Victoria Canal: “Learn how to receive criticism”

Learn how to receive criticism. Being defensive forever will prevent you from growing as a creative. I used to get really reactive as a teenager when my mom would make suggestions on how to improve because it hurt to feel assessed. It took me years to learn that criticism is a huge helping hand, if […]

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Learn how to receive criticism. Being defensive forever will prevent you from growing as a creative. I used to get really reactive as a teenager when my mom would make suggestions on how to improve because it hurt to feel assessed. It took me years to learn that criticism is a huge helping hand, if you can let go of your ego. People who give you constructive feedback are the ones who care enough to help you grow, and that is a gift. If all you’re receiving are compliments, you need some new ears around.

As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Victoria Canal.

Quick off the heels of her latest hit “Drama”, which was featured in the Nike Fearless Ones campaign, Victoria introduced an exploration of self-worth in her recently released project “Victoria EP”. The Nike Fearless One campaign featured her recent single “Drama” to promote their Jordan Flyease, a shoe designed for athletes with disabilities. Victoria’s mission to fight for representation of asymmetrical or ‘differently abled’ artists has been documented in mainstream networks like Now This and Huffington Post has quoted her as “Raising the bar for disabled artists in pop music”. Not only that, but her music has received praise from publications like Rolling Stone quoting the 21 year old LGBTQ artist as “Opening up new possibilities in pop”. As you can see in her recent Billboard In-Studio Session performance, her live show is filled with impassioned positivity. The Spanish-American artist has toured with the likes of Michael Franti, Leslie Odom Jr, Lawrence & Tall Heights. CNN Español’s Proyecto Ser Humano, perfectly displays her positive spirit, determination and unique ability to be inspired by her own introspection, creating a truly universal sound.

Her new EP takes an energetic and vulnerable approach to a snapshot of her life before 2020 and with it, she will release the self-titled music video “Victoria” on 9/9.

Thank you so much for joining us Victoria! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

That’s a good question! Long answer. My mom grew up in Alabama, and in her late twenties decided she was eager to see more, and got rid of everything she owned to move to Spain. That’s where she met my dad, who’s from Barcelona. When they met, they fell in love over this idea of cycling the world together, but soon thereafter got pregnant with my oldest brother. They still wanted their adventure, though, and really wanted us to see the world, too, so they chased the jobs that would take us everywhere — I was born in Germany and spent years of my childhood in China, Japan, Madrid, Dubai, Barcelona, London, Sydney, and eventually I moved to the States to pursue music. I learned to make friends really quickly, to find commonalities with people who looked nothing like me,

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

My mom’s mom was a piano teacher for decades — she taught lessons from her home in upstate Georgia, on a beautifully engraved Kimball Victorian upright piano. I used to listen to her play for hours, and often asked to sit on her lap and play along as early as 3 or 4 years old. There was one day when I was singing in harmony to Somewhere Over the Rainbow while playing along with her. She was taken aback at my natural ear, and told my parents that I should take piano and vocal lessons. She introduced me to music, and music and I have been glued at the hip ever since.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When I was 16, I was a huge Alessia Cara fan. I went to her show in Atlanta with my mom, and I saw her dad working merch in the back of the venue (I knew what her dad looked like bc I watched all her vlogs… totally not creepy at all). I walked up to him all shy, demo CD in hand, and said, “I love your daughter’s music, I make music too, can you give her this CD I made?” And he patted me on the shoulder and said, “why don’t you come onto the bus and meet her?” Minutes later I was standing in a big fancy tour bus for the very first time, and right in front of me was my teen idol chilling with her bandmates, holding my CD and asking about my songwriting. It was the day my spirit felt what it was like to live a touring artist’s life. I was hooked straight off the bat. I fucking loved it. Soaked it in and noted that as the manifestation of my dreams. Fast forward a few years, Alessia and I are homies and I’ve got my very own bunk on a bus and my very own bandmates to act “cool” with. Life is rad.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Oh my goodness. One time years ago I had a corporate gig, one of these where everyone’s wearing suits and you’re singing cover songs. Minutes before going on stage, I was in the bathroom and the zipper on my pants broke, and I literally couldn’t put my pants back on without them falling down and being totally exposed (I also only had a crop top on.) I totally freaked out and right in that moment, a total stranger (and angel) walks into the bathroom, sees my predicament, takes off her pants right away, and literally hands them to me. She’s like, “my shirt is long, no worries, I’ll wear yours,” and I’m pretty sure I kissed her on the mouth. Then I went out on stage and minutes into my set, I spilled wine all over her pants. Hahaha. The worst. The lesson I learned? Strangers can be really awesome. And also, bring an extra pair of pants to the gig.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I just came out with an EP I worked on over the last year called Victoria. It’s a collection of songs exploring my invigorating, convoluted, often erratic relationship with myself. Conceptually I had a through-line of talking to myself in the record, whether it be as estranged friends or die-hard fans or disappointed children — all of these complex relationship dynamics show up between me and myself, and it shows up in the songwriting. I was also more involved as a producer than I have been on past releases and found new bravery in the energy of the lyrical statements, the arrangements, the music videos… there’s a newfound courage in my artistry all that I’m addicted to.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

