Written by: Frank Iacono
Victoria Watts was born and raised in San Diego, California. Coming from a musical family, Victoria had a love for music right from the very beginning and wasted no time developing her musical passions. She began playing guitar at age twelve and started writing her own music shortly after. Victoria has since played in various venues on guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and vocals both as a solo performer and in bands of varying genres.
Though Victoria is a California girl at heart, her gypsy intuition led her all over the United States and abroad. This range of life experience cultivated her musical ear and artistic nature. For college, she moved to the east coast to attend the Contemporary Music Center in Massachusetts, a by-invitation artist colony, at which she acquired further skills in live performance, studio work, and songwriting.
After a stint in Nashville, Tennessee Victoria is now a full-time musician in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and performs both as a solo artist and as the front woman and multi-instrumentalist for the band Element K. Over the years, Victoria’s experiences have helped her develop a sound that is uniquely her own, blending her rock and pop influences into one cohesive sound. Her passion for singing everything that she wants to say will drive her to write and perform music for as long time.
In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Victoria Watts and asking her a few questions about her musical influences, her time at The Contemporary Music Center, her life as a career musician, her work with the cover band Element K, and her new CD Late Nights and Weekends.
The Creative Spotlight: At what age did you first realize that you wanted to be a musician and who would you say inspired you?
Victoria Watts: Music was always around while I was growing up. My dad was a professional drummer back in the 70s and my mom and sisters are all very talented as well. Music was just a part of me from the start and felt very natural and intuitive. That environment is a big part of what inspired me to develop my skills. It wasn’t until I was around 14 that I realized it was in me to do music as my craft and profession. I went to a concert to see a band I was into at the time, and there was this female singer/songwriter who opened for them that I had never heard of. Her name was Kendall Payne, and she changed my life. With just her voice and an acoustic guitar, she stole the show and silenced this crowd of people who didn’t even come to see her. I honestly couldn’t tell you much about the band I originally had gone to see, because I didn’t even stick around to watch much of their set. After Kendall Payne was done, I immediately went to the merch table where she was selling her CDs so I could talk with her. I’ve been a big fan of her ever since, and she inspired me to be a woman who can make an impact with just a song and my guitar.
TCS: For readers of The Creative Spotlight, who have never heard of you or your music, can you please describe for us your musical genre?
VW: Labels are so hard these days because there’s such a wide spectrum out there, but I’d say the easiest way to describe what I do is indie pop/rock.
TCS: What famous musical artists and/or bands were among your early influences and how do you think they shaped your music style and song writing?
VW: As mentioned before, Kendall Payne was influential because she was the first person who showed me the power of a woman with a guitar. I also really respect Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley for being so successful as a musician, songwriter, and front woman in an otherwise male-dominated genre. I work mostly with men so I sometimes feel like I have to work so much harder to push beyond female stereotypes. Jenny Lewis has been able to do that in her own way. I admire that so much! One of my favorite songwriters is Sara Bareilles. She has a sort of “F— you” attitude to people who try to tear others down and her music so beautifully expresses the human experience. Anything from longing to heartbreak, or sexism to the cutthroat nature of the music business, her lyrics are on point and her music never ceases to amaze me. From a vocal standpoint, I love Brandi Carlile. I love that she is so versatile and expressive with her voice. She can go from a whisper in one section to an outright scream in another. I absorb a lot of great ideas from her singing.
TCS: In what ways have the places where you have lived affected your musical tastes and the music in which you create?
VW: This is a LONG story! Haha… Here’s my best attempt at explaining my gypsy nature: I was born and raised in California and even started college out there. But I eventually moved to the east coast to attend The Contemporary Music Center, which was in Massachusetts at the time. After completing that program, I toured with a band throughout the southwest and realized how much I missed the east coast, so I started applying to east coast universities to see where I could get scholarships. I was a straight A student so I was offered a couple huge academic scholarships, but I chose to make the move to Philly because not only was there a school, Eastern University, that offered me a great scholarship, but a friend of mine lived in the area and had an open room and needed a bass player for his band. It seemed like a no brainer to make the move, so I did! I spent a summer in Nashville too, interning with a songwriter. After I graduated, I stayed in Philly because I started working with a cover band called Element K. Their booking agent discovered me while I was busking in Philly to make some extra cash, so it was just great timing. I’ve been doing music full time out of Philadelphia ever since.
