With the Lava/Atlantic release of her debut album, Angela Via, the eighteen-year-old singer and budding songwriter is in the midst of a dynamic musical awakening. From the first moments of the debut single and album-opening “Picture Perfect” (and its “Retrato Perfecto” Spanish language companion cut), Angela makes a powerful pop statement with a blend of Latin-inspired rhythms and high-flying melodies.
How are you?
I’m good. And you?
Are you nervous about the upcoming Nickelodeon tour?
Well, not too bad because I’ve been doing a few radio shows, and I just did one in front of sixteen thousand and I was like ‘Oh my God.’ So that was my first real overwhelming one. It is one of those things where the more I do it, the less nervous I get.
I know that you are not only a singer, but also a songwriter. Were your parents musicians?
My dad was a singer and has always been musical. He is in the advertising business and what he used to do was record jiggles and do commercials on tv. So I remember my brother and I would be watching tv, and my dad would come on for Performance Nissan. And one time he used my little brother in one of those Power Wheels and my brother had to say, ‘You’d better hurry up. They are selling fast.’ (laughs)
How did you start singing and go from singing other artists’ songs to singing your own?
It was a natural thing. I guess when I was really small I used to walk around making up songs. I’d be like (Angela begins to sing), ‘I went to the school and found my friend/ found a dog la la la.’ I just made up funny stuff. I had a lot of uncles and aunts in Texas and they’d ask me to sing a song about something. One uncle I had worked on telephone wires so I’d be like (Angela begins to sing), ‘Do you know the telephone man/ the telephone man/ the telephone man.’ (laughs) Then as I got older and we started moving around a lot, I got shy and I started singing in my room. The first person that I started singing to was Gloria Estefan. What I did before that was I went up to my dad and I asked him how I could be a better singer and he told me to ‘Listen to your favorite singers and try to sing just like them.’ I guess he was right because that was what I did and I memorized all of Gloria Estefan’s songs and would sing to them every day. And then more artists came along, like big-belting artists like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, and Toni Braxton. Really, that is how my voice developed. Also, I would sing to gospel. I still do. That is my big passion. I’m a spiritual person and it really gets my voice open and I get more inspired.
How did you get into writing?
I’ve always been an artistic person with music and artworks. In English, I used to like making up stories. Really my dad has always had a piano, and I started getting on the piano and playing songs by ear, and then I started playing and would be like, ‘Wow, here is something new.’ The melodies would just come to me and I’d just start writing songs, and then I started writing real songs. I learned how to structure them and long after, once I met people in the business, I met a publisher from Sony and he asked me if I wrote anything. I told him yes and he started to give me music tracks to write to. I’d get them when I lived in Portland. I would sit down and do my homework or whatever
your regular life.
Yeah, (laughs) I know. I’d always want to put off my homework, but then I’d write to the music tracks and that is where “Picture Perfect” came from. I was really stumped. I had brain block for weeks and weeks and I went into my drawer where I had a bunch of scraps and found the chorus to “Picture Perfect”.
Do you remember songs that you come up with or do you have to record them right away?
It’s hard to say. Usually I’ll forget it so I want to get it down somehow. If it is really catchy then I won’t forget it. I have a little cassette recorder, little one, I take around with me and sometimes I get ideas on the airplane or in the car, and in case I forget that I have my cell phone so I can sing it into my answering machine.
You hooked with a guy at Sony, but signed with Atlantic. How did that happen?
It was almost like I couldn’t get away from it. It was from meeting people randomly. It was so meant to happen. I met three or four people in the business by coincidence. So many people are just trying to find someone that is in there, so I’ve been lucky.
The first guy I met was a guy from Nashville and he was a writer. He’s written some big hits. We met him through a friend of the family. I actually had done a few demos singing like a Mariah Carey and Selena song. He heard my demo and flew me to Nashville to meet some people there. It was the country thing and that was the first big opportunity that I had. I had a lot of pressure to go with it, especially from my dad because all his life he wanted to be a singer and never once met someone in the business. So he was like, ‘This is a big opportunity so don’t blow it off because you’ll never have this chance again.’ You know, that kind of thing. I could have recorded a country album, but it just wasn’t me. I didn’t want to come out as something I wasn’t.
And even though Shania Twain has somewhat crossed over, she is still looked at as a country artist.
Exactly. But I thought it might have worked was because of Shania Twain. She tries to say she is pop, but everyone still thinks of her as country.
You’ve got some good luck.
I know. And the mall thing was something my mom heard on the radio, which was a local pop station, so my mom convinced me to do it and I sang a Mariah Carey song. I didn’t know what the prize was when you won, but it ended up being a trip to Planet Hollywood in Hollywood to sing there. So it turned to a family vacation, like we went to Disney Land. So I sang at Planet Hollywood and the guy who I sang my demos at, the one who owned the studio, was in town, and we hooked up and he introduced us to this guy’s house. He was doing remixes for Cher and stuff and I never saw a house like this before. He just had tons of amazing equipment and everything. After meeting all these guys, my dad was like we’ve got to figure something out. We had to figure out the right way to do this. And everyone wanted to go into these certain types of contracts and we were like ‘Uh oh.’ But the remix guy mentioned an attorney and we called him. He managed Gloria Estefan, Jennifer Lopez, and the Tupac estate. He was a big time guy and here we are with only a few demos, so my dad went and played him the demos and from there we got a deal going. He is the guy who introduced me to Jim Beliantodo. I wrote two complete songs and recorded them on my dad’s little four track machine. We sent the demos to him and he liked it, so I kept doing it and that is when I got “Picture Perfect” in. (she begins to sing the melody to “Picture Perfect”)
The funny thing about you singing it really raw into a four track, I know, is actually better. I know from knowing people in the industry that they don’t really want demos that are all pristine and perfect because they can’t gauge how good you really are because it’s so easy nowadays to make people sound better than they really are.
I know. I had no choice. It was really hard for my dad to punch me in (studio lingo for adding the vocals to the track), so I had to do it maybe three or more times. I wanted it to be as perfect as possible. I could only do a few background harmonies.
(Angela’s tour manager lets us know that she only has a few minutes left)
Well, I guess we’d better wrap it up. When you think about your future, what is it you dream to achieve?
Really I just want to be wherever God wants me to be. That is my main goal because he is my number one inspiration. If it is meant for me to have a lot of success, then that is great because that is what I’m working for. I love music and it’s such a big part of me. I always want to make music and make people smile, and for people to say my song is their song makes me feel great.
+ charlie craine