5 Questions with Ken Valdez playing Kj’s Hideaway on Mar 31

Look for music to get you up on your feet? Check out Ken Valdez‘s Saints and Sinners or go see him at Kj’s Hideaway on Mar 31. Get a little insight on his music below…

Tell us about you and how you got into music. 

I was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico and as long as I can remember, I’ve had an affinity for music.  It was always playing in my house growing up.  I remember my parents playing Sam Cooke, Ricky Nelson, Roy Orbison, Jackie Wilson and many others from the “golden age” of rock n’ roll, then there were friends and cousins who would introduce me to Prince, Journey and ultimately more on the hard rock/heavy metal sides of things. Music was everywhere and I couldn’t get enough. I knew even as a very, very young kid that music was what I wanted to do. While my parents were the ones who exposed me to what would ultimately become my life, they weren’t incredibly supportive of the decision to follow the proverbial dream and turn this passion for music into a career.  All these years later they’ve come around a bit. Music has been a true constant. When I was happy, there was music. When I was going through hell, music was there. It turned out to be my saving grace.

How do you find yourself in Minnesota and has the move had an impact on the latest music?

This is actually my second go around in Minnesota. I originally moved out here in the early 2000s. Jonny Lang and his father were the two who convinced me to make the move. It was life changing for sure. Add in a bit of culture shock too!  At that time, I was leaving a scene in Santa Fe that was all about original music. Although there weren’t a whole lot of places to play, what was being created was vibrant. No one sounded alike or paid much attention to trends. It was beautiful and unique. In hindsight, it was an exceptional place to hone my craft. Around that time I developed a relationship with the Langs. Jon Sr. made a trip to New Mexico to see me play and we talked about him managing me. A week later I was in Austin, Texas where I caught up with Jonny backstage at Stubbs. After a conversation with Jonny and the late Billy Franze,  I decided to make the move. When I got to the cities, I was blown away by the musicianship. There is also, without a doubt, a Minneapolis “sound,” which turned out to be the final piece of a musical puzzle I was putting together. Minnesota has allowed me to play and work with some of the very best musicians in the world and even some of my heroes. I am honored to have it be a big piece of my life story.

Your music is loud rock, swampy at times, super danceable but it also taps into some emotions. Every Time seems to be a song about leaving a relationship and Red may be the start of a relationship and Alive is about the power of standing together whether you take a friend’s advice or not and the album ends on Dreams, which is a much more tender sound. But then I could be way off base – how much of Saints and Sinners is about the trials of relationships?

Saints And Sinners was my “pandemic project.” This record was “missing” for many years. How it got back into my hands and how I was able to finish a project I thought was gone forever is another story. It is the most personal record I’ve done to date. It is also the most different one I’ve done. When I was writing for it and even while we initially recorded it, I was going through a low point in my life. I was in a bit of a dark place. I pursued a bit more of a heavier rock sound because it seemed to express what I was feeling inside. I spent a lot of time drinking to numb the pain of losing friends, failed relationships and so much more. So, yes, there are absolutely tales of relationships, but there is also a lot pertaining to inner struggle. Trying to make one’s way out of the darkness, so to speak. It was also the first time I got to work and record with a man who became my dearest friend and musical companion, the late Tucker Sterling Jensen. I rewrote the lyrics for Dreams after he passed. That one is for him.

Where do you feel the most joy with music – playing for a live audience, writing music, performing in the studio, singing in the shower…?

While I love, love, love being in the studio, I can say the most joy, without a doubt, comes from playing live for an appreciative audience. There is no substitute when it comes to the cycle of energy and emotion between the stage and the crowd. We play and give our energy. They listen, dance, whatever and give that energy back and it builds and builds, back and forth. Hopefully by the end of the performance there’s a feeling of joy and smiles all around. What an amazing feeling! Usually a shower is in order after the show, which means there’s another chance to sing! Those magical shower acoustics, right?!?

Please tell us where folks in Minnesota can see you perform and how best to reach you?

I haven’t really played out in quite awhile with my project. After Tuck passed it was really tough to “get back on the horse.” We did stuff here and there but I don’t think I was ready. I have to give a big thank you to bass players Twigg and Andy McClure for being there, working hard and keeping me going. The big news is I’ve been blessed to put together/reconnect a group of incredible musicians (Joe Diaz, David Feily and Adam Daniel) who have got me excited to get back on stage and wanting to make things happen again. Our debut show is at KJ’s Hideaway in St Paul on March 31st. It is an early show (6pm) and it’s all ages, so bring the family! Tickets are available on my website, KJ’s website and our social media pages. You can also reach me on my website, social media or through my incredible manager Jessie Monville! I enjoy hearing from everyone. We hope to see y’all at a show. Live music doesn’t happen without an audience!

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