Angela Via Biography
"What I love the most is coming up with the song," says a beaming Angela Vía. "But more recently, what's really been great is hearing the way people react when they hear the music. I mean, if people find that they can relate to these songs or are just having fun with the album, that's the best."
With the Lava/Atlantic release of her debut album, "ANGELA VÍA," the eighteen-year-old singer and budding songwriter is in the midst of a dynamic musical awakening. From the first moments of the debut single and album-opening "Picture Perfect" (and its "Retrato Perfecto" Spanish language companion cut), Angela makes a powerful pop statement with a blend of Latin-inspired rhythms and high-flying melodies.
"It's something that's in my soul," says Angela, explaining the natural impact of family roots on her music.
The beat goes on with the easy swinging, tango-touched "Kissing You," the flamenco-flavored "So Fly," the sultry "Wake Up With Me," and the ever-funky "I Don't Care." From track to track, Angela steps forward with her expansive range and deft sense of style, poignant vocal character studies, and unrestrained personality.
Joining Angela in the studio on the project was a top crew of creative talents, including Berny Cosgrove and Kevin Clark - the smash songwriting/production team behind Jennifer Paige's smash hit, "Crush" - producer and Babyface protégé Sundafu, and the hit-making writer/producer duo of Steve Kipner and David Frank. Kipner and Frank forged their partnership in 1998 and last year scored super status with Christina Aguilera's #1, RIAA platinum smash, "Genie In A Bottle," and 98°'s RIAA gold, top 5 hit, "The Hardest Thing."
"In the beginning, I'd get a little nervous because I didn't fully understand the recording process," says Angela of her studio experience. "It was something I really grew into. What made it so enjoyable was being able to develop a relationship with each producer and get to the point where I could call them up at any time and bounce some new ideas off them. That's been so encouraging for me and has also made me feel appreciated as a person and an artist."
A skilled and communicative lyricist with a knack for melody, Angela's songwriting and arrangement contributions are key to most every track on the album. However, for the young woman who once primarily considered herself a singer, finding her composer's voice was simply a matter of time and effort.
"At the beginning, I needed a lot of encouragement to find who I am as a writer and artist," she says. "And, little by little, it just happened for me."
Angela also found encouragement coming from none other than four-time Grammy Award-winner Carole King. More than that, the two also put their heads together to write the touching ballad, "Stay Together."
"It was a chance meeting with Carole and we just hit it off," enthuses Angela. "We got chatting and decided we'd try writing together. Carole's fantastic and she's yet another reason why making this album was so thrilling for me. Plus, she was doing some dog-sitting when we were working together at her house and that made the work all the more fun."
For Angela, the album is lyrically a matter of the heart, in that it traces the emotional highs and lows and eventual end of a recent relationship - from "Picture Perfect" and its story of two friends falling in love to "Kissing You," which tells of love in full bloom, to the romantic crisis detailed in "Wish We Could Be Free," and the hopeful longing of "Start Over Again."
"I had this boyfriend and we were having a hard time with things," says Angela. "'Wish We Could Be Free' was one of the songs that came out of everything I was going through. During that same time, I saw this movie, Revenge, with Kevin Costner. It was the most touching story and it also helped me finish the song. I remember the night I wrote the lyrics, it all totally got to me and I just started crying."
But the effervescent Angela manages to avoid dwelling on the moment for more than a minute. Without missing beat, she's off and ready for a laugh.
"The other great thing about that song is now I can say to my parents, 'You know what mom and dad, I don't have to wish I could be free, because I'm eighteen!" she says with a mischievous grin. "Can you imagine? They would love to hear that!"
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Growing up in the Rio Grande Valley of southern Texas, Angela gravitated to music and singing from as far back as she can remember. A natural performer from her earliest days, it wasn't long before she was turning favorite albums - by such artists as Gloria Estefan and Whitney Houston - into models by which she would begin to craft a style all her own.
"After school, Angela was always up in her room with the doors locked, the stereo cranked, and singing along to whatever new record she was obsessed with that week," says her father, Tom. "She was always working on a song."
After moving to Portland, Oregon at age eight, Angela began singing with the school chorus and church choir, taking on the shyness that beset her in those days. At the same time, however, she was turning on to an increasingly diverse world of music that included Madonna, Tanya Tucker, Sade, and Janet Jackson. Angela was also fascinated by the sounds of gospel along with the traditional Latin music that her grandmother would play during family visits to the Lone Star State.
In late 1996, Angela ventured for the first time into a professional studio, cutting some of her favorite Selena songs and generally getting comfortable with the surroundings.
"I just wanted to see what it would be like to do some recording," says Angela. "Dad knows his way around a studio and we just thought it would be fun."
She soon made her first major public appearance, performing as part of a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration in Portland before a crowd of some 3,000.
"Getting on stage that day was so special," remembers Angela. "It broke down some of the fears I'd built up about singing in front of a large audience and it showed me just how powerful music can be. The reaction was great and I couldn't wait to do it all over again."
As it turned out, Angela wouldn't have to wait long. In March of 1997, she returned to the studio to record her own version of the Diane Warren-penned song, "You Were Loved" (as recorded by Whitney Houston on The Preacher's Wife soundtrack) to help promote a Cans For Kids regional fund-raising effort. The program's enormous success led to invitations to perform at cultural and charity events throughout Portland.
"One thing seemed to lead right into another," says Angela with a laugh. "I never expected things to build up momentum that way."
In 1998, after claiming first prize at both the Oregon State Fair talent competition and in a radio station-sponsored Portland talent show, Angela found herself being flown to Los Angeles to perform as part of the gala opening event at Planet Hollywood for the hit film The Wedding Singer.
"At the time, I wasn't so much focused on winning competitions as I was looking for an opportunity to sing for people," says Angela. "When I found out I was headed to Los Angeles, I was in shock. It was so totally unexpected."
After several more trips to L.A., Angela was introduced to Michael "Smidi" Smith, a young Oregon-based songwriter and producer, with whom she soon struck up a fruitful writing relationship. It was with Smith and his partner Brian Steckler that Angela would eventually write and record "Catch Me If You Can" - the song that would mark her recorded debut with its inclusion on Atlantic's recent RIAA double-platinum soundtrack to Pokémon The First Movie.
"Working with 'Smidi' was such a terrific experience," says Angela. "We have the same kind of approach to music and things just seem to click. It's an ideal collaboration."
In late February, Angela hooked-up with labelmates M2M for a month-long tour of middle schools across the United States. The tour - organized by Earth Jam and centered around an environmental-awareness educational theme - was highlighted at each stop by informal chats with students and highly interactive autograph sessions.
"The school shows were so cool," she says. "The kids would get all crazy, screaming and totally cheering me on. It gets me that they even knew so much about me. They got really rowdy and in to it. They had me sign their gym shirts and even their arms. It was neat. You know, I don't quite get that when I meet with retail people!"
With the commercial release of "Picture Perfect" on April 4th, the county started to get an even more serious taste of Angela and her music. With more than two months until the July 18th release of her debut album, the single has been consistently making its way through the top 40 of the Billboard "Hot Singles Sales" chart.
In the meantime, Angela is busy recording complete Spanish language vocal tracks for a number of "ANGELA VÍA" selections (the specific details for their release is pending), while she continues to complete studies for her high school diploma. She only has a few credits to go, but it seems she'll have to miss graduating with her friends this June.
"When I weigh it all together, I think it's worth it to miss something like that," says Angela. "Still, it's really hard. I would like to be a member of the Class of 2000, but at least I got to go to my prom."