What’s authentic frequently surfaces as a theme among today’s more introspective, genre-crossing pop offerings. Los Angeles-born singer-songwriter Goldie Vargas strives to answer this question both with her recent single “Moving in Reverse” and for her upcoming debut EP, due later in the summer.
While no stranger to making music, Vargas’ career officially kicked off earlier in 2022 with single “Strawberry Kisses.”
More downtempo and chill, “Moving in Reverse” sonically attempts to capture quintessential California vibes and reflects her diverse influences, from Joni Mitchell to David Bowie and Stevie Nicks.
Vargas also wrote the track over a year ago, but put the song aside due to a mix of anxiety, depression, and subsequent brain fog. During this period, the song took on an entirely different meaning regarding the uncertainty she was feeling, and that comes through its more atmospheric character.
Yet, Vargas strives to build a connection with listeners, with the goal of helping them feel less alone and finding a degree of authenticity in the process. We spoke with her about this track and her EP created in conjunction with producer Adam Gurr.
How did you get started as a singer and a songwriter?
Music has always been a part of my life. I started playing piano when I was 5 and started singing lessons around 10. I was in a band from 14 to 17 and got introduced to songwriting techniques by our director, and it all started from there!
You’re inspired by classic rock stars and songwriters like Stevie Nicks, David Bowie, and Joni Mitchell. What about these musical eras and artists do you connect with?
I love the free-spirited nature of the ‘60s and ‘70s. I’m a free spirit myself, so it’s wonderful to see a group of artists sustain their immense success while letting their wild hearts run free.
What I love so much about Bowie, Joni, and Stevie is that they were so authentically themselves and unapologetic about it. I find that incredibly inspiring.
You’re also inspired by California culture. What aspects of California influence your sound and lyrics?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, so I couldn’t have avoided being influenced by my hometown.
It’s always sunny here, and there is always something magical happening like a premiere or a show. I drive up and down the PCH in Malibu a lot, and nothing feels more freeing than that. I really try to focus on that magical, free, and bright energy in my songs and lyrics!
Pamela des Barres’s book I’m with the Band and Eve Babitz’s Sex and Rage (funny title, as there is no sex or rage within this book) have really been a driving influence over my perception of my hometown as well.
They made LA feel romantic and magical in their writings, which in turn made my 17-year-old self say, “Hell yes! LA is so fun and weird!”
Since your lyrics veer into diaristic territory, how do you go about writing a song, and what are you seeking to express?
A lot of my songs start from a quick poem or quote I’ve written. You should see my Notes app, as well as my physical notebook! They are filled with weird little lines or quick poems. I write these sorts of things to help with labeling my own feelings, since they are so incredibly complex.
When writing a song, I start by sitting at my piano and word vomit like crazy. I pull from different recurring thoughts or experiences I’ve had. I try to let all my feelings go and then work up from there.
My end goal with each song is for someone to listen to it and think “I’ve felt that before” or “I’m currently going through that.” I just want people to know that they aren’t alone, in their bad or good experiences.
“Strawberry Kisses” marked your debut earlier this year. Why did you select this as a track for listeners to get to know you?
It felt like a good song to start with! It’s so playful, sunny, bright, and sexy in a cheeky way, which are all the things that I feel like represent me.
It was also the first song I had ever openly talked about the pleasure of sex and owning my body as a woman, so it felt incredibly empowering to release it first.
“Strawberry” was also the song I listened to the most on this EP, since my friends begged me to play it every time we would drive up to Malibu – their input pushed “Strawberry” to the front.
“Moving in Reverse” dropped in June as its follow-up, and it has a somewhat more chill vibe. What was your vision for writing this track?
My vision for writing this track came from a place of fear and the need to be completely transparent with those deep and heavy feelings.
I wrote the song at the beginning of the pandemic about my fear surrounding the world and it turned out to be something everyone could relate to.
You also put this song aside for a year. Why did you feel you needed a break, and what was different when you returned to the track?
I think there was a part of me that didn’t know if it was too dark or too soon to release a song that was technically about the pandemic.
By the time I returned to the track, the pandemic was over, and I was going through a really hard time mentally with my own things.
I opened up the file and listened to “Moving in Reverse” for the first time in a year and a half and I was completely mind blown. I couldn’t believe that a song I wrote about the pandemic could apply so deeply to the state of my mental health.
I’ve been seeing a lot of my friends deal with their mental health struggles, and this song is now dedicated to them and myself. Pushing through depressive periods, isolated times, or anxiety is a really powerful thing to do!
So many people do not get enough credit for that and are quick to judge that their problems aren’t valid. I hope my transparency around those heavier feelings can make people feel less alone and like their feelings are valid.
You’re gearing up for your debut EP, scheduled to drop later this summer. Beyond these tracks, what more should listeners expect?
Yes! I’m so, so excited! Listeners should expect a lot of truth written around this EP. Each song feels like a different chapter in the book of my life during that specific period. I don’t want to give too much away, since I’d love to hear what other people’s perceptions are of each song!
Adam Gurr is producing your debut. How did you connect, and what does he bring to your sound?
I met Adam when I was 19, so he has really had an influence on my sound. His wife, Tova, was nine months pregnant and so generously decided to tattoo my mom and I before she gave birth.
We were sitting in her magical tattoo shack, chatting about life and one thing led to another, and I met Adam! We started recording the week I met him, and here we are two years later!
Adam HAS taught me so much about taking risks with sounds and playing around. He brings such a cool vibe to each song and pushes me to try new things.
I trust his input with each song I write. He is incredibly supportive and knows how to get me out of my head while writing or recording.
Your career is just getting started. What are your goals for the near and distant future?
My goal for the near future is to start doing some shows around LA, California and then eventually go on tour.
This summer is going to be so much fun, and I can’t wait to see people’s reactions to the songs live. For the distant future, I’d love to just continue on the tour train with bigger venues and continue writing albums.