"The inspiration behind my album would be my life," says Kiana Valenciano at the launch of her debut LP See Me under Tarsier Records last February 28, 2019. Performing all the tracks from her full-length release in an intimate gathering with her closest friends, colleagues, and family, the 26-year-old singer-songwriter claimed a much more confident version of herself–a full-fledged artist ready to share her craft for anyone who'd like to listen.
After releasing her EP entitled Grey last year and singles such as "Does She Know" and "Misfits," Kiana now offers an album packed with R&B-charged yet playfully eclectic tracks, showing that she has found her niche but lets herself experiment with her various musical influences. From the hint of '80s disco to a tinge of Caribbean flair as homage to her dad's Puerto Rican lineage, Kiana sure has a knack in injecting interesting layers into her sound.
Kiana wrote all the tracks herself, but production-wise, she turned to Moophs, Marcus Davis, and Flipmusic to work on the 10 tracks that eventually made up her debut album. "I was able to work with a bunch of my friends and even family," says Kiana–which made the whole experience even more personal. Featured in the tracks are Curtismith (whom she collaborated with in "Does She Know") for "Keep It Secret," Careless Music's Sofia for "K Bye" and Bret Jackson A.K.A. KINGwAw for "Faded, Love," and her cousins for "Soldier."
Looking back at the time when she was just envisioning the outcome of her one-year labor, Kiana admits that she didn't have anything concrete in mind. "I was just taking it a day at a time," she says. "But I knew for sure that I wanted to be more vulnerable, more open, and not just sing about love and the good side of it."
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Just like any songwriter, Kiana drew from experience when it came to her lyrics. When asked which song was the most challenging to craft, she names the melancholic "Want You" and the anthemic "Soldier," which particularly got her through her lowest point while she was dealing with depression.
"It's a way for me to express myself–especially when I can't say what I want to say to my friends, or there are certain things that I have to keep to myself," says Kiana, on how creating music helped her during those rough times.
But as much as she has achieved her goal of letting her lyrics be an intimate reflection of her life, songwriting didn't always come easy to Kiana. She feels that her growth as an artist came through in her confidence in writing her own music. "When I released my first few songs like "Does She Know" and "Circles," I wasn't confident to write whole songs yet," she admits. "A lot of people don't know, but Moira Dela Torre actually helped me write 'Does She Know,' and my dad co-wrote 'Circles.'"
Now, Kiana has become her own artist, with a loop-worthy, feast-to-the-senses collection of her best musical works yet. If you haven't given See Me a spin yet, then you're wildly missing out on the freshest contemporary piece out there. We suggest you get on it, stat.
Check out the tracks in Kiana’s “See Me” album, available in digital music platforms. For updates and the freshest releases, follow @tarsierrecords on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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Photos courtesy of Tarsier Records, shot by Chealsy Dale