I think each city has its completely unique vibe and personality. San Diego is my heartbeat. Southern California will always be home in my heart, and I’m a very proud Californian. It has been one of the biggest influences in shaping my personality. My time at the CMC in Martha’s Vineyard was amazing but challenging. I only slept a few hours per night that entire semester. I just did music nearly every minute I was awake. It was like music boot camp. It prepared me for the real world of music. Nashville was obviously a great environment for music because basically everyone there is a musician or songwriter of some type. It was a great eye-opening experience to see the sheer volume of talented people out there trying to pursue the same path as me. Philadelphia is a great city! I chose to live here and stay here for a reason. It has a rough-around-the-edges persona but it has a lot of heart! And the creativity level of people living here is off the charts! I thrive off that energy.
TCS: Tell us about how important your time at The Contemporary Music Center (CMC) in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts was for you as a singer, songwriter, and overall performer?
VW: When I moved to Massachusetts for the CMC, I was living on Martha’s Vineyard, a small island off the coast. We lived in an isolated area, and really only interacted with other students in the program, which totaled a mere 35 people. So it was an incredible environment to live, breath, and focus on music. The people became family and the music work became my lifeblood. That was a really pivotal time in my musical development, both because I started to see the realities of being a professional musician, and also because I saw the value in an unconditional support system. That is so absolutely vital to every creative type!
TCS: Tell us how you were discovered by a booking agent while you were playing on South Street in Philadelphia, PA?
VW: I have busked (a.k.a. “playing on the street”) in every place I’ve lived. Nashville was a great place for it because I actually made good money, around $200 for just a couple hours of playing. While finishing college in the Philadelphia area, I would play on South Street to make some extra cash for school. After I graduated, I was looking for jobs, but didn’t find anything right away, so I was still busking to make enough money to get by. It was about two weeks after graduation when a booking agent walked by where I was playing and said I had a good voice and he knew of a band looking for a new singer. He asked if I’d be interested. I was eager to play music and pretty desperate for a job so the timing was great! I auditioned for the band, which turned out to be Element K, and I’ve been working with them ever since. I’ve been with them for about three years now.
TCS: Can you introduce us to the Element K band lineup and tell us about where and what you play during your gigs?
VW: Element K specializes in performing at private parties and corporate functions as well as nightclubs! Element K moves seamlessly between multiple genres and performs party classics, in addition to the hottest new songs while mixing in some cool surprises along the way! We are a band that is as at home in a nightclub as we are at a wedding or private function. We are extremely versatile and adapt well to whatever event we are playing.
On bass, keys, and background vocals, is Christopher Louie. He is one of the best bass players I’ve ever worked with. On guitar and vocals, there’s Kevin Burns. He’s an exceptional guitarist with a killer wit. He’s definitely the one I joke around with the most while we are on the road. I’m happy to report we just added a new drummer, named Demetrius Millner, who has been an incredible addition to our sound. In addition to drums, he has a wonderful voice too! And, then I front/sing, play guitar and bass, with a little keys. It looks like I might start playing some drums in our shows too so stay tuned…
Please keep Element K in mind for your next private party or corporate event. Our professionalism is second to none, and we’ll make sure everyone has a great time! For more information and details on how to book Element K, please visit us at the following:
TCS: Now as a career musician, can you describe for us a day in the life of Victoria Watts?
