Six years ago, Valley Queen’s front woman Natalie Carol drove to Los Angeles on a whim, looking to expand her musical horizons. After a lonely and frustrating year, she was on the verge of returning home when she happened upon an acoustic jam session where she met guitarist David Donaldson. Carol was immediately reminded of the comfort and friendliness of her Arkansas roots; the perfect environment for musical creation. She could hear traces of her hometown influences in his riffs: Zeppelin, Duane Allman, and Muddy Waters. The two began collaborating, exchanging ideas and drawing in other like-minded musicians. “It gave us all something to rest our heads upon, a musical family that became a home for us all,” says Carol. Today, Valley Queen is a hybrid of southern rock and Motown, with traces of 1970s canyon rock. We had the chance of speaking with Natalie about the group, her artistic inspiration and embracing vulnerability.
Your band is called Valley Queen. What was the inspiration behind that?
Valleys are the lowest points... the dark areas, places filled with shadows, ambiguity and the possibility of defeat. "Queen" to me suggests authority, strength and intelligence. The band name is something I strive for, to find calm, maybe even comfort in the midst of my exploring those more difficult, darker sides of the human experience. Still working on that calm... but music helps. Art helps.
Your songs have a distinct message of embracing vulnerability in both love and life. So many of us play games to win the love of others, but your songs, specifically "Whoever Said" seem to be telling us to go in a different direction. Can you share the importance in following our true nature?
Oh, I hope my songs send the message to embrace vulnerability. I'm glad you hear that.
I've found myself playing games as a protective mechanism to keep my heart safe. I'm scared to get my heart deeply touched because it opens the possibility of the loss of my identity, of some transformation so great I wouldn't be able to bear it. Transformation usually calls for change. Change is painful. This is the tough side of what loving is but the other option is to stay stuck, to not open ourselves up and keep our hearts frozen, isolated. We can't let old wounds or the fear of more wounds keep us from diving in and getting our hands dirty. But we do. A lot. The song was vocalizing the pain of living under the false comfort of those protective walls.
At the time I thought I was writing it about someone else, but I think that song is just as much about me as it was about him. He was reflecting myself back on me.
What drives you to make music? And what do you want others to gain from it?
Well, on the macro level, I long to make a contribution somehow. I keep coming back to the notion that the personal is political. By honestly sharing what it feels like to be me, to be female at this time in our history, is contributing to our social dialogue. We learn, evolve and transform through our story-telling. We shouldn't let anybody tell us this is futile, that it doesn't matter.
On the micro level, I'm drawn to music to find relief. Music is the filter I use to transform my pain, confusion and ugliness.
Your song "Hold On You" speaks to the constant stimulation of this go go go culture that we live in, specifically the land of Los Angeles, where you reside. Can you expand on where you got your inspiration for this song and what it means to you?
"Hold On You" I wrote walking down the street, in the presence of two car horns bickering back and forth at one another. The tones of the two horn honks became like two notes in my mind. Those are the two chords that start off the song. It was a song born from the sounds of the streets of Los Angeles.
In that regard, LA is a hotbed of creativity. The creative pulse of the ocean, the landscape, the progressive mindset, the artistic history, find me and I just ride that euphoric, California wave. In other respects, its stimulation completely kicks my ass, exhausts me, swallows me and makes me hungry for real connection. Sometimes the wheel keeps turning when I want to get off and be still with someone. I was living somewhere between those two extremes in that song.
Last but not least, when do you feel most wild?
To be wild is a state of mind. I am wild when I choose to lean in to this moment, however jerky its rhythm... and dance.