Kristen Gradwohl (Monsterlips, Valley Soul)
The Monterey Peninsula not only holds the origins of California’s own colonial history, but has bothed attracted & produced some of the world’s greatest artists across all mediums & styles imaginable. Introducing the rising star of Kristen Gradwohl, otherwise known under the solo handle of Monsterlips when she’s not performing with her band Valley Soul. An artist known for soundhealing, holistic compositions, reiki practitioner and more, providing services at Seaside Yoga Sanctuary, Luminata in Monterey, Pacific Grove’s Health & Water Store & playing her music all around (and outside) the peninsula. Channeling an uplifting & awakening vibe through her multi-disciplinary crafts; Kristen has a gift to convey some of the most cryptic & organic components that other intuitive artists like Weyes Blood, Itasca, Grouper, Lady Lazarus & more are also totally tapped into. Currently fundraising to purchase a school bus to be converted into a moving studio to bring her soundhealing creative source of light to the surrounding world—Kristen Gradwohl signals today that a wealth of new material from both her band Valley Soul & Monsterlips is well underway.
Under her solo title of Monsterlips, Kristen Gradwohl presents the world premiere of the stripped down, rustic & minimalist beauty found on the world premiere of “Everything”. From creating compositions within a sextet as Valley Soul to the sparse & vast environments covered & explored solo as Monsterlips—Kristen’s piano tones & beautiful earthbound vocals paint portraits of the intrinsic connection between all things where the entire world is embodied together as one being of love. All this & more is heard resonating with realness in the chorus lines of, “We really mean it when we say this, we are one or more, we really mean it when we say this, we are love…” The reiterations of because we are love & we are everything further emphasizes the connection that people have both to one another, their environments & worlds where the everything from our entire blue dot & other corresponding planets & galaxies suddenly feel a little bit closer. Recorded on an iPad donated from fellow local artist & Natural Satellite operator Jimmy Turturici; Gradwohl’s voice & acoustic piano tones find a connective & warm cadence with a Garageband assist that allows Kristen to paint a self-portrait of ourselves in relation to others & the spaces & places that we together inhabit, share & should enjoy amongst the company of one another. Immediately after the debut of “Everything”, read our interview with Monsterlips & Valley Soul’s own Kristen Gradwohl.
Tell us about how you found your musical voice & creative visions.
I was one of those souls that came out of the womb humming a tune, so, I started writing music when I was really young. I participated in church choirs from the age of 5 until about 18, so I got a lot of practice with harmonies by the time I entered my college jazz programs. I am self-taught for the most part, but I have had a lot of really wonderful musician friends in my life that encouraged me to keep going, though I was never professionally trained. The first song that I was able to write down, was hummed on my way to my third grade classroom. It was finished by the time I had tied my shoe. From that day forward I continued to write songs on paper, I can remember some of them to this day.
Even at that age, writing music gave me a bigger feeling than myself. It really feels like a meditation practice. As I developed as an instrumentalist, the instrument began to hold space for my lyrics and melodies to form. I love to leave myself behind and allow. Words fall out of my mouth while in almost a trance state. Sometimes I record a really vague melody with vowels and when I listen back, I can actually hear that there really were words coming out, but I can hear them more clearly with the voice memo. Sometimes I can feel the song growing inside me little by little until it’s born. Other times, I will write a sentence or even a few with a melody in mind and the rest won’t arrive until later. There are some songs that I have received in dreams and when I wake up, I do my best to remember them. And sometimes I find a chord structure and I’m playing and then I press record and a full song comes out. That’s what happened with this single entitled: “Everything.”
How did Valley Soul first begin?
I met my bandmates in the summer of 2012. The boys were born and raised on the Peninsula and had been playing out in Carmel Valley together. I had been writing and performing separately from them for years just wishing for a full band to jive with. When I met them all we just meshed. I felt at home, like I had finally found what I was missing. We were hanging out together, hiking together, jamming together, living together. We decided the name by fall 2012 after our sax player decided to pick up bass, and wanted to join forces to dedicate our lives to something bigger than ourselves. We have over two hours worth of all original Valley Soul music. It felt kinda like destiny. We made the band more of a business when Leslie, our AMAZING manager stepped in to handle the dirty work. She’s been our saving grace and keeps us on track at company meetings. We wouldn’t know how to handle all the emails and inquires without her! She is most definitely the 7th member of Valley Soul.
How does the Monterey peninsula’s people & local/surrounding arts inspire you?
Living on this Peninsula has been life changing. As a teenager I wanted to move here and almost hitchhiked with just a backpack and a thumb…until I realized I had no idea where I was going exactly! There are soooo many inspiring musicians, dancers, acrobats, fire spinners, healing artists. It’s a small town and we have an incredible scene for music. It’s such a blessing to be surrounded by such talent and such incredibly open and loving people! Every band, every solo artist, every painter, etc! It’s beyond amazing! I am in absolute aw of how such young people get together to organize full events and really make a bang! We are so grateful for the venues and blogs like yours that treat us right and hold space for the community to connect! All of us youth and creatives are like one big family and we like to network and support each other.