VW: Since I’m a full time musician right now, I work mostly late nights, so I tend to sleep in till probably around 10am most days (with earlier mornings here and there). I spend a few hours doing administrative work for both my original music and for the cover band I’m in, Element K. Then I usually have a little time to practice whatever material I need to learn, and then I’m usually on the road for a gig. I get home anywhere from 2am-6am from gigs and then wake up and do it again the next day.
TCS: Personally, one of my favorite songs off of your March 2013 EP release entitled Songs for the Sidewalk is the track called “Waiting on the Sun” so can you share with us the meaning behind it as well as the music video?
VW: The title of the EP, Songs for the Sidewalk, is actually an homage to my street playing days. I just figured I’d spent countless hours out on sidewalks, so it deserved some special recognition for keeping me company all of that time.
And “Waiting on the Sun” is actually about something much different than most people expect. I’ve always been a night owl, and I have some insomniac tendencies, so I usually stay awake much later than those around me. This is the best time for me to write because there are no distractions. I remember being up late one night while I was attending The Contemporary Music Center, and I really wanted to write. But since it was late I couldn’t make a lot of noise, so I walked to the school’s laundry room where I’d be away from everything, sat on the dryer, and started writing. The melody for “Waiting on the Sun” was just sort of what came out. The lyrics came pretty quickly because I had recently been reading about King Solomon and had read some of his passages in the Old Testament (I’m such a nerd with reading and LOVE to read about anything and everything). I always thought he was an interesting Biblical figure because he was sort of melancholy (sort of like an artist type haha) and he had a sort of philosophical honesty that had intrigued me. So I based the song off of his musings in the early chapters of Ecclesiastes. He talks about how meaningless life can feel and how we waste time toiling over foolish things. I just thought it was refreshingly honest and felt inspired to write my own version of it. The idea of waiting on the sun isn’t about waiting for the sun to come out and brighten our day, but rather I wrote it as humans feeling like servants to the sun, how days just pass one after the other; therefore, we are all like servers just waiting on the sun hand and foot. It’s a little depressing, but it’s an honest emotion to express and the imagery that Solomon uses was so brilliant! I just couldn’t resist creating something like that.
The video came about because I didn’t have any money, but really wanted to make a video. So I reached out to some local film schools to see if there were any students who would be willing to shoot the video at cost just for the experience and something for their resume and portfolio. I was fortunate to have some interested aspiring film makers form Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA get in touch with me and we just went from there. I think they did a great job filming!
TCS: Which aspects of Songs for the Sidewalk did you find most difficult to put together and which were the least problematic?
VW: The main challenge (and the main ongoing challenge of being a full time musician) is the money. Creating an album at the level I’d like it to be at, is very expensive! Once we were in the studio, everything felt natural and despite the long hours, very little sleep, and staying overnight at the studio (sleeping on the floor of the studio when sleep was necessary), I really had a blast creating the record!
TCS: Can you elaborate on the article you recently wrote entitled “Music As Symbiosis: We Are In This Together” that was published in M Pire Magazine?
VW: This is just another explanation of how important the support of music is, and how as creative types, it is absolutely essential to have people in your life that unconditionally support you and your need to create.
Music is symbiosis, in that people who appreciate art need creative types to create it, and creative types need people to appreciate what they create or they often will not have the outlet the need to create or the support they will inevitably need to push through the adversity that comes with the creative life.
To read the article now, please visit my Blog.
TCS: Back in June of 2013, you were interviewed by Jennifer Logue for Rock On Philly (Season 1: Episode 4) tell us how that came about?
VW: I won one of ROP’s Artist of the Month competitions and later competed for their Artist of the Year. Jennifer Logue and I developed a great working relationship from there and ROP even published one of my articles about the struggles of being a musician. I’ve really appreciated all of the support they’ve given me.
TCS: How thrilling was it to have been selected as the winner of the July 9th edition of Rock On Philly: Bands & Bites On the Plaza and then to be featured as the August 2013 Artist of the Month by the same organization?
VW: It was great! As I’ve stated, I appreciate their support. Not just of me, but of local music in general. It’s great to see talented local artists getting some much deserved attention.
TCS: Tell us about your appearance on the podcast Your Local Note (YLN) and did it generate any exposure for you, your EP, and/or Element K?
VW: The guys over at YLN are wonderful! They’ve been so encouraging to me about my music and I really had a great time hanging with them during the interview.
TCS: Tell us about the background story behind another favorite off of your EP entitled “A Thousand Miles Between”?
VW: This song is about having my heartbroken (real original, I know haha). When I moved to Martha’s Vineyard for the CMC, I left California with a freshly broken heart. Then, a few weeks later, we were instructed to write a song about the island for our next assignment in our songwriting class. I decided to write about the island being my escape and solace from that heartbreak I left behind back home: “I rode east by night, mainland mere hindsight.” And just let out all that hurt through the song so I could let it go: “just need a couple thousand miles between/ new isle please undo my memory/ don’t know if men are islands but it seems/ that surely this woman will have to be… I have to be.” It was a great healing process, and to-date, it is one of my favorite songs that I’ve written.
TCS: Recently you worked with the TV/Film majors at DeSales University in filming a video for “A Thousand Miles Between” so tell us about the creation process and the final product?
VW: I had been in touch with the student production team to brainstorm some ideas for it, and I think we arrived in a good place. The entire team was so kind to my bandmates and I, and so easy to work with. We basically set up and filmed all of the shots with the band in one afternoon. The filming process was so enjoyable because the team was so great! And everyone seems to be happy with final product.
TCS: How do you market your songs, albums, merchandise, and appearances?
VW: I just do it all from my laptop at home during the day, when I’m not on the road for shows. I spend a few hours trying to update, post, etc. It’s exhausting and it’s my least favorite part of what I do, but it’s a necessary evil in the music business today.
To connect with me, please visit the following:
- Victoria Watts Website
- Victoria Watts Blog
- Victoria Watts on Facebook
- Victoria Watts on Twitter
- Victoria Watts on Youtube
- Victoria Watts on ReverbNation
- Victoria Watts on MySpace
- Victoria Watts on iTunes
- Victoria Watts on Amazon
TCS: Describe for us the last time you wrote a song highlighting how it came about and describe how it turned out?
VW: The last song I finished writing and brought to my backing band (which is a separate lineup than Element K) is a song called “Scratch.” We’ve only performed it at two shows, but I’m really liking how it sounds live. It came about because I’ve found that I’m a great friend but not always the best significant other. I’m very independent and focus on music. I don’t ever mean to hurt people but I’ve found that those two qualities working in tandem tend to hurt those who want to be closer to me. “Scratch” is my attempt to explain myself to those I’ve hurt, and it’s a sort of warning to those who may want to become closer to me.
TCS: What’s the most unusual place you’ve played or made a recording as either a solo artist or with Element K? How did the qualities of that place affect the show/recording?
VW: I’ve done some acoustic recordings from a bathroom with great acoustics. They sounded great! I actually really enjoyed that experience. I’ve also played shows a few red neck, sketchy dive bars that brought in a lot of interesting characters. They certainly make for some hilarious stories.
TCS: What does the short-term and long-term future hold for Victoria Watts?
VW: Short-term, hopefully create some more live videos for YouTube. And produce another EP or album within the next 6 months to a year. Long-term, I’m hoping for a record deal and some national/international touring. As I always say, “Chase The Impossible!”
TCS: What do you think the world would be like if music was never invented? And, what do you think you would you be doing instead?
VW: I think the world would be a sad place without music. There would also be a lot of very talented people who would never find their purpose, which is a tragic waste of good potential. I would probably be in grad school, working towards my PhD. I have my bachelor’s degree in history and would love to pursue that further down the road.
Song List on Late Nights and Weekends (2015)
Song List on Songs for the Sidewalk (2013)
About Frank Iacono
Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.
Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.