Singer, songwriter, actor, producer, storyteller, glow-in-the-dark showman… all of these terms and many more describe one of the city’s newest and most exciting talents: Vegas Valentine!
Thotyssey: Vegas! Hello!
Vegas Valentine: Hi Jim! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today.
You had a busy time yesterday, performing in the Playchella festival at Brooklyn’s The Well for basically the entire day: first as part of a musical parody revue, than later you came out and did a solo set. How did it all go?
Playchella was a great experience. I hadn’t done theatre like that in about a decade, but it helped having such a supportive team putting it together. By the time my solo set rolled around, the audience wasn’t as large… but more than made up for it in enthusiasm! It was a long work day, but felt great to express myself in so many ways.
You’re the full performing artist package: you sing, dance, act, serve lewks… do you have a favorite aspect of performing?
Thank you! I’d have to say my two main loves are the storytelling and dance aspects. Dance is what got me into the game and exposed me to more facets of art. And as far as the creative process goes, I love asking myself, “what am I saying here? What’s the story I’m trying to tell? How do we get to point B from point A?”
There are so many different ways to tell stories in the performing arts! But as for your own story: where are you from, and how did you begin as a performer?
I’m originally from St. Louis, Missouri. I remember putting on Queen concerts for my parents in our living room, and I studied musical theatre in school. But my heart has always belonged to rock & roll. So, I didn’t pursue the theatre trajectory once I moved to NY. I was already writing music by then, but when I picked up a guitar is when I really started “making music.”
There’s a lot of things I didn’t love about the Bohemian Rhapsody film, but it did on some level introduce younger queer kids to Queen and the joys of rock music in general.
My parents used to spin their Greatest Hits on road trips, so my family has always loved their catalog. I never knew any different, so it’s usually a surprise to me when someone isn’t as familiar. But I certainly would hope the younger queer generation is able to feel empowered by their story and their music, even if the film didn’t give us a perfect score. Empowering others is one of the true rewards of making music, so I tend to look up to artists that lift their listeners up.
When did you start performing as Vegas Valentine?
I had a weekly brunch gig at Yotel back in 2013, where I usually did pop covers to bookend the main act. It allowed me to try out some performance styles, make mistakes (important), learn from established artists, and sort of find my own voice.
It wasn’t until 2017, however, that I said “enough is enough” and I traded in my full-time job for the “gig economy.” I’ve been working in the studio and performing live a lot more often since then.
You’ve collaborated a bunch of times with another local club musician and recording artist, Jayse Vegas. But in the beginning were you like, “oh shit, our names are similar, people might confuse us?”
Hahaha! It has happened a couple of times! But I was never worried about there not being room for both of us. How we execute our art is so vastly different, and I like Jayse a lot; I’m glad that he and I are able to laugh at that, and collaborate and celebrate each other.
The last time I saw you perform was at The Vault a few weeks ago, for the Madonna Immaculate Collection tribute show.
That was such a fun show! I’m so glad you were there for that. Getting to sub for Dezi 5 as host, and doing four songs really pushed my stamina and work ethic.
It was a really great night of performances all around. You had a lot of amazing glow-in-the-dark gear, most notably that pair of wings. Where do you get that stuff?
A few years before I was performing around New York, I found myself immersed in a huge community of artists that frequent music festivals, Burning Man, local raves… so we used to go all in on costumes. And if you needed something to give your costume an extra pop in a rave scene, the answer was usually: “add lights to it! Make it glow!”
I knew for the song “Lucky Star” I wanted to glow like crazy, and I’d used the wings for a costume in the past; the only new part of that look was the pair of those flashing star shaped glasses, which I picked up at a random party store near their 4th of July gear.
Tell us about recording… what’s the process like for you? And is anything officially “out there” from you yet?
Nothing is out yet. Even the original songs I perform live are still being worked on. But as far as the process goes, my only struggle with it is how long it can take, as both budget and scheduling can pose problems from time to time. Other than that, I very much enjoy the process. It can vary depending on who is co-producing with me, but I love composing and arranging; it’s like a puzzle, but for the ears!
Marcel is such a gem. He’s got such passion and desire to do the best he can, and it’s such a joy to experience. I had him over to record some backup vocals for a performance mix he’s curated, but we didn’t have access to any expensive equipment at the time. I don’t feel like any kind of authority on mixing / mastering yet, so I hesitate to congratulate myself. But it warmed my heart being able to show him some of the tricks I’ve picked up.
And speaking of Thot Mess, I can’t wait to have you as our guest host and performer for our Pride edition this Thursday, June 20th at ReBar! Pittsburgh’s Schwa de Vivre will be coming through to host and turn some numbers as well, and of course Marcel and house DJ Casa de Galindo will be keeping the night fabulous as always.
I’m very excited, and so grateful you’re having me! Rebar is a great venue, and the crowd gives so much positive energy.
The next day (Friday, June 21st) you’ll be at Bar Thalia.
I’m doing a short set for a series called “I AM: Pride.”
And then the following week on Wednesday, June 26th, you’ll be in the West Village.
Yes, that’s right! I’m glad to be so busy this Pride season.
Looking ahead, you’ll be back at the Vault on July 14 for another edition of Dezi’s “Full Length LP” Show, this time celebrating Beyoncé’s B-Day album! Do you know which numbers you’re gonna do yet?
Yes! I usually like to announce my songs with the album artwork, but just this once I’ll tease that Jayse Vegas himself and I will be bringing the Shakira duet “Beautiful Liar” to life!
I’d say everyone should keep their ears ready for some true releases this fall. And just as a general sentiment: love on each other! It’s World Pride! Our community can never practice too much love.
Thank you, Vegas!