Brigitte Valdez


People that know me understand I have a tendency to be very opinionated when it comes to attempts at improving an original -- such as a movie or a song.

As an example, there are certain songs that I consider outright, brilliant, do-not-attempt-or-prepare-for-unflattering-comparison legends. Etta James singing “At Last”… “Unchained Melody” with Bobby Hatfield leading the way… and if you think in those terms, you likely understand what I mean.

It’s a feeling that is hard to really sum up… one where I am trying to express that someone got it so right, you had better read up on mythology and Icarus before you attempt your version under a spotlight with expectations of cameras pointing in your direction.

Funny thing though. As the saying goes: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

“At Last” was around before Etta James recorded her take on the song.

“Unchained Melody” was written for a film -- Unchained -- and nominated for an Academy Award roughly ten years before The Righteous Brothers released their version of it.

And with that thought leading the way, we can make a connection to Celine Dion. Many of you have heard her sing “I Drove All Night”… either simply as a terrific song, or perhaps just from the commercial.

“I Drove All Night” was written for, and sung by, Roy Orbison. That version was released, several years after his death, on an album called King of Hearts. After he had recorded it… but before his version was released… Cyndi Lauper recorded the song and it became a hit.

I happen to be a very big fan of Roy Orbison. That said… I enjoy Cyndi’s take on it… and Celine’s version is very, very good. It’s so good that it is one of my favorites from her career. And, it should be no surprise that it was one of the songs selected to be a part of the show for Legends in Concert, when a performer was delivering her tribute to Celine.

What was a surprise was the absolutely stunning woman delivering the performance. She was (and is) strikingly attractive, and a petite powerhouse of boundless energy that possesses a deliciously rich, strong, and mesmerizing voice. And when it comes to earning a flattering comparison while reaching for the stars… this lady nailed it.

I’ve been fortunate to see Legends in Concert shows on many occasions, and that includes watching several dozen of their featured cast members. Quite often, I’ve been left dazzled and amazed by the performances I’ve witnessed. There is some wonderful talent on the Legends roster -- as featured cast members, supporting cast members of dancers and singers, and band members and musicians. A friend of mine that has worked with Legends once described the group as “the best of the best at what they do” and in my experience, he’s right.

In this particular case, it was an afternoon in August of 2011, and I had just experienced my first encounter with Brigitte Valdez.

I cannot say enough wonderful things about this incredible lady. It is both an honor and my sincere pleasure to bring you this interview with her.

(First though, in the funny way things work, I have to tell you a story before we actually get to Brigitte and the interview. Because honestly and quite literally, we almost tripped into the interview.)

I was at that Legends show to take pictures of the entire event. Along with me was my wonderful wife, Terry, and some friends, a great lady with her two young children. I had purposely managed to get placed in a row back far enough where I thought I would be safe setting up a tripod. (Nope.) The daughter of our friend was sitting next to me.

Brigitte’s set began with “I Drove All Night”… outstanding job, worthy of praise… and eventually included a segment where she came into the audience. The young girl next to me was star-struck and Brigitte was getting closer. By the time I realized Brigitte was heading down our row, I had no time to even attempt moving the tripod completely out of the way. She was forced to kind of lean around it in order to hold hands with the youngest member of our group. So sure… I made quite an initial impression on her.

After a show, the featured cast of Legends usually assembles for pictures and autographs. This afternoon was no different.

I had been standing to the side, talking to some people I knew, while my wife led the kids up to their favorite people to get autographs. I was close by though, with my camera ready, since I knew there was likely going to be a call to come over and take some pictures of the kids. What I didn’t expect was…

Just as Terry neared her, Brigitte’s husband showed up with their two young daughters. He remembered the girls, but not a camera. