Sacramento native Victoria Monet has been penning songs for artists for quite a few years. She’s worked with chart-toppers such as Ariana Grande, Mary J. Blige, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Chris Brown and more.
Now, Monet is ready to be the star of her own show. Since signing with Atlantic Records, she released her first EP in October and her second EP ‘Nightmares & Lullabies II’ is due out on June 16. Until then, fans can listen to her latest single ‘High Luv.’
HYPEFRESH’s Megan Berberich (@MEGBERB) catches up with Monet in an exclusive interview.
Megan: You just recently came out with a single, ‘High Luv.’ Can you tell me where that inspiration came from?
Victoria: I was in the studio (Tommy Brown’s studio) who is also an executive producer of mine and he has all of these lights and smoke and it was really vibed out. Like literally a smoke machine. He taught me how to record myself a couple of years ago so I’m just in the room by myself coming up with ideas and harmonies and after I’m done they go back and reproduce everything and they make it to what people hear today.
The song is about the feelings you get when you’re in love and it’s about positive energy and just has a great vibe. I just really felt the urge to write that at that moment. It wasn’t until after the production that I felt like it was a special song. I was able to make it special with different flavors and different sounds that the producers added to.
Megan: You started writing poetry when you where younger and that turned into songwriting. Where did your interest for poetry start?
Victoria: When I was really young I didn’t really understand melodies or anything. I actually got into poetry because a cousin of mine was writing poetry and I thought she was so cool. I wanted to be like her. She was more like a sibling to me because I was an only child and I looked up to her. She said ‘we should exchange poetry like once a week,’ so she helped me get into creative writing. Really, when I listened to the radio as a kid I never thought about how it was created, I just thought people just sang it. Like, the artists just kind of write the song themselves and just sang it. I didn’t know there would be a team behind them. Once I did my research and found that stuff out I just wanted to give a shot at actual songwriting.
I remember writing my first song by the lake (in Sacramento) in the middle of this neighborhood and I just parked my car there and that’s my first memory of my first song. So it’s really exciting and it gave me a certain feeling that I wanted to keep doing that.
Megan: So obviously you’ve written a lot of other songs since that point. What’s changed since writing your first song at the lake to writing songs for Kendrick, Kanye, Ariana Grande, etc.?
Victoria: It was a really long process from riding in your own car sharing what you’ve recorded in a local studio with your family to moving to L.A. to a huge city where everyone is a songwriter. The competition is really stiff. It’s not a game. It’s make or break. You can either give up or go back home or you can stay and stick it out and that’s what I decided to do. I teamed up with Tommy Brown who I teamed up with when I was in a girl group with Rodney Jerkins (Dark Child) and we stuck together and kept writing everyday multiple times a day. We started getting recognized by execs at A&R. I started going into the studio with artists and building relationships one at a time. That kind of leads you to who you’re meant to be working with. Your sound leads the way to who is musically similar and to you and who you have chemistry with in the studio. One relationship leads to another. You know it takes a while but it’s totally worth it.
Megan: Do you look at working with other artists as strictly professional or do you find yourself making friends?
Victoria: The majority of the people that I work with are now close friends. It’s not always work when you see them. Sometimes you just go out and hang; sometimes they just come over to just kind of chill.
To be honest, I’ve gotten a lot of offers to work with certain people but I don’t feel like they represent what I represent. Basically, you don’t want to ever force it. The people that I work with--- it never feels like business. It’s always going to be fun it’s never going to be teary-eyed and stressful and over the top.
Megan: Your producer (Tommy Brown) is also your boyfriend of four years. How does that help/hurt/affect your song writing process?
Victoria: I think it helps a lot because we know each other so very well that we don’t screen ourselves in what we think is whack and what we think is cool. You know how you meet someone for the first time and you might not say everything you think? Like with Tommy its like ‘Yo, stop that’s whack.’ But, it’s really funny because sometimes he’ll ask ‘is that about me?” But I never think working together is a bad thing. We’re always brutally honest and I think people can hear the chemistry when we work together.
Megan: You reached out to Rodney Jerkins on MySpace and social media has grown even more since that era. How do you think social media has helped you get your music out there? What advice would you give to young kids who are trying to the same thing that you did not too long ago?
