Valeree, AKA Megan Mortensen, uses her robust vocals and in-your-face attitude to create rock infused R&B music to soothe her complicated soul.
Since she was a pre-teen living in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA, Mortensen struggled with addiction. Whether it was with alcohol, drugs, love or sex, Mortensen had no will power—her struggles are far from over, but she works harder everyday and is grateful for the inspiration it’s provided.
Now, living in L.A. and singing as Valeree, she uses her music to help her through her struggles.
Though the Valeree song premiering below, “Any Other Way,” is about a toxic relationship, it’s no dirge.
Mortensen wants the song to make you feel sexy. As she’s unflinchingly honest about her own vulnerability and how she knows how bad her lover is for her, Valeree’s heavenly vocals pull you under silky sheets and shows how a toxic situation can feel achingly seductive.
Be the first to listen to “Any Other Way” and read the entire interview with Valeree below.
BTRtoday (BTR): Hey Valeree, I’m from Pittsburgh myself—grew up in Polish Hill. I know the city has influenced a lot of my own creativity and lifestyle. What has the Steel City done for your creativity or musical endeavors in general?
Megan Mortensen aka Valeree (MM): Hey! Go Steelers! Next year. [Laughs] I grew up around Sewickley, so I was about 20 mins out from downtown Pittsburgh. Because of that, I feel like unfortunately I wasn’t as ingrained in the city’s culture as a lot of people from Pittsburgh, but there is still a definite influence. Partly when I think of Pittsburgh, I think of an incredibly creative place. There’s so many budding artists coming out of there, which is remarkable because it is a pretty small city.
Also, when I look at a lot of the music coming out of Pittsburgh today, I see a lot of neo-soul and R&B influence, as well as hip-hop. My music is definitely incredibly influenced by soul and R&B, so I think growing up in Pittsburgh plays a part in that. One of my lifelong closest friends, Sierra Sellers, is actually an up-and-coming neo-soul artist in Pittsburgh right now. She’s amazing. We grew up finding little spots around our neighborhoods to sing together and perform for each other, we’d sit at a park for hours just singing back and forth and having the best time. I was a teenager when Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa started gaining traction, which was really exciting for everyone.
My music clearly isn’t hip-hop, but I think soulful music and hip-hop share a lot of influence and often come from a similar place. I also relate a lot to Mac Miller’s music. I think we both often wrote with a sort of introspective, heady anxiety-ridden commentary.
BTR: Tell me about this new song “Any Other Way”—is there a personal story behind its influences?
MM: So, “Any Other Way” is meant to be a kind of fun, sexy song. I hope that comes through. But, as you will often find with my music, it kind of has a dark undertone to it as well. I wrote it while in the midst of a relationship that was very toxic for me. This person and I were NOT a good match, but there was an immediate attraction that often overwhelmed all of the reasons it was bad. Especially during the beginning, it was a lot of partying, expensive food, motorcycle rides and sex. I almost immediately picked up on the fact that we did not work as people though. We started arguing and fighting very early on and I had a growing awareness of what I knew would eventually become unbearable—yet I always seem to be attracted to everything I know is bad for me.
That awareness is what led to the song. I wrote it from the perspective of the tipping point of the relationship, while it was still fun and sexy more often than volatile and exhausting. It still felt worth it, and I could still feel the excitement of the nights out together—the food, the motorcycle, etc. There’s a moment of self-awareness in the bridge, “I know we’re unstable, and if it stays like this we won’t survive / But it’s been so long since anything made me feel alive,” which I think really encapsulates the meaning of it. It’s a similar pattern to my history with substance abuse and really all other self-destructive behaviors. This song sort of serves as a mirror to those struggles as well as a story about a relationship.
It’s important to me to write as honestly as possible when talking about relationships as a woman, because I feel that the media has stereotyped women in relationships in a way that I don’t relate to at all. For example, that old trope of a woman desperately searching for “the one,” wanting to “lockdown” a husband, etc. I can’t relate, and honestly, I don’t know many women who can. I want to represent some of the many different facets of women in regards to sex and love—even when they’re messy, like in this song.
BTR: What do you hope your listeners get emotionally from this track?
MM: I hope they feel sexy. I jumped and danced around my living room to this song when I first got the fully-mastered version back, and it made me want to just booty call every guy who was a bad decision. That’s how I hope it makes everyone feel, but I also hope they can refrain from actually doing it… [Laughs] As I said, even though there is a darkness behind the song, I wrote it at a point in which the fun outweighed the toxicity, so I want the emotional response to reflect that.
BTR: You have a lot of themes in your music about addiction, both the substance and relationship kind. Can you expand on that?
MM: I’ve come to accept that I have about as classic of an addictive personality as it gets. I feel like I could be the poster child for it. I have struggled on and off with substance abuse since I was a pre-teen, and my life has been pretty much centered around it since. Whether I’m completely sober and focusing on recovery or partying all the time, addiction manages to be a massive focus of my life and who I am, which I think is largely in part due to the fact that it comes up in every other aspect of my life.
When I work, I don’t just work, I work double shifts six to seven days a week. My patterns with relationships and sex, as you mentioned, have often looked almost identical to my patterns with substance abuse. I could go on, but you get the idea. In this song, specifically, I even mention being at a bar and drinking, because this relationship often revolved around bars and alcohol. We both abused it and that often leads to the fighting. It seems that I am just a person who becomes addicted to things, I lack self-discipline and crave quick fixes.
Because it’s such an integral part of who I am, it comes up a lot in my music. It gives me a lot to work with, though, so I’m grateful for that. Addiction is a complicated beast. I never seem to run out of writing inspiration.
BTR: If current you could give any advice to a young Valeree songwriter from the past, what would it be?
MM: [I would tell her that] sometimes, the best lyrics are the ones that say exactly what you mean—be vulnerable, instead of hiding behind complicated diction and convoluted metaphors.
BTR: What should we be keeping an eye out for in the future of your music?
MM: I’ve got a few more singles coming up in early 2020, so definitely stay tuned for that. I’ll be getting back into the studio in the next couple of months to record my first EP, which you can expect later this year. I’m hoping to start playing some festivals and just generally play live more often—especially if you live around L.A., be on the lookout. I definitely want to get to recording a [full-length] album. I already have a concept and several songs written for it. Then go on tour for that album, but I’m trying to take on one thing at a time right now.