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Ancil Valley - The cool crooner
Ancil Valley is like a walking jukebox. Just ask him to sing a song and he takes out his phone, selects a track and begins to croon. The Digicel Rising Star winner impressed the music-loving women in the T&T Guardian newsroom, as he dropped classic oldies on demand.
Valley won the $250,000 first prize ahead of Tisha Gittens last Sunday at the Digicel Rising Stars Finale. The songs he performed in the final were Progress by King Austin, Stand by Donnie McClurkin and Tarrus Riley’s One Drop.
The 36-year-old father of four says with his prize money he intends on giving back to charity, investing in his music and, of course, putting a portion towards savings.
To those who may have found Valley’s face familiar, it’s probably because he was a returning contestant to Rising Stars. In the competition’s inaugural year, 2006, he placed fourth, a position that left him feeling emotionally bruised.
Retracing his steps, he says: “Naively, I wanted to win every round. I wanted to put on a good show all the time.
“I wanted to be the first in first. That approach worked against me, though, because I became my own competitor.”
San Fernando-born Valley recalled the moment it all crumbled for him.
“I crashed my attempt to perform Isaac Blackman’s To the Ceiling. I made a last-minute decision to sing this song because I was unable to obtain the track for the song I originally planned on singing, another song produced by Isaac Blackman called Privilege.
“In hindsight, trying to perform a song of a vocal phenom at a competition is probably not the best idea. I found out on that night that it was impossible to imitate his vocal inflections,”said Valley.
Not even Valley’s heartfelt appeal to the voting public encouraged them to overlook that one unimpressive performance.
“When I placed fourth in the competition I was deeply hurt and I kept trying to understand the meaning of it all—moving from the most celebrated in the competition to the person with tears streaming down my face in the back of a taxi heading back home to San Fernando.
“What made it even worse the song I intended to redeem myself with was playing loud and clear on the radio station. And I thought to myself, not a wonderful world,” said Valley, who can now look back at that failure with a smile.
Valley said he learned the importance of being consistent and pacing himself through the stages of a competition.
With those years behind him, Valley began making major career decisions. At the start of 2012 he made the decision to transition fully into his music.
Leaving his job as a supply chain officer with South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) behind, Valley believed it was time for him to follow his dream.
“I thought it was either I remained in this job which I was good at or follow my dream of becoming a professional singer—a talent I believe I was blessed with and if honed, would certainly offer a chance at greatness.” he said.
Once his mind was made up, he began preparing himself.
“I started working on my physical appearance—hitting the gym more often. I also expanded my musical repertoire, exploring several genres. And I took gigs at various events to get feedback from a wide audience.”
He noted his preparation had nothing to do with re-entering Digicel Rising Stars. A matter of fact, the competition was not originally a part of his plans.
“I was doing all of this to really launch in 2014 with my new band, which is still in the making.
“Digicel Rising Stars was sort of an interruption of my plan, but it was a welcomed interruption,” Valley stated.
“I love good music, I miss good music. While I understand the times have evolved and music has with it, I want to be able to bring back that timeless music that connects to fond memories and with which new memories could be made. Songs from such artists like Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Al Green, Bill Withers and others.
“I’ve had the opportunity to sing these songs and see couples who would ordinarily sit through a concert get up and dance the night away and I feel fulfilled and blessed to know that during the time they spent with me their relationship was celebrated,” explained Valley.
He said getting involved in the competition for a second time was really like a spur at the moment type decision.
“I was on my way to the gym and while traveling in a car I heard an ad for Digicel Rising Stars San Fernando audition and immediately it occurred to me why not take the opportunity.
“I was already making every sacrifice to my plan for 2014, so I thought re-entering might actually accelerate the pace at which this could be done. I re-entered and today I am the 2013 winner,” he said with a grin.
As the oldest, more seasoned and only male competitor in the top ten, Valley found his role this time around was pretty different.
“I found myself at times being a counsellor, coach and a big brother to most of the contestants. But this helped me as well. It allowed me to be myself and it proved that although it was a competition, nothing was wrong with helping others. I think that action was just an expression of my faith and motivated by genuine love,” said Valley.
Asked what advice he would give to others given his journey, he says: Be as prepared as possible and take yourself seriously.”
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