Victoria: Well because labels and artists are so accessible, you can reach people on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and direct message them instantly. I think it’s a strong tool that people coming up now can really use because I know that back in the day it’d be like ‘How can I get in touch with Michael Jackson?” Now, he’d probably have a Twitter and you can tweet him and he might see it if you tweet him a thousand times. I think social media is a really huge advantage to showcase our talent and now that it’s a public forum people can decide if they like you versus execs and I feel like that’s really important. Now I’m starting to look at Instagram pages with peoples’ own websites and it’s peoples own advertisement centers. It’s cool to market yourself straight from your fingertips instead of having to go through a label and be like ‘look it… try to catch me on television.’
Megan: Where does your inspiration come from?
Victoria: Honestly, I think being an only child (it’s probably going to sound crazy but…) I had to entertain myself a lot. Being in a room by myself versus being in a room with a brother or sister I had to stay distracted. I made up fairy tales in my brain and I feel like I still do that today. Some of the songs that I write have nothing to do with reality. It’s a story that I made up. I really hope people don’t know the difference because I want my songwriting to be that strong and to connect with other people’s stories, that could potentially happen to you but sometimes it has nothing to do with me.
The inspiration could stem from a movie plot, it could be something I saw, like a bird chirping a weird melody…maybe I should use that. I can use pretty much anything but the key is to stay creative and not box yourself in with reality.
Megan: You recently released a video to 90s babies and it's had a ton of positive feedback. Explain the concept for the video and why you think it’s so popular?
Victoria: The 90s babies song was written almost a year ago and it came from me going through my DVDs (I have a whole box set of fresh prince). I was thinking these shows are great and thinking about shows like Love and Hip Hop and how these other serious reality shows that we have nowadays but back in the day it was Full House and everything was kosher and funny and really creative.
I just kind of miss those times. I happen to live in an older neighborhood in Grenada Hills and there was a yard sale across the street. They had this Panasonic VHS camera and I was like OMG this is crazy! We could use this to shoot. Tommy being as smart as he is, found a way to transfer VHS to the computer so I could edit my film and turn it in to digital form.
We just decided to go around our neighborhood and shoot different stuff and I got to dress up in 90s clothes from a thrift store that was like full of FUBU. I was like oh my god! They had pagers and they had South Pole. It was so much fun finding everything like Bubble Tape, Ring Pops… and we had a 90s party and filmed portions of the video there. We had done this and a bunch of people there and you know it was just a good time. You know the nostalgia is crazy, the memories it brings back, playing outside with no cell phones. Just chill and fun. I had a great time filming that.
Megan: In previous interviews you’ve said you wanted to make songs that are ‘timeless.’ What does that mean to you?
Victoria: I try not to use slang in my music just because when I listen to older music, I think ‘they would never say that nowadays.’ If the song happens to come back, for example Fetty Wap --- the song is great, it’s funny, it’s fun to sing, but I don’t see my grandchildren listening to it and being like, wow.. That’s amazing.’ I do with the Temptations. It’s making sure it’s more noticeable than a typical three month run before it disappears and you’ll never hear it again. I try to think about that when I write songs for other artists and for myself. It’s easier said than done but that’s always a goal.
Megan: You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that you want to pursue acting? Is that still something you want to do down the line?
Victoria: My grandma and I were also really close and we use to watch old time movies. We use to act like Dorothy Dandridge and I’d make myself cry all dramatically and she’d say… ‘You should be an actress’ and I would tell her ‘I want to be a triple threat. I want to act, dance and sing.’ I haven’t really taken any acting classes yet, but I do want to eventually get there. I don’t want to be missing music opportunities for acting quite yet and vice versa. I just want to get my foot in the door with music and I feel like being a great artist will bring roles like with Aaliyah, Janet, and Beyonce. Everyone has their stuff in music first and then they have acting. It’s definitely a goal of mine.
Megan: Where do you see yourself in the future? What can we expect from you this year or a few years down the line?
Victoria: I can’t wait to go on a world tour. I went to a few spot dates with Ariana and just walking out people were going crazy and crying when they met her. People are so inspired. It’s a room full of people who are really rooting for you and wanting you to win and I really can’t wait to experience that.
I can’t wait for an awesome Grammy performance. I hope to make one of the best Grammy performances and be on the all-time great list. So all of these baby steps are working towards a few of those things.
I also want to be able to give back to children who want to do what I did and teach them about songwriting and music and how to record and the proper way to sing.
So as a kid, if you’re really not a bookworm you have a creative outlet too besides school. You can go after school and pursue the things you’re interested in. I feel like that would help a lot of people.