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Val Sepulveda

Interview by Sean Mitchell // June 13 2013
Val Sepulveda

Coming here not knowing anyone was pretty hard. I had to network a lot, take any opportunity I had to play and just be out there playing as much as I could. There are so many great musicians here that it takes a lot of work to be successful.

Val Sepulveda hits like a girl ... and she's proud of it too. Val is the most recent winner of DRUM! magazine's Hit Like a Girl contest; and she deserves the honor. The Chilean-born groovestress came out on top of a very talented pool in this year's contest that drew drummers from all over the world. Val has big plans for the next few months and was eager to share her incredible experience with The Black Page. 

Val, you grew up in Chile and you talk about the Chilean circuit where you got your start. What is the drumming industry like in Chile? Are there many drummers?

Yes! The drumming industry in Chile has been growing a lot lately. More people have become interested in playing drums professionally now, and there are many awesome drummers there. 

How did you hear about the Hit Like a Girl contest and what did you do to prepare for your solo? 

Some friends told me about the contest and convinced me to get in it. It took me a couple of days to decide if I should enter or not. I’ve always been shy when it comes to recording a video of myself playing to a track ... by myself (laughs), so I thought about it and then decided I had nothing to lose. The hard part was to choose what I was going to play. I sent a message to my drum teacher from college to ask him for suggestions and he recommended that track I played. It was in 7/8 and had a solo part so I thought it would be fun! I practiced for like a week playing hours only to that track, and every time I played it, my solo was different (laughs). I just improvised it! 

Can you tell me about some of the projects that you work with in the United States? 

I’m currently playing in different projects here. The Vibrant Sound is one of them; they are like an indie/hip hop/neo soul band. I tour with them and work with them in the studio, etc. We recently played with Lindsey Stirling (violinist YouTube sensation) as the opening act for her tour. Kathleen Frewin is another artist I back up; her style is like folk/pop/rock. We’ve been playing shows locally and recording in the studio as well. I also play with Faith Johnson; she is a young artist working in her album with a Grammy-winning producer in LA. I’m playing in a new project, more like a progressive rock band, and we’re currently writing the music. And I also fill in on drums for different bands for shows and to record in the studio. 

Who are the drummers that inspire you and which drummers are your favorites? 

There are so many amazing drummers that inspire me! I remember one of the first drummers I watched was Mike Portnoy. He was one of my first inspirations to play drums—to see his huge drum set and how effortlessly he could play difficult things. I’ve also learned so much from Dennis Chambers, Benny Greb, Jojo Mayer. And my female drummer inspirations are the amazing Sheila E. and Cindy Blackman. I remember I went to a clinic Cindy Blackman did in Chile a couple years ago and I learned so much from her. There are so many inspiring women drumming nowadays. 

Do you remember how you discovered drumming? 

Yes, I think since I was a little girl drums always got my attention and interested me. I always loved rhythms and beats, the thread that brings all music together. It wasn’t until high school though that I discovered how drums worked, when I attended a drum class at my school. 

Now that I have seen your videos, you are definitely one of my favorite drummers. How often did you practice as you developed after university and what sorts of things did you practice? 

Awe, thank you! (laughs) Well, I think practice is essential and the key to success. I practice every day for at least three hours, minimum—or as much as I can! And I practice different things during my practice time: rudiments, exercises for the feet, play along to songs in different styles, just move around the drum set as much as I can.

To come from a small country and be successful in the US must be a challenge. What obstacles did you have to overcome to get where you are right now?

Well, it’s been a challenge for sure. Coming here not knowing anyone was pretty hard. I had to network a lot, take any opportunity I had to play and just be out there playing as much as I could. There are so many great musicians here that it takes a lot of work to be successful.

The female drummer demographic seems to really be growing. Why do you think more girls are becoming drummers?

Because drums are awesome! I think we have realized that we have the same capabilities to play an instrument that is considered to be mostly for men—and we can be great at it!

What advice do you have for female drummers in the industry or females who want to get their start in drumming?

First, I’d tell them that they are awesome! It takes hard work, courage and patience to be a drummer, so I admire every female drummer out there. And second, I’d tell them to just enjoy and love every moment they play, and to never feel discouraged, but keep going.

Did your parents come to the US with you? And are they musical?

My parents were already here when I came. My whole family is very musical; they all play instruments like guitar, piano and sing. So, music has always been a part of my life.

Can you take me through your drum set-up? What is your size configuration?

Yes, I have a 14’’ snare, 10’’ 12’’ 14’’ 16’’ toms (but I usually just use two toms) and 22’’ kick drum.

What gear are you using at the moment for drum/cymbals/sticks/skins, etc.?

I play a Tama Starclassic kit, TRX cymbals, Vic Firth sticks and I currently use Remo for the toms and Evans for my snare.

What do you have coming up in the near future?

I have shows booked with different bands, recording sessions, and I’m planning to make more videos for YouTube too. Just keep playing as much as I can and take any opportunity I have!



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About the Author
Sean Mitchell

Sean Mitchell has been an active participant in the drumming industry for over 20 years. He has studied under Crash Test Dummies drummer Mitch Dorge and Drumming's Global Ambassador Dom Famularo. Sean is also a songwriter and regularly performs with his wife (and singer) Jill Mitchell. Sean proudly endorses Aquarian Drumheads.

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