefer to write alone or with somebody else?
I collaborated with my good friend Jesús Díaz who supervised the whole process of writing the lyrics. I knew exactly what I wanted to say. He helped me say it as beautifully as possible. He also was a perfect guide for me because he helped me look into my own feelings to be more direct with the public and also taught me to structure the format of the lyrics. He’s been a great master but most of all a great friend whom I like very much.
When you write songs, do you usually start with the music or the lyrics? Also, do you write them using guitar or do you compose them some other way?
I always write songs with my guitar, I’ve been doing it this way since I was 10 years old. I rarely wrote any song with other musicians because for me, writing is more of a personal need, a medium to express how I feel. Normally when I write the song, part of the lyrics arise but what is usually clear is the story I want to tell. Later, when the melodic structure and harmony are defined, I sit with my note-book, a pen and I start writing the complete lyrics. For me, it’s like the second step of writing a song; undoubtedly it’s something that I meditate a lot. Melody is totally irrational, the lyrics go through many filters, I have to think about what part of me I am going to keep for myself and what part I’m going to share with the rest. Sometimes I use the piano, but usually I use my guitar.
While the songs all fit together perfectly, there are a lot of different styles/genres of music on your album. How would you categorize it? Do they put it in the pop section in record stores?
It’s difficult for me to define my style. It’s filled with different influences from ragtime to pop from the Beatles. Defining my style is like trying to define my personality; it’s difficult for me. They are new themes affected by my whole musical world. It’s blues but it’s not, it’s soul, rock and roll, Dixie… it’s all this and at the same time it’s not because it’s mixed in the times we live now and with my new melodies. It’s a reminder of the 40’s and the 50’s and beginning of the 60’s, the most casual and romantic era. It’s Virginia’s sound, it’s only that.
I can’t call it pop because it’s not only that, I’m not good at putting labels, I hate labels, I think things should be free, songs are just songs, music is the same as the energy it transforms in each step of the way and this is why it’s impossible for me to categorize it in one single place.
If you had to do an album that was only just one type of music — be it country or jazz, for example — which genre would you pick?
Very tough choice… em… I suppose jazz because I’ve always had it in mind and because it would suppose a beautiful challenge for me. In the end, this is what we live for, establishing objectives and walking until we get there. Right now, I feel closer to country than jazz but I’d love to pay tribute to great jazz classics from the 50’s, I’ve always wanted to do it. There is so much I want to do before I leave.
You’ve opened for Beyonce, Seal and Jamie Cullum. At this point in your career, are you now able to headline shows yourself or will you continue to open for other artists for now?
Yes of course. These openings were anecdotes. The rest of the time, I’ve never stopped giving concerts either with my band or solo with my Fender guitar. I love to open for artists I admire, but well, I suppose I need to give it a bit more time and circulation. I wouldn’t mind doing it for Madeleine Peiroux, Damian Rice, Melody Gardot…
I know your new album is now available to download from Amazon.com, but I didn’t see it on iTunes. Will it be released on iTunes soon (or did I just miss it)? Also, will you be releasing the album on CD or vinyl here in the States? (I would love to hear it on vinyl.)
This, alas, doesn’t depend on me though I’d love it to be available in all possible formats. As a matter of fact, you can get the Vinyl with the DVD in the store of my website www.virginialabuat.com . You can order it and you’ll receive it home, it’s very easy, you just need to order it online in the official website.
Your manager mentioned that you would like to tour here in the States. When do you hope to do that?
This is something that is not as easy as I’d like but we’re working on it, and I hope to be able to make a trip this year. I’d love to tell you more but I think that I should remain patient for now. Before I go, I should make sure that more people know about me over there and about this wonderful album that changed my life.
I wish you good luck with everything and thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.
Not at all. Thank you for your interest and most of all, for your passion for music and what we do. I hope we can meet someday soon in some concert venue in the country you live in. Hugs and kisses and cheers to your readers. Best of luck!
The following two videos aren’t available here in the U.S. but our readers elsewhere might be able to view them:
Really nice interview of a great artist. Virginia, we are proud of you. You’re big.