BP Valenzuela talks about past selves, loneliness, and queer love

I’ve been wanting to write about you forever,” I tell BP Valenzuela before we sit down for what will be a too-long conversation, as these things often go with the singer-songwriter.

BP and I first met in school in 2013. There was word on campus of a singularly talented freshman who was posting the music she made in her bedroom on SoundCloud. I think I was a little too excited to meet her, but we’ve stayed in touch on and off in the years since, running into each other at gigs or tweeting each other about new music, even working on a couple of music videos together.

Meeting BP again in 2018 feels like meeting a childhood friend when you’ve both grown up. She is less bashful, but the quiet wonder is the same, as are the endearingly meandering sentences scattered with half-laughs. One of the first things I ask her about is childhood, because so much of who we come to be can be tied back to who we were as children. She goes back to being 13 when she started recording songs by herself.

In pouring out her feelings and hammering them into song, BP comes to speak to the secret lives of others.

“If I wanted to learn something, I always got adamant about doing it on my own, even if it really sucked. When I started recording songs, I didn’t wanna spend so much, so I would buy sound cards from CD-R King then I would get adapters from the hardware store and I would rig my own kind of recording apparatus with, like, a really cheap guitar.”

“I was just really adamant about not asking for help, you know? And that really reflects in every aspect of my life. I hate asking for help,” she says.

These days, she is less guarded about her work. Where she once made all of her music in a room by herself, now she’s learned to ask for help, collaborating with more producers like CRWN and Similar Objects to build different sonic textures for her upcoming sophomore album “Crydancer” (due sometime this year).

“I feel like it’s just bottled up so long that now I’m asking for help. Now I’m being vulnerable… and I didn’t realize I would be so surprised and happy with what it gave me. I didn’t realize that it would be so easy.”

“Crydancer” also follows the emotional journey she’s taken over the last two years, from a state of manic creativity to a certain sense of peace. “It reflected how I was at the time, which was, like, disoriented and kind of wasted and either angry or just lashing out at something. And then two years into the future it’s like… I’m not that b*tch anymore!” she says with a laugh.

“I guess writing ‘Crydancer’ and putting it together is like exorcising my past selves and it’s nice. It’s like exfoliating the thick skin of my heart.” As a queer girl in music, she has had to stand firm in an industry where female artists and producers are constantly discredited and doubted. “But then I’m very passionate about the things that I want to put out, the things I want to shine a light on.

Crydancer: BP Valenzuela in 2018 is less bashful, but the quiet wonder is the same.

The bbgirl music video directed by Rome Gomez became something of an unofficial coming out for her. “I mean, I’ve always written about girls but people didn’t really realize it until, like, last year,” she says. “I never had to come out. I just had to pour myself a little bit more into it and to stop being impersonal just because I felt like I was gonna be judged. I had to let go of that fear.”

But she hopes to see more LGBTQ+ artists tell their stories. “I’m telling my story and it’s not necessarily a provocative story,” BP says. “There are more people who I feel would be compelled to do something more, something better than I could, something that’s more revealing, and something that’s more true to experience.”

BP and I come to talking about the fragility in queer love that you don’t always see in heteronormative love songs. There is the way we’ve been taught to keep our love secret; the way it often feels like it is always ending even while you’re still in it; the way it can electrify you until it immolates you.

“People don’t realize how different it is to grow up keeping secrets,” BP says. “It’s truly different to have relationships that are queer. It’s just different especially here in the Philippines where you’re always hiding, always trying to fit a role or something.”

bbgirl: BP is collaborating with more producers like CRWN and Similar Objects to build different sonic textures for her upcoming sophomore album “Crydancer” (due sometime this year).

Music is most powerful when it’s propelled by sincerity. Certainly there is technical mastery at work in BP’s music, but because the heart of it is truth, the words and the sonic landscapes feel both intimate and immense.

There is the wispiness of new desire in Building. There is the kilig that pulses through Second Nature and bbgirl. There’s that invincible feeling in Pretty Car of rushing down a highway with someone you’re in love with. There is the cavernous loneliness of in-between hours in Early/Late and the chlorine-drenched sorrow of Cards.

As hesitant as she is to consider herself a key voice in her generation, she knows that a lot of young LGBTQ+ listeners see themselves in her music. “You can tell that people are grasping straws, looking for some inkling of themselves in these songs. In all forms of media, they always kind of have to warp things to make themselves feel like they fit in it, but then there’s few things that really hold mirror to their lives.”

There, I realize, is something else wondrous about BP’s music — that in pouring out her feelings and hammering them into song, she comes to speak to the secret lives of others; that in healing herself, she provides a salve for someone else.

My too-long conversation with BP ends with her ruminating on legacy. “At some point I know that I’ll just be a footnote for someone else who writes, who converts loneliness into music better, who can produce better,” she says.

I’m quick to disagree. I tell her there are artists whose work meets you exactly when and where you need it — when the music feels like a love letter from a stranger or a sonic laying of hands. I know that her music has been that for many people (God knows it was for me). Those are the songs that stay, I say.

Photos by ANDREA BELDUA
Styled by NEAL P. CORPUS
Hair and make-up by NIX CEBALLOS
Produced by MAINE MANALANSAN and TIN SARTORIO
Sittings by JAM PASCUAL and GABY GLORIA
Special thanks to LUCIANO and LUCILLE SARTORIO
Tags:
#cover #gender #music

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