Last year, when Santa Cruz’s Varro Vivyds was in the studio working on a bunch of new material, she had a technique for getting the kinds of performances she wanted: Pretend she was in front of a huge audience. She even dimmed the lights to create that concert mood.
“I try to get in the Varro mindset,” Vivyds says. “I definitely will close my eyes and get into the song as if I’m performing it in front of a bunch of people.”
So far, she hasn’t performed any of her amphitheater-ready, Lady Gaga-esque pop songs live. Her focus right now is releasing singles and building buzz for her debut EP, which will release on Oct. 22. So if that means picturing those big shows one day to give the songs the vibe they require, she’s all for it. Her new single “Alleyway” came out last week.
Vivyds has been writing and performing music for nearly a decade and a half, but for most of that time, she’s done so under her birthname, Veronica Christie. She’s played many a coffee shop open mic with her acoustic guitar and original material, but always felt incredibly vulnerable as she did so.
“I loved doing guitar, but I felt my skill level in terms of playing the instrument, it wasn’t that high. I could play enough to write a song. But it wouldn’t be very elaborate,” Vivyds says.
In 2019, she wanted to mix up the music she was making and incorporate more pop elements into her style. She started to work with producers who would send her beats she would then write lyrics and melodies for. Her childhood friend, locally revered musician Henry Chadwick, was her engineer in 2019 and 2020 as she worked to create these songs.
“I’m definitely the first challenge in pop music that he’s ever sound engineered before. We’ve been having fun,” Vivyds says. “I’ve known him since the seventh grade. He’s someone I can really trust. He definitely held my hand through a lot of it, which was great, and gave me tips and techniques.”
When she wrote a lot of these songs in 2019, she was planning on releasing them as Veronica Christie. But then last year, an idea struck her: She could be the pop diva she always wanted to be if she created a pop diva persona. Varro Vivyds was born.
“I can actually be, like, really introverted. And I found that when I was performing, especially when I was doing theater, I had a costume, I had a different name. It was way easier to get on stage and to be someone else,” Vivyds says. “Varro is kind of an elaboration on Veronica. It’s kind of, in a way, a security blanket, where I can do things and go on stage and feel as if I’m somebody else to try to help get out of those nerves. Varro has a lot more confidence than me. She likes to be around a bunch of people, which is so opposite of me.”
The resulting songs are quite diverse, with rock, R&B and soul vibes, and a firm footing in catchy pop music. She describes “Alleyway” as sounding like “Billie Eilish, but a little more energy.”
For this tune, like most of the others, she listened to the beats she got from the producer—in this case Pacific. In his beat she heard a fighting song and went with it.
“When I heard that instrumental, it gave me that edgy feeling. And the words kind of flowed. The chorus came first. I was like, ‘I’m talking about meet me in the alleyway. What am I doing in the alleyway?’ I was like, ‘Oh, I’m fighting in the alleyway.’ So I kind of built the song based off of the chorus,” Vivyds says.
She’s hoping that all these singles and EP she’s releasing later in the year will create enough buzz that she’ll be able to fund a full-length album she has in mind for the future.
“Fame is cool. I would love to just make enough to just release this album and make enough that I can just keep doing music, even if that means I have a part-time job. And that’s what it is, I just want to be able to afford to do this stuff,” Vivyds says.
For more information, go to varrovivyds.com.