I first heard Audrey Valentine sing in 2013 during the University of Illinois African American Homecoming’s Mr. and Mrs. U of I pageant. Her soulful R&B voice, and her signature runs caught my full attention. I was happy to vote for her, and approach her about her talent after. From there, I have seen Vanessa grow so much as an artist, and want you all to experience Audrey Valentine, Up Close and Personal.
Vanessa or Audrey?
Born premature, her parents didn’t have time to agree a name for their daughter. Her mother ended up choosing the name Vanessa and submitting the paperwork for her daughter’s birth certificate, while her father had his heart set on naming his daughter Audrey. It turned out to be a battle of the parents when her father went behind her mothers back and changed her name to Audrey. However it didn’t take long for her parents to come to an agreement, Vanessa Audrey Elizabeth Fortenberry.
Hence her stage name, Audrey Valentine. Audrey has always been, very literally, a part of Vanessa. Her fathers side of the family even called her Audrey when she was growing up. Most of Audrey’s music is seductive, speaking about love and relationships, which is how the name Audrey Valentine came into being. But what about the feeling Vanessa gets, when she performs as Audrey Valentine?
“A certain light inside of me that I’m not necessarily showing when I’m Vanessa. I’ve always been very timid and very shy when it comes to my singing. And that really did not change until I went to college and joined organizations, and started performing more. I felt that Audrey was that performer side of me.”
Vanessa was first exposed to music production at the University of Illinois through her close friend, mentor, and fellow Illinois Alumni, Kenny Thompson. Kenny developed his first EP*, Broken Art, in 2013 where Vanessa assisted in song writing, vocal production, and she also featured on songs. While at Illinois, Kenny co-founded the student organization W.O.R.D (Writers Organizing Realistic Dialect), which gave young performers a platform to share their work and passion for music. Vanessa got involved with W.O.R.D and served as the president from 2013-2014.
*EP stands for Extended Play, which is a collection of songs put together by an artist, that is more than a single, and less than an album.
Audrey Valentine’s first EP was Love Hangover. She took situations and feelings from her past negative relationship, and put that pain into song, hoping to identify with people in her same situation or similar circumstances. Her main goal was to let them know they are not alone.
“Making music for me is always a way of healing, a way to get past all of those feeling I was going through. Love Hangover came from a lot of pain that I was going through, but it came out to be something joyous.”
Audrey Valentine has two music videos out now, which are both from her first EP, Love Hangover: Innocent, and Need Your Love(Like A Drug).
Vanessa’s love for music didn’t stop at school after her graduation in 2014. She has continued recording music well beyond her graduation. After leaving Champaign, and returning to her hometown of Chicago, Illinois, Vanessa works her full time job by day, and records, and performs her music by night.
The main thing Audrey aims to do with her music, is to share her honest experiences, while hoping others can relate.
“When I first made love hangover, I didn’t realize how many girls and guys had gone through similar walks of life that I have. I kinda felt like I was on my own, until I released the EP. So my goal is always to connect to people. I’m 24, most of my friends are 18 to 26, 27. Were all young, all experiencing a lot about ourselves, and I want my music to reflect that.”
Vanesssa will continue to write her music, while Audrey Valentine performs, living her passion.
“I want to take this as far as I possibly can go. I want to reach as many souls and touch as many people as I can, with my music being the source. I’m working on new music now.”
You can stream Audrey Valentine's music on Apple Music, Tidal, Shazam, Google play, and iTunes.
Listen for yourself!