Panamá’s own Sofía Valdés just released her highly anticipated EP Ventura earlier this month. At just twenty-years-old, Valdés is solidifying her talents as a songwriter with skill beyond her years, crafting the most eloquent of phrases in both English and Spanish. A collection of songs written throughout her life, Valdés tells EARMILK more about how she learned to write songs and the meaning behind Ventura.
Listening to songwriters like Bonnie Raitt, Laura Marling, and Joy Crookes, Valdés is emerging with an incredible ear and education. The EP opens with “Handful of Water,” a song that moves between English and Spanish. “I remember when I started to write in English,” Valdés recollects. “I thought you just had to be as abstract as possible to write but what was actually happening is that I didn’t speak English well and I didn’t understand what I would listen to. I think that has changed––I can speak English now!”
“I think my boarding school taught me a lot,” Valdés says. She attended both Interlochen and the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, up until the pandemic led her back to Panamá. “It got me into crafting more lyrics and I made amazing friends who are extremely talented. We are able to make each other better and help each other out.”
The voice of Jorge Luis Borges reading his poem “El Mar” opens up the song “Amsterdam.” Valdés was very familiar with the poem growing up, and thought it worked perfectly alongside a story about a friend’s first love. The poem “talks about seeing things for the first time and how you never forget that feeling,” she says.
“Hope to see you around again,” Valdés sings before the voice of Jorge Luis Borges closes the song.
Her great-grandfather was the Cuban musician Miguelito Valdés and her great-grandmother was Silvia De Grasse, a Panamanian singer who performed with Louis Armstrong, but she doesn’t credit them as being her introduction to music. “My love for music happened away from them,” she notes. “I remember when I fell in love with it, from a live video of this girl singing.”
One of the more up-tempo songs on the EP, “Gems” shows Valdés’ versatility––her style lands right between Tomberlin and Claud, with words that sting but melodies you can oftentimes dance to. Ventura closes with a track called “Oceans Away,” a song that merges her honest lyricism with a quicker groove, singing "you'll never know how much you really mean to me" before noting "nothing lasts forever."
When asked how she would describe her sound to someone who has never heard her music, Valdés picks the word “dreamy,” and it’s fitting. Her songs exist in between fantasy and reality, a hopeful romantic with realistic needs and wants. “I still have no idea how to describe my sound,” she says. “I feel like there are two sides of me––the side where I write stories and sad songs and then the one that likes to make pop music.”
Valdés hopes that she will be able to collaborate with Tobias Jesso Jr. in 2021, a year that undoubtedly holds a lot in store for the promising singer-songwriter.