Give us the story behind the rustic & all encompassipsng track “Everything”.
Our society has been gravitating more and more towards profit and each decade the impact of our destructive behavior becomes more and more of a serious issue. Things have been getting out of hand and I felt compelled to do something about it. I felt this charge of energy enter me. As I was sitting at the piano, I could feel the feeling coming, the words were coming fast and I had written some down, but I knew I needed to record it. Luckily, my friend, Jimmy Turturici had passed down his old iPad to me a few weeks before. So, I opened Garageband and pressed record… That track was the only take and it fell right out of my mouth. Right after recording, I knew I needed to record harmonies, so I recorded those in the closet to get some peace and quiet. I felt the vocal harmonies falling out of my mouth so easily as I listened. I went to my bedroom afterwards and played what I had recorded over headphones. I added a few different filters and listened back again. I actually listened to it that time, and it made me cry. I really feel like it was a message from something bigger than I. Later on I had to take notes on the tune to break it down so that I could learn it the way it came out. I couldn’t remember how it came out. I still don’t feel like I wrote it all on my own.
What other items are you working on right now?
Valley Soul and I are currently tying up the loose ends for our album release this Summer. We are looking forward to our West Coast tour and ready to bring newer tunes to the table. I have been writing for my project, MONSTERLIPS, consistently, I don’t have much in the way of recordings, but I’m excited to record more! Currently I’m in the process of fundraising for an eco-mobile-studio to hold space for sharing and the recording of music as well as for holding space as a holistic practitioner. I have about an hours worth of original music to share and have been asked to play out in my community but need a space to practice, write, record and produce my music. During the week, I work as a holistic practitioner part-time. As an intuitive and health advocate I’m offering my services at a discount price through my campaign and will be giving away musical perks to those who have donated to the cause. If you want to learn more about my fundraiser project, there’s a link that I can share.
Other artists you want to recognize that are doing great things?
Oh man! So many! This area is packed with them! The music over here has been incredible: American Trashbirds, Lillie Lemon, Jimmy Turturici, Louis Wayne and the Cats, Proudest Monkeys, El Camino Sutra, Sky Country, Dagmar, Talmon Owens, Tiffany Decker, Kara Hesse, Lenny Sales, the Beholder Band, 9th Life, RJ Tripps, Water Babies, Brother Adam, Joe from Cachagua, Cosmic Quest, Rashad Egglston! There are sooo many more!
And the artists this way blow my mind! David Dilworth, Chris Powers, Forrest, Mel Barret, Carly Leigh, Katie Savage, Michelle Dineen. And when it comes to performing arts from fireflow to ballet, the list is diverse and extreme. As a former dance teacher, I can’t say enough good things!
What are some important causes in 2017 where people can make a difference in our world?
When we are able to gaze upon our inner reflections without judgment, we begin to witness the nature of consciousness. We can find ourselves leaping beyond our human conditioning to become witness to our uniqueness. See what behaviors we have learned from society. See who you are beneath the crust. Respect the process. Listen. Give yourself compassion. Surrender to the feelings of shame and find truth. Learn what makes you weak and what brings you strength. Then with the trust of a child, dare to share what you find with others.
We need every single person to love themselves. We need good values, we need holistic education, we need equality, we need sustainability and environmental conservation. We need a peaceful world.
If every single person in this world stopped for a moment to “be the change” we would have a serious movement. It’s time to take matters into our individuality. Support your community by voting with your dollar locally. Express your passion, create a new way to share what you want to share with the world and do it a little at a time! If not now, when?
Hopes & wishes for 2017?
I guess I could say that my wish is for peace in all the ways…Over the years, I have seen addiction not only in myself, my family, and my community, but in the world in the form of INSTANT GRATIFICATION! There is a hunger for success, a hunger for love, a hunger for happiness. It’s all a part of the human condition. There is a disconnection and the answer is connection with self and with others. I truly wish those with history of substance abuse could see the root of why they use and address this need in a new way. Everyone has their own additions. I desire to see our system change and develop into a sustainable one. I have seen our sensitive, empathic and unbalanced individuals thrown into jail instead of given real help to heal. This is a cycle of shame that our society has created. Our system is corrupted by privatized corporations that send out lobbyists that lobby for outrageous new laws to be passed and enforced, to ensure continued profit off of jail mates. I believe effective holistic recovery programs for inmates and those going through mental instabilities will hold space for peace in our world. We need global sustainability in more ways than one. We can start with renewable energy and go from there. Anyways, I am super excited to hold space for the movement with the kristenINmotion’s eco-mobile-studio and really hope to create a ripple.