Valerie Yap is a sister’s close friend who lives in Melbourne, Australia. Born in Singapore but raised in the Philippines, she is currently finishing her psychology degree at Melbourne University.
Val wows her audience with her powerful voice and guitar tunes, and is a big fan of the Aussie music scene. She enjoys Coldplay, White Stripes and Death Cab for Cutie among others.
She is part of the Planetshakers Church family and tells me about her dream to make music that is individual, bold and attractive to all. Her latest song was written on the ukelele for her high school best friend Joshua.
What is your music about?
I write everything from my belief in God to a game of hide-and-seek in the city. When I write, I don’t start off with a theme in mind. I just write whatever words come and make sense of it after I finish. It’s important to truly make the song your own because if you can’t “feel” it, you can’t expect your listeners to.
I want my music to make even the coldest person respond
How do you want people to feel?
I want my music to make people smile – be it in bars, cars, stadiums or living rooms. I want to bring out my listener’s sensitive side and see even the coldest person respond. I’m not talking about “oh baby you broke my heart and made me cry, so now I just want to die”. I’m talking about beauty in the breakdown.
Screencaps from Val’s video covers (clockwise): Coldplay’s Fix You, Yellow, Green Eyes and If You Rescue Me from the movie Science of Sleep
Why do you enjoy making music?
Well, I enjoy listening to music. Music can move people and take them places they’ve never been and might never go. When I was a younger, 98 Degrees’ I Do would make me imagine a Valentine card from my crush, and Goo Goo Dolls’ Iris made me imagine looking sullenly out a train window thinking of an old boyfriend. There’s something pervasive about music, and to be able to make my own is a privilege. I must say, there’s something special about staying up at 3am, leaning against your bedroom wall with a guitar and picturing the masses that will be listening to you someday.
Tell me about the last song you wrote.
It was for my best friend from high school, Joshua. It’s a very personal song that I wrote spontaneously on the ukulele one night after we had a long conversation over Skype. My intention is to encourage him with it. It’s a song for people who’ve got a lot going for them but still feel empty inside because of a void that needs to be filled. It’s very simple, but it says a lot.
Who influences your music?
For now to say I’ve been “influenced” by a band is too bold, like, “Yeah, nice try but no, you’re nowhere close to sounding like them”. I like Architecture in Helsinki, Death Cab for Cutie, White Stripes and Chan Marshall aka Cat Power. She has a beautiful voice. I saw her perform and wow, it’s hard work to sing like that.
One day I’d like to jump around stages at sold-out shows worldwide in true Chris Martin style
And your obsession with Coldplay?
Now for Coldplay. They were my first favourite band and I still love them. I’ve been to two of their shows and man, despite their stardom they keep it real. Their ability to connect with the fans is crazy. I don’t “feel” any other band as I do Coldplay. One day I’d like to jump around stages at sold-out shows worldwide in true Chris Martin style.
Do you play other instruments?
I’ve made a few songs on the ukulele, the harmonica and a few melodies on the piano, but nothing special. I’m saving up for a synthesizer. Also, I’d like one these big xylophones, except they cost $500.
Photo taken by Val of Chris Martin – Coldplay at the Rod Laver Arena in March this year
How did you discover your talent?
One day, my sister found me practicing on my dad’s guitar and told me that I sucked. I was determined to prove her wrong so I took classes from a church pastor and practiced on my own. It wasn’t until 9th grade when I performed a cover of Wonderwall with my English teacher in front of the entire school that I knew I could do it. And I first discovered I could sing in 5th grade when I hit a high note in Christina Aguilera’s I Turn to You. I was practising for nights in my bedroom, and when I finally reached it I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to become a popstar?” But now I’m not after “pop” stardom – I’ve grown up!
What’s your current fave song?
People are Strange by The Doors has been my favourite for a while. You can’t beat lyrics like “people are strange/when you’re a stranger/faces look ugly/when you’re alone”. It’s so pleasantly unpleasant that I couldn’t resist it.
And the last gig you went to?
It was a local musicians’ line-up gig called Brown Paper Bag in St. Kilda. I really enjoyed seeing The Frowning Clouds and Red Ink. I’m going to see one of my favourite local bands The Vasco Era play next weekend. I can’t wait – they just trash the stage like crazy and abandon themselves in their music. Every gig they put on is like watching good musicians jamming in their living room.
I want to carry a bold individuality in my music that comes with recognising my identity in Christ
Could this be your career?
Right now I want to finish my Psychology degree and do a postgraduate. But unless I drop everything to pursue music, I don’t know how this could be my career yet. All I know is my life wouldn’t be complete if I don’t take music further because I believe it’s God’s dream for me. He will open the right door at the right time.
Without God in the equation, I will compromise, crash and burn.
Val performs Brooke Fraser’s Shadowfeet at a Planetshakers Church event in 2007 – “The song was well received, and people said they felt God’s presence in the room.”
What’s your dream?
I see myself entering the music industry, carrying a new brand of individuality that isn’t hedonistic but based on boldness that comes with recognising my identity in Christ. I see myself playing music that is not exclusive to Christians but attractive and “real” to everyone. I see lives changed knowing they are loved, made for great things and that they were never meant to walk alone. I see crazy album sales and lots of money coming in for missions and social work. Through it all, I see myself overcoming challenges and reaching new levels of intimacy with God.
Wow, that’s amazing.
Yea, it’s all about serving God with what he has given you and having fun while it’s happening. Without God in the equation, I will compromise, crash and burn.