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Vallé: Swinging The Sweet Chariot

Vallé: Swinging The Sweet Chariot

Released in May 2020, Vallé‘s Trip Advisor single about life in the settlements of Papua New Guinea was supported with a music video (directed by Jadon Calvert) that gained the song deserved attention, including as finalist in the Best Pacific Music Video category of the 2021 Pacific Music Awards. A strident love song for the artist’s homeland and people, it cleverly and deceptively raises a plenitude of differing emotions. It’s a hip hop sweet spot that Vallé has returned to mine with new release Swing Low, a spitfire of a track that demands you to take repeated passes in order to catch more of his machine-gunned lyrics. Made with the support of NZ On Air Music.

You wrote your song Trip Advisor partly in Tok Pisen, a pidgin English used in your birth country of Papua New Guinea. How does it compare to English for you?

Tok Pisen has lots of similar words to English, but is delivered very differently. It’s true that different languages have a natural musical aspect to them. 

After the international attention Trip Advisor and Prodigy received, do PNG people know there’s a musician in NZ who is one of theirs?

100%. Trip Advisor was completely responsible for that, it was truly a dream result, as they say. 

Let’s talk about Swing Low! Can you please tell me how you came up with the idea for the song?

As, like, with most of my songs they just come to me – I honestly can’t say I come up with them. Life experiences that I go through place me in a mind state, and then when I hear certain beats, melodies etc I just respond by dumping my thoughts. That’s what happened with Swing Low.

What thematic subjects do you find yourself returning to in songs?

Hmmmm, love, relationships, triumph, truth, redemption, failure, family, pain… life stories. 

For the recording, you worked with both Smoke and Edy! What did they add to your song when you think about the demo you brought in initially?

Smoke (to me anyways) is like hip hop royalty and makes some of the best beats, which was like the perfect skeleton I needed to be inspired to write this competitive anthem. Edy finds beautiful melodic pockets that helped break the song up and give it a more well-rounded arrangement. The chords Edy dropped in on the keys are real yummy RnB flavours that just make you wanna move, and also give your ears a rest from just rapping. He also did all the reference mixing and processing of stems so all the audio was ready for delivery for Jeff Jackson to add his sprinkle of magic on when it came to the mix. 

What’s your own musical skill set, in terms of beat making, instruments etc? 

I play the piano poorly but enough to assist me in writing and pitch. I also use Ableton and record and do an initial EQ on most of my own vocals. I also work a couple of hours casually for a vocal school here in Christchurch, as a recording engineer for developing artists who want to record their first songs. 

And what special skills did Swing Low music video director Connor Pritchard bring to the table?

I always wanted to work with this dude. He’s got a great work ethic and has done so many great videos. I knew I could throw him the song and he would come up with a great concept without me having to worry or touch anything – which is exactly what happened. I just got to show up and perform, it was awesome and removed pressure from me. Shout out, Connor! 

What was his concept for the video? 

Here is a quote from Connor regarding the concept: “This was the first time I’ve worked with Vallé and as soon as I heard the song I knew we had to have fun with it. This video gives off a buzzy and energetic vibe which was what I was going for. It doesn’t necessarily match the lyrics, but I feel it fits the song perfectly regardless. We managed to squeeze in 8 or 9 different scenes within a day’s shoot, it was madness but the team got the job done. Looking forward to work with Vallé more.”

Everything was shot in Auckland, a car park by K’Rd, Mt Wellington and a heritage house (Highwic) close to Newmarket. Fun story, we nearly dropped the camera shooting the dolly scenes where I’m floating above the ground in the car park performing. That was scary! 

What aspect of the music business do you find hardest to get your head around? 

Distribution, publishing, sync, contracts and being broke… I’m still trying to overcome all of those as we speak, haha. 

Who’s on your team these days in terms of management and record label?

My team consists of Winston Adom (manager) who looks after creative and international, Lorraine Barry for NZ and Australia, and Heidi Ettema from Mushroom Group as my publicist. I also have to shout out Marty Jones (Sunday Toast) who has helped me with everything along the way. 

Is there currently any up-and-comer in NZ hip hop that you’d like to have support you as headliner?

I think Aidan Fine is one of, if not the best young rapper in NZ, so Aidan. He’s got swagger, with genius writing abilities and wordplay wrapped in a calm and cool delivery. I also love Rhys Rich – but he’s way too dope to open for me because he might steal the show! But he is another favourite of mine in hip hop, what a show that would be! :O