Voices Of Live: Victoria Canal On Feeling Invincible

Baylee Cocagne
– Victoria Canal
Victoria Canal feels she has finally found her voice as an artist with the release of her latest EP, Victoria.
Victoria Canal is many things – differently-abled, 21-years-old, world-traveled – and her new EP, Victoria, displays the confidence of an artist ready to take over the world. 

Growing up the daughter of an architect, Canal has lived in many countries (Spain, Japan, United Arab Emirates, China, Netherlands) and she moved to the U.S. after spending a year at a Barcelona conservatory to pursue a career in music. She was born without her right forearm but has become a multi-instrumental musician who sings, writes her own music and was heavily involved in the production of the latest project.

She has toured with the likes of Michael Franti and Leslie Odom Jr. and has already played stages like First Avenue in Minneapolis and Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colo. She also recently partnered with Nike to get her own shoe line as a part of the Fearless Ones campaign and even performed at the Oscars in February. 

She took some time to chat with Pollstar on the day her new EP dropped about her career thus far and what lies on the horizon. 
So what has the process leading up to the Victoria EP been like?

It’s been a year of trial and error, experimenting, going in circles, in the best artistic way. This record was really fun because it was the first time I had a real hand in it as a producer. I think the record is essentially about new confidence, in a nutshell. From the songwriting, the lyrics, the production, the vocal performances – it’s all this newfound bravery I found in myself when I turned 20. Looking back on it, especially now in mid-2020, it’s nice to think about how invincible I felt when I was writing the songs. 
I was like, “Queen, the whole world is fucking yours, you’re gonna take over.” Even though things have changed a bit since then, I still love listening to it and channeling that confidence.
I think it takes years and years to find the confidence to state who you are as an artist. Leading up to this record I think it was all experimentation, but I think this is the first time I’ve stated who I am and who I want to be.
Considering you are only 21 it must feel good to be at this point where you have so much ownership over your music.
What’s interesting to me is how many people I’ve met who trap their inner artist for a lifetime. It will take 20-30 years to say what they need to say. 
What I’ve found with this project, it’s sort of meta because the music speaks on this theme, but the music itself was my way of finding bravery and finding my voice. I just feel it’s so human for it to take decades to be brave enough to put yourself out there as an artist and say the things you really believe in and stand up for what you believe in. 
How does that theme of confidence relate to your experiences as a differently-abled artist?
It’s an interesting question. I feel like confidence is the deep, inner knowing that you can accomplish what you set your mind to and make the most of the lessons that life has to offer. 
When it comes to being differently abled, I think embracing the way that people are and being able to transcend stigma, body image and societal misconceptions, that’s the true gift of cultivating confidence. 
And that really has nothing to do with a disability. I know plenty of able-bodied people who are very concerned with how people look at them and treat them. I don’t think it’s a disability issue – it’s an ego issue. And also, I think it’s an accessibility issue. 
Everybody is coping with these thoughts of “Oh my God, these people are thinking about me a certain way and I’m not treated like everyone else.” I also see a very deep accessibility issue, though, as the products that we use and the activities that we take part in, as able-bodied people, are not designed to include asymmetrical people, or people who don’t function according to da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. A very slim percentage of the population looks like that, but the things we consume all have to do with that kind of person. 
Whether or not you have a disability, you have to cast aside what people think of you. But societally, we should have physical aid built into the system; people should be out there to help each other and products should be designed for everybody. 
The fact that there is a term, disability, and 1/5th of the population is disabled and thus excluded from the larger collective, that is a major issue. 
But I think accessibility and stigma are distinct issues. And I think it’s a matter of reframing and rebuilding on the interior and the exterior.
Do you see yourself as increasing representation of differently-abled artists? 
For me, my disability, or difference, is just a limb difference and it’s only half of my right arm. You don’t have to see it in every picture and people forget about it, and that’s comfortable for people, to not have to see it all the time. 
KelliRP Photography
– Victoria Canal
Victoria Canal is ready to take over the world, after having lived all over it.

I still identify as a differently-abled person, but that’s kind of like a cheat code, because it sort of dilutes a very real issue that people deal with. There’s this risk of someone following me and, similar to something like Black Lives Matter, there are things you can post and people you can follow that make you feel good about yourself, as though you are promoting representation. 

But my disability is almost unnoticeable. The important part is, in some way, I can be a gateway for people to be thinking about the differently-abled experience more. 
There’s this channel run by my friend Chris, Special Books By Special Kids, on YouTube and Instagram. He interviews different kids and young adults with an array of disabilities, all across a huge spectrum –  no one person has the same one. It’s amazing and that is representation to me. 
There is no shying away from someone who looks so different to you. I think that is so important to look in the face. Away from disability, away from any social justice conversation, I think it is important to be surrounded by people who are different from you. It informs your thoughts and opinions with other peoples’ lives and experiences, it increases your empathy and understanding. I think that is a constant, very important practice for people to keep in mind.
I grew up moving around a lot because of my dad’s work, I spent a good amount of time in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. I looked different from everyone else: My arm was different, my skin color was different. 
It was something that I experienced so early on that I came to understand how common human experiences are and how important it is to be a friend. 
You really are more deeply connected to everyone around you than you think. It takes really opening yourself up to be curious and to learn about peoples’ differences and commonalities to deeply understand each other.
How do you feel the live industry is doing in terms of representation?
When I’ve gone on tour, a huge chunk of my following is differently-abled. Sometimes it’s the same fans traveling a long way to come to my shows and in some venues it’s seamless, in other venues it is absolutely a total mess. 
And that’s not all on the venues. Maybe they’re not properly funded, or whatever it might be, but it is sad to not be able to connect as deeply with people who have been such avid supporters because they are having such an uncomfortable time at the venue, or they can’t even see the show because they are in a wheelchair and there is no place for them. I think there are issues there, but there have also been great strides. 
As far as executives go, I’m an indie artist so I don’t deal a lot with music industry executives. But I can say that every time I have been in a room to sing for a label representative, it’s always for a guy and he’s always old and white.
I would love to see more opportunities for disabled people in acting and music. I would say one really cool experience for me, showing me the strides made, was singing at the Oscars this year, they invited a few people with disabilities. 
It was interesting, however, that there was a token limb difference person, a token wheelchair person, a token blind person. There is very much a tokenization of bodies to fill the demand of representation, and I feel like it’s never given a second thought to include a white, able-bodied person in a movie or on a crew, but it’s always given a second thought, it’s always a very considered move to include a differently-abled person. Until we reach the point where it’s less calculated and more second nature, where there is more merit-based inclusivity, I think we have quite a way to go.
Even though you don’t really consider your limb difference a big deal in the broad scheme of things, does the thought linger that it defines you for many because there is so little diversity?

Yes, I wonder every day about people who listen to my music: Are they listening to me because I inspire them in some sort of tokenized way? Are they able to appreciate the hours and hours I have put into my craft? The same goes for any employment opportunity. 
But like we were saying when discussing everyone being worried about perception, at some point I had to just get past that. People do see what you have on the surface, but this whole EP is about what I see on the inside. I’m never going to see me the way other people see me, it’s not possible. All I can do is see myself through my own eyes.
You’ve already played some of the U.S.’s most cherished stages, the Oscars and now have your own Nike shoe. What can you say about your career thus far?
I think sometimes I get so caught up in what I’ve been working on and what I want to do, I forget it’s been quite a journey already and I’ve had so many amazing memories and incredible opportunities: the Nike campaign, having my own Jordan shoe; opening for Michael Franti at Red Rocks; opening for Emily King at the Apollo; going on tour with Leslie Odom Jr. It’s been a lot.  
Sometimes I have to check myself and look back at what I’ve done because I get so wrapped up in evaluating what I’m doing at the present moment. It’s surprising when I look back at a performance from the previous year and say: “Oh my gosh, that actually sounded pretty good,” when at that moment I had been super critical and I laid down in the dark for an hour afterward because I felt so bad about it. 
Time passes, you look back and think, “Oh my God, I’m actually not terrible. I’m pretty good at what I do, why am I always giving myself such a hard time?” 
How do social media and current events influence your art?
I don’t know if this is terrible or good, but I think being on social media has changed my life as an artist. Not just that I feel discovered, it’s influenced my creative voice. 
Depending on what people are speaking on politically or the work that other musicians are putting out there, I can react, thinking “Maybe I should do that.” You have to sift through all that content you come across and decide what you take and what you leave behind. 
It’s kind of like, when you have parents or guardians, their style will affect you. They will tell you all of these things and try to teach you values. You take in all this information from whoever is raising you and at some point you have to decide what you leave behind and what you internalize. I think it’s the same with what we take in from these hours and hours spent on social media. 
I also think with social media you have to set a limit. If I’m on it too long, it kills my creativity.