Alternative Pop Singer-Songwriter, Mags Duval recently took the time for an interview over the phone with me amidst her busy schedule. My phone interview revealed many unseen sides of the talented young artist, such as her musical beginnings, her songwriting and her past personal struggles among other things.

Her Music

One of the most intriguing things about Duval’s music is that it has many colorful layers that are hard to define or put into a box. Duval describes her music as “Alternative pop” and explains her reason why, “Usually all songs start for me like, in my bedroom playing the guitar or piano or driving, where I start writing the lyric or melody. But then I’ve always have it produced in a way, you could move or dance to it.”

Duval grew up listening to Carole King, Carly Simon, Fleetwood Mac and Bruce Springsteen who all inspired her with their vivid storytelling in addition to listening to her brother’s hip hop and rap albums.

Her early influence are undeniable present in Duval’s music. “There’s two producers who worked on the project I’m releasing at the moment, one of them is from the country world here in Nashville, very singer-songwriter based. The other one has worked with Rihanna, Jay-Z, the kind of artists I love and respect in that world. It was definitely a dream for me to marry those two sounds.”

Her Beginnings

Duval’s music dreams started at a very young age, “I’ve been singing my whole life,” she says. Her father, who was a fanatic of video taping “everything”, captured her singing at the tender age of 2 or 3. She penned her first song at the age of 9. As time went by, Duval was involved in musical theater and learned how to play the piano.

The passion Duval has for songwriting oozes out of her voice as she describes her early love for it. “I’ve seen the world through my songs, when anything happens to me or one of my friends, my first inclination is to write about it. My love of music, my love of just writing words in general came together in songwriting.”

Duval was living in her native Florida, (Clearwater, Florida to be precise) when she realized the grand passion for music she possessed. Her parents surprised her on her 13th birthday with time in a local studio where she could record a song she had written. Duval recorded the song and went home with a CD containing her first recording with only her voice and a piano. The next day, the studio called telling her parents, they had sent around the track to some people and Actor/Rapper Nick Cannon heard it and wanted to meet with Duval. Initially, her dad was not in favor but after much convincing, Duval was allowed to meet with Cannon. “He was so helpful, so great, she says looking back at that meeting.

From that point on, there were industry people from Nashville that reached out to her leading her parents to decide to give Duval permission to go to Nashville to stay with family, living there for a couple days every few months to write songs. Duval recalls being drawn to Nashville because “they really value [songwriting] here.” She has been a permanent resident of Nashville since she was 16 years old.

Her Songwriting

Many singer-songwriters are known to bare their souls in each of their songs. However, there are a rare few who choose to share sides of themselves that may not be perceived as “acceptable” to speak upon by society, especially when it involves a female artist. What becomes evident when you listen to the singles Duval has released is that she is a force to be reckoned with, song after song whether it’s the sassy,”Pink Cadillac,” selfish love ballad, “Stay Lonely” or her latest release, the tongue in cheek, “Plain Jane.” They all have the honest, everyday emotions masterly displayed.

Duval shares with me how being a female artist influences her songwriting;”It’s difficult to navigate the way we [females] feel, what we can or cannot express. Something I personally love about songwriting is it’s a platform of entertainment, it doesn’t drown out everything that is happening in your life, it helps you feel understood, you feel like it’s okay to be sad.”

She goes on to tell me that writing about these certain emotions can be very vulnerable, to allow herself to open up about these things.Hhowever it is very rewarding to have someone tell her after a live show how they can relate to the song, “It makes it all worth it for me.”

Her Songs

Duval expresses how unpredictable her songwriting process for each song is. “‘Stay Lonely’ I wrote in the middle of the night on a guitar, it came out in 10 minutes.” But for her latest single, “Plain Jane” the story becomes intriguing, Duval shares her story about a guy she was interested in and the feeling seemed mutual until one night she ran into the guy and he proceeded to introduce his girlfriend to her. In complete shock, Duval told her friends what had happened and they responded with “Plain Jane has nothing on you” and the name stuck. She went to the studio with a co-writer from the country music world and wrote the song. “[Plain Jane] is about being rejected, somebody choosing someone over you and it’s from a perspective of ‘Fine, I don’t need you.'”

Her Style

Duval’s music not only has a lingering retro sound, but her artistic fashion also oozes with it. During her youth she went through her “Tomboy” and “Punk-Goth” phases (amongst others) in search of finding what made her felt the most like herself. Duval tells me, “I’ve been always been drawn to the past, I think a lot of my style comes from that, it’s a way to express myself.” She feels most herself sporting a dress, with bold lips and her signature cat eyes.

Her Personal Struggle

Mags Duval shares that her childhood involved being heavily bullied in middle school. It is something she rarely talks about and which still has an affect on her but ultimately is thankful for because that led her into finding songwriting. “It was the only place I could express myself, express how I was feeling.” She further comments that she cannot imagine going through it all again with all the social media sites, like Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, “I feel for young girls in today’s culture. There is so much we have to deal with now, more than ever, that is distracting from what’s really important and what we should really value.”

In today’s society, women are still expected to be physical beautiful and live up to impossible standards. “As women, I believe is important to be intelligent, to keep learning. Beauty is going to fade eventually but what you know, the knowledge that you have, how you are able to influence that can only grow.”

Her Motivation and Advice

What motivates Duval everyday is being able to share her own and help other fellow writers and artists tell their story, “I want my music to mean something to people and get through things. Make them dance and make them feel things.”

At the conclusion of our interview, Duval offers advice to anyone who has artistic aspirations, “Never forget why you started, that’s what I always say, I think it’s so important to not let yourself get wrapped up in what other people are telling you to be or not to be. There are so many things that can distract you. Have a solid focus and a reason why, that motivates you and never forget that.”

Words of wisdom and encouragement from such a beautiful soul.

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