Recently, the country music umbrella has expanded thanks to artists like Maren Morris and Florida Georgia Line bringing pop influences, The Cadillac Three bringing a southern rock vibe and even Lady Antebellum adding a horn section into their latest album. This week’s Swag Spotlight focuses on Valerie Ponzio, a singer-songwriter who grew up in a West Texas town, El Paso which borders Mexico and New Mexico, she hopes to bring her own blend of country music and Latin music to a new fanbase. “I like to play different places and shed light on the region that I am from and the interesting Latin/country mix that they are known for,” Ponzio tells us.
Her influences growing up and currently, range from strong female vocalists such as Sheryl Crow and Mariah Carey to Sting, Johnny Cash, and Luke Bryan as well as Shakira and the mariachi bands that she grew up listening to in Texas. Those sounds all come together to create Valerie’s undeniable signature sound, something that she prides her self on. “In the writing room, I try to bring Latin artists, as well as country artists as my influences and as far as where I want my songs to go,” she tells us, “It’s a funny mix between country and Latin, where I am at, it is where I steer all of my music and my live performance too.”
Most recently, Ponzio was a four-chair turn on season 12 of the popular singing competition, The Voice, ultimately choosing Blake Shelton as her mentor. She chose to sing the Johnny Cash classic “Ring Of Fire” which although is traditionally a country song, sonically has a Latin energy, with mariachi horns in the chorus. “People are very passionate about Johnny Cash, you want to make it your own but do it as much as you can to pay your tribute and the style of the song,” she explains of her audition. Her sultry and slowed down version caught the attention of all four of the judges, Adam Levine exclaiming, “You are the most well-rounded singer, I think, for this particular panel of judges that I really kind of ever heard.”
She explains that the opportunity to be showcased on one of the most popular singing competitions is a crazy rollercoaster ride. “It was such a high moment in my life that I got to share with the people I love,” Ponzio tells us of her entire family being present for her blind audition. “It helped me grow as a singer and a performer.” After the show, she moved to Nashville and is grateful for all of the connections and opportunities that have come her way. She is writing as much as she can and taking every chance to spread her unique blend of music to new fans.
Her debut EP, Timeless, was released in July and features four original songs and the title track in English and Spanish. Three of the four songs were written by Ponzio herself, as she represents her journey of moving to Nashville to further pursue her dreams and falling in love. She explains that moving to Nashville has taught her so much about music and writing and even learning to let go and let the best song win. When she heard “Morning” which was written by fellow Latin/country artists Sammy Arriaga she knew she had to record it for her own project although she didn’t write it herself. “The song is king here, you learn to respect that, even if I didn’t write it, there is something so amazing and putting that first and then seeing people react to it,” she says.
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