I think diversity in media has an essential impact in multiple ways. When someone has grown up in a homogeneous environment, it’s really difficult to empathize with people who appear different to what you know. Storytelling fosters empathy when you see the complexity of somebody else’s life, when you understand that context and culture have so much to do with how someone is. Secondly, on an individual basis, every single one of us desires to feel included, to feel like we belong. Considering how much we all consume media on an everyday basis, it makes a real difference who we’re seeing on screen. De-stereotyping and diversifying roles can really help someone, especially someone young, grow up with the confidence that they belong in the same room as everybody else. Thirdly, it conditions us in a positive way to stop making assumptions about people. Suspending judgment, as well as empathy, and true belonging, are all ways that diversity in TV and film influences culture.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Follow your gut. Just because you see every other artist following a certain protocol doesn’t mean you have to. When I was starting out, I was constantly told to keep my social media super polished, curated, professional. I used the right filters, posed, and kept my captions as bland and as agreeable as possible. What a mistake!People see right through that nowadays — you don’t have to fake looking like a big deal. Just be true to what your artist’s voice is telling you. Your fans want to see you be you.
  2. Stop being a perfectionist. Don’t be greedy with what you publish — if you’re not careful, you might end up never releasing anything if you’re obsessed with the art being “perfect”. Just keep putting your music out there (even if it’s a 30 second snippet on Instagram), don’t wait for it to be “absolutely perfect”. The right people will feel the truth in your art. Once I let go of that perfectionism and started posting whatever I wanted online, I found that doors opened for tours, collaborations, new fans, and other great opportunities. It won’t happen if you don’t put yourself out there!
  3. Don’t take it so seriously, but also, work your ass off. This isn’t life or death — making art is fun. So forget about the “professional stakes“ when you’re in creative mode and get in touch with your inner child. Treat it like play dough, but put 100% of your effort into molding the coolest damn play dough sculpture the world has ever seen. That’s what you’d do if you were 8! I have a rule about writing sessions that I made recently — it’s gotta be away from the studio, sometimes even away from any gear at all. I’ve written some of my favorite songs eating lunch on a sofa with a friend, or on a book date with myself, or on my bed. I kind of hate recording studios, they tend to suck out all the play of tricking an idea into being a song for me.
  4. Trust the process. What counts the most in the grand scheme of things is how you show up for your artistry and your life every single day. We get so used to where we are that we forget how far we’ve come — I have to remind myself of that every day, and congratulate myself for committing to this life, for life. That doesn’t mean stop hustling when you feel good about how far you’ve come. It means to never feel discouraged enough to stop, and always to feel encouraged enough to keep going. Just keep going.
  5. Learn how to receive criticism. Being defensive forever will prevent you from growing as a creative. I used to get really reactive as a teenager when my mom would make suggestions on how to improve because it hurt to feel assessed. It took me years to learn that criticism is a huge helping hand, if you can let go of your ego. People who give you constructive feedback are the ones who care enough to help you grow, and that is a gift. If all you’re receiving are compliments, you need some new ears around.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Oh man, burn out is so real. The first is to prioritize sleep. I know it’s really cool to go out for drinks after a show and turning up with your bandmates, but you know what’s cooler? Showing up for your job well-rested. It makes a real difference to prioritize sleep. I also think time management is essential, sometimes that gets really complicated both during recording-mode and touring-mode. You have to find time for yourself, to rest, to put away your phone, to be quiet. It’s not about working til you drop, it’s about being efficient in your recovery and self-maintenance.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My dream movement would be a worldwide implementation of mindfulness and empathy practice in schools. Training kids and young adults not only at home but also at school to communicate openly, to meditate, to forgive, to release shame, to feel self-empowered and to empower each other’s differences… I feel that would change the fabric of our society. I would love to see a world that follows the practice of compassion that Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh teaches. If everyone moved through the world the way he does, we would live in a much less stigmatized and much more understanding society.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am forever indebted to my mom, for the long hours driving me around to gigs, for the nights she lost sleep to read music-business books, for the thousands of emails sent and money spent, for the patience when I was a total dick to her as a teenager, for the love and encouragement even when I lacked major discipline, and so, so much more. When I was 15 and started online school, she spent a year apart from my dad to help me move to the United States and find gigs in music. This was an age when I was truly mean, and I often said so many nasty things in response to her constructive feedback, and she never quit helping me, even if she was hurt or angry. She’s never given up on me, she’s always been there to be a helping hand and guide me when I fall… I am so grateful to her, I would not be making music for a living today without her.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One that comes to mind is something my Cuban abuela always told me, “el optimismo orienta la mano del destino.” In English, “optimism guides destiny’s hand.” And it’s true — your life is completely shaped by how you see it. When you start processing in abundance, rather than in lack, the right things show up for you at the right moments. But it’s important to know that the right thing is not always the easy thing. It is the right thing because it is the gift of a lesson you learn along your “camino a la sabiduria”, as my dad calls it, “the journey to wisdom.” Can you tell that philosophy runs in the family?

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I mentioned him before, but Thich Nhat Hanh is definitely the answer to that question for me. He’s the most compassionate and peaceful person I’ve ever seen, and I’ve learned a lot about being more kind and patient with myself and others through his writing. Unfortunately for me, he’s 93 and has retired to die alone peacefully in Vietnam. So my back-up answer is David Hockney, an 83-year-old British painter (who I think is a genius) who also happens to be Joni Mitchell’s best friend. I love him because he’s always been so playful with his craft and he’s adapted with the times over many decades in a grounded and beautiful way. Also, I bet he’s got some great Joni stories that I want to hear. I figure Joni wouldn’t tell me the stories herself, so better come at it once-removed.

How can our readers follow you online?

I’ve got Instagram, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook (all @victoriacanal), and my EP “Victoria” is available on all streaming platforms!

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!

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