Like many artists, Kiana V had ample time to think about not only her next career move but also how she wanted to work on herself. Born Kiana Valenciano in Manila, Philippines, the 28-year-old singer made a bold decision to head to Los Angeles to further her life journey.
The R&B singer, whose father is well-known Filipino musician Gary Valenciano, already was on her way to making a name for herself in her home country, independently releasing her first single “Circles” in 2017. Growing up in the studio with her father and using ‘90s acts like Brandy and Aaliyah as inspirations, she released her debut EP Grey in 2018 under the Filipino-based Tarsier Records. Her debut album See Me dropped the following year. Despite Grey highlight “Caught U” earning a Best Performance of a Female Artist nomination at the Awit Awards (the Filipino equivalent of the Grammys), the predictable R&B sound of both projects wasn’t a true reflection of her artistry.
“I think the reason why the music changed so much is because my lifestyle changed. I was heavily influenced by present music trends and I was paying a lot of attention to what I thought other people wanted me to do,” Kiana V tells SPIN over Zoom. “By moving to L.A., I was able to shut all of that out and focus on what I was feeling.
Now, Kiana V is genuinely presenting herself in America’s mainstream industry with the new Dazed EP. It marks a new chapter, following her feature with 88rising’s new Paradise Rising mixtape release last year. Released on July 30, Dazed is a message of self-love threaded by delicate, ethereal melodies — a complete 180 from her first album.
“[My move to LA] is why this project is so soft, feminine and more introspective,” Kiana explains. “We also produced it in the middle of the pandemic, so I was able to really confront certain emotions and ideas that I tried to silence in the past.”
She continues: “Before, I was making music that I thought people wanted to hear. So I just trusted my own emotions and had a little more freedom to experiment and really live in the moment. I wouldn’t have had this project if I wasn’t alone and didn’t have all that focus. I just stepped back and thought from a different perspective.”
Below, Kiana V discusses her Filipino heritage, the importance of self-love, and how her innocent curiosity seeps into her music.
SPIN: In your social media bios, you have a “Curiouser and curiouser” quote. I know that’s from Alice in Wonderland because I actually have that tattoo on my arm. I always related to her wanting to explore and asking questions about everything. Do you find yourself wanting to find answers?
Kiana V: Oh yeah, my curiosity has gotten me in trouble before, especially with people who try to put me in a box and figure out exactly where I fit in the music industry. Because I have such a curious spirit, I just wanted to have my freedom and to be able to express myself in the right way. It’s taken me some time to have the confidence to really speak my mind — especially in the studio — and just put my foot down on certain things that I agree and don’t agree with.
I think what makes Dazed so special is that I really did have a voice in that studio working with [producer] Jesse Berrera. He took all of my suggestions seriously, and we were able to produce them together. He really fueled my curiosity, which I appreciate because he doesn’t shut out any idea. He’s so open to listening to what I have to say.
I think “Better” embodies your growing confidence. For me, that song is about the importance of knowing when to put ourselves first and finding the courage to move on. I think during the pandemic, we had to really look in the mirror and realize the things that we really want to work on.
I initially wrote it as a ballad and you could hear it in the melody. It’s very soft. But then we got in the studio and it just didn’t feel right. I thought we were all so sad already having to be stuck at home. I was like, “Wait, we need to bring some light into this. We need to make it a little happier.” I didn’t want it to be about someone who’s bitter wanted to be about someone who’s doing better.
“How Do I” is my favorite on the EP. As women, sometimes we give too much in relationships and don’t allow ourselves to fully heal from a situation before jumping straight into something else.
I think a lot of people forget that you need time to let the past settle because you bring that baggage with you when you’re hurt. You don’t realize when you’re in a relationship, you pour a lot of yourself into it. That song is about having nothing else to give. I wrote that first verse more with an open interpretation in mind.
For me, that first verse is really me talking to myself. I’m trying to push myself to do better, but I can’t. Then the second verse comes in and I’m talking to the guy: “Are you who you say you are?” This is all my insecurities coming to life and realizing I’m bringing my baggage from my last relationship into this — and we don’t want that.
You’re from the Philippines and Jesse is Filipino-American. You’re subconsciously celebrating your heritage on the EP.
It’s funny. We were making jokes about how I left Manila, came to L.A. and I still ended up working with Filipinos. Our community is somehow drawn to each other. We always find ways to connect.