It had been six years since Francisca Valenzuela put out a new album, and on Friday (Jan. 17), she dropped her anticipated fourth album, La Fortaleza.
“What was I doing these last six years? Good question,” the Chilean singer-songwriter said in a phone interview with Billboard. “Getting my sh– together and making a commitment to music and to art on my own terms.”
The 14-track pop album, which she says “became more of a diary,” explores the ups and downs of life and finding the strength to embark on a journey that will take you from darkness to light. The lyrics also stay true to her commitment to champion femininity and feminism.
The musician and entrepreneur, who founded Ruidosa, a Latinx feminist festival and digital platform that celebrates women “making noise,” says the revolution in Chile had an impact on her personally and musically. La Fortaleza was ready to be released in 2019 but was postponed and “for all good reason,” she says. “There are other priorities too, and that’s fine.”
In October, the government’s decision to increase subway fares in Chile sparked massive protests that turned deadly and violent. The protests gave a new meaning to a track on the album titled “Al Final del Mundo” and inspired Francisca to write new songs that she promises will be released eventually.
In the Q&A below, Francisca talks about the process of self-discovery with this new album, how the revolution in Chile inspired new music and how this album became a confessional.
The lyrics in La Fortaleza are raw and honest. You’re vulnerable and empowered at the same time. At what point of the process in making this album did you realize you wanted to explore all these emotions in one album?
Having the idea of making an album that talked about this journey really became like a diary. I first went through all the songs I had that illustrated a moment in my life. In the end, it was more of a retroactive process. I noticed that there was a specific moment or a mood that was being portrayed in each song. It was like a photo of a certain stage in my life and so I think it’s more of a confessional album.
What did you discover about yourself in the process of making La Fortaleza? And would you say that you were a completely different person when you released Tajo Abierto six years ago?
I discovered and learned to listen to myself as a creative leader in my own project. Sometimes self-doubt really creeps in and you begin to question everything. I also learned that I really enjoy writing and making music. There’s a lot of joy in the process. I also learned about what elements are true to my essence and how I am as a songwriter, a performer or a pianist or all these things that matter to me. My essence is alternative pop female singer-songwriter that sings what I like to call pop con diente or “teethy pop.” It’s honest and sincere and I write from a place of self-discovery and self-exploration.
It’s been a minute since Tajo Abierto. It was the first time I left Chile. I was searching for myself and understanding what my musical toolkit was and I was struggling being a musician. It was another moment that was much more of a struggle and now I feel really excited, focused and more empowered in my own role as a musician, as an artist, a creator and someone that is putting something out there.
Being such a personal album, how do you feel now that it’s actually out there?
I feel a little bit nervous just because it’s like a story you’re telling everyone and you’re in it. I’m prepared for the worst and excited for the best. I just want to show it as it is and share with everyone all this work we’ve put into this album that includes all these moments in my life and also represents what many people go through.
What type of experience do you want your fans to have when they listen to this album?
I hope they feel identified and resonate with certain topics, issues, or moments. Whether it’s self-doubt and then leaving that self-doubt and feeling joy or feeling pleasure or empowerment. To really not be afraid, to trust yourself, listen to yourself and know yourself. And also, to not be afraid of the dark. Whatever la lucha [the struggle] is, take that vulnerability as something strong and part of the process. For me this album is about that strength in being vulnerable as well as the strength of being loud and raising your fist and finding a place within yourself and the collective.
When did you finish writing the songs? I’m wondering if any of the songs were inspired by the crisis in Chile or if any of these became protest songs in the process?
The album was actually ready to be released last year and it was postponed because of the estallido, or revolution, in Chile and with all reason and all my support. I could care less if we postpone the album while Chile is in revolution. The song that really took on another life for me in that process was Al Final del Mundo. I wrote the song originally thinking about Chile and it became a song about the future. It’s not only the pain or the oppression or el daño [the damage] that there can be in the past. The countries that are colonized, oppressed, marginalized and taken advantage of in many ways are now striving toward a future that is different and it’s new. Also, the song features a very well-known Chilean pianist called Claudio Parra who is from this legendary group called Los Jaivas and he’s always been an idol of mine. So, I invited him to be on the song and we played it together on the piano. The fact that it’s a song about Chile, about the past and the future, he’s almost 80 years old and I’m part of the new generation, it tied everything together. It allowed me to reflect about my country and this place we may love but also causes us pain, sadness and rage. That song took a different life.
I did write a lot though during everything that was going on in Chile. I was just in Mexico City and I recorded some new songs that were inspired by what was happening in Chile that will come out eventually.
What’s your favorite song on the album and why?
My favorite song, it totally varies. I really love Una Noche Contigo because it sounds like a 90’s pop song and it was my dream to have a song like this. It’s sexy and upbeat and minimal. I also really love Nunca Quise Herirte because it’s a song that serves as an introduction to the album and in my mind, it travels through the different moods of the album. It starts in this lonely, painful place but eventually the sun comes out and I can get over this and become someone else. So, it has that duality. I do love that song for that reason and, actually, it was one of the last songs I wrote so it’s one of those unconsciously smart songs that just happens by itself and has to be what it has to be.