Rikki Valentina is working on a new era, and she’s only just getting started. We talked to Rikki about Daddy’s Girl, a five-song EP that she calls the “old me” and her journey from testing the waters of being a professional recording artist to taking the music industry into her own hands.
While we talk to Rikki over Zoom, her rescue kitten, Misa, demands attention, meowing and threatening to knock things over. We joke that it’s Misa’s interview, but it turns out that the tiny striped kitten is a star in her own right, and it was Daddy’s Girl that brought her into Rikki’s life. When Rikki was taking photos for the EP in a park, two small kittens (Misa and her brother Peanut) crashed the shoot. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t leave this kitten here.'” Now, Misa is one of Rikki’s many loves, and an unofficial point person for Rikki (at least we think she is).
But finding Misa isn’t the only thing that makes putting Daddy’s Girl out into the world important to Rikki. Growing up in Los Angeles, California with two parents who moved to LA before Rikki was born to chase their dreams. “My dad moved out here to be a rockstar. My mom moved out here to be an actor,” Rikki told us. “[They] ended up having me, and I kind of fell into those footsteps.” It’s no wonder she found a love for the arts—along with being a singer-songwriter, Rikki is also an actor and an aerialist. Daddy’s Girl is all of Rikki’s childhood love for the arts and her parents brought to life in five songs, and it honors her father who passed away in December of 2020.
“As weird as it sounds, this whole project kind of just came together perfectly without me even planning it ahead,” Rikki shared. “When my dad was around, I had “April Fool,” and we had filmed the music video and everything, and I was planning on releasing it in 2020. I was like 2020 is going to be my year. I’m going to release all of these songs. It’s going to be great. Then my dad had passed in December.”
“April Fool,” Rikki’s TikTok hit and now April Fool’s Day staple song, came out January 10, 2020 to be followed by “Dollar $igns” and, of course, Daddy’s Girl. This was a turning point for Rikki who realized that she wanted to push the songs that she was holding onto into the world. “I want to make more songs,” she said, “but I want[ed] to make something out of this. These are songs from who I was before I lost my dad and just growing as a person from the pandemic and being faced with all of these tragedies. I kind of just put it all together in an EP.” These songs are the “old” Rikki. “I’m going to release new music, and it’s going to be the new me.”
I really didn’t know what I was doing, but it worked because I believed in myself.
Rikki took this on by herself. After being snubbed by a producer who moved on without releasing any of Rikki’s songs, she took her music into her own hands. “I was like, ‘I don’t need you. I can go make music by myself,’ and ‘April Fool’ was born,” she said. “I was like ‘Okay, I made this song. I’m going to record it. I’m going to release it. I’m going to produce it.’ I just did everything for it. I did the visuals. I came up with the whole concept behind it and released it, and it did really well. Then I was like okay. I don’t need anybody. I can do everything myself. I know what I’m doing. I really didn’t know what I was doing, but it worked because I believed in myself.”
Dressed in dreamy pastels and nostalgia, Daddy’s Girl is a cathartic EP about memories and finding yourself. To make that happen, Rikki had to dig into her past and figure out what she wanted her music to look like even if that meant breaking rules to make it happen. One element of this was also looking at home videos to find samples for “Daddy’s Girl” and the final track on the EP, “Year ’95.”
“I went through a bunch of old home videos which is really tough for me,” Rikki shared, “but I was like, you know what? if I’m going to do this, I’ve got to just really do it.” She ended up settling on three samples. “Daddy’s Girl” opens with audio from a video where Rikki and her sister are playfully battling for attention from their dad and the camera and ends with Rikki’s dad filming her painting along to a song. “My dad goes ‘Oh, you’re painting to the music,’ and I thought that was such a cool line, so I stole that and I used that at the end of the song. It’s just a cool way of saying that you’re creating, and I just went with that.” The last song, “Year ’95” is a 33-second sample of a video where young Rikki proudly sings the alphabet.
Like breaking out into professional music in the first place, creating Daddy’s Girl was also a challenge in defining her work and putting it together how she wanted. The title track of the EP is just over five minutes long, a stretch for most production standards, and Rikki likes it that way. She wants to create meaningful songs, and she won’t let arbitrary rules stand in her way.
“That’s one of the things that I just I can’t stand in the music industry,” she said, “people just telling you, ‘Oh, well you need to make your song less than three minutes because people get bored.’ No, there’s no rule! You can do whatever you want. You’re creating music, and the people who appreciate it are going to appreciate it. I’m not going to shorten my song and make it so quick that it loses its meaning…We should be able to make our songs as long as we want.” While we spoke, she pointed out that Led Zepplin’s iconic “Stairway to Heaven” goes far beyond that three-minute mark. “How long is ‘Stairway to Heaven’? It’s like seven minutes long I think. I’m looking this up.” (She did.) “It’s eight minutes long! I was close. And it’s a great song. There’s no limit on the time of how long your song can be. I just thought that was so silly. It’s how it sounds and it’s how it flows.”
A major goal for Rikki in all of her music is being her most authentic self. “I’m very into being vulnerable and not hiding how I really feel, and I think it’s a comfort thing, too, for others,” she told us. Rikki sees her music as an outlet for people going through the same things she is and for countering some of the everyday things, like FOMO or body dysmorphia that people can feel trapped in with the constant influence of social media. Her song “Dollar $igns” was written specifically to poke fun at the idea of having a flashy social media persona instead of sharing who you really are with the world.
Authenticity carries over into her sound as well. Part of this came from her acting background. She took a class that was very focused on being open and truthful in acting, and Rikki carried that lesson into her music. She’s open about her feelings and her inspirations—among which you can find a lot of classic and 90s rock, 80s pop, Brittney Spears, and Christina Aguilera. With so many heavy rock influences, it might be surprising that her music feels like walking on purple and pink clouds. It might not have heavy guitar riffs, but Rikki’s music does prioritize real instrumentation. She’s inspired by that realness, iconic ballads, and her love for movie soundtracks.
“I think [real instrumentation] sounds better and fuller, and a lot of music today is all created digitally, and I just kind of wanted to change that,” Rikki said about why bringing in a band is an important part of her process. “I’ll throw in some electronic sounds here and there and mix them together, but I do want all of my songs to have real instruments. I think it’s very important.” She typically hires out guitar and drums for her songs, but Rikki can play ukelele and piano and omnichord (she uses it for chord progressions!), and she’s working on her guitar skills.
I’m very into being vulnerable and not hiding how I really feel, and I think it’s a comfort thing, too, for others.
Daddy’s Girl came out on Father’s Day, and it’s available to stream now. If the care that Rikki put into creating it wasn’t enough, it’s also full of Easter eggs, and Rikki shared a few with us. If you look at the tracklist, the first letter in the title of each of the five songs spells out “DADDY,” and along with home video clips, “Daddy’s Girl includes instrumentation from people close to her. One of her dad’s old band members plays guitar at the end of the track. “You could tell we were really sad, but we were smiling and making something great out of it,” she told us about that moment. The drummer on “Daddy’s Girl” was also a friend of her dad’s and is Rikki’s mixer. “It’s crazy how it all fell into place.”
Rikki is currently working on new music for what she’s calling her “darker era.” She’s still has a lot she wants to explore, and Daddy’s Girl is only just the beginning. “I’m going to be facing the challenges of loss and grief,” she shared. The project is in its early stages, so she didn’t want to give too much away, but we’re sure that more dreamy Rikki Valentina songs are going to be filling our ears before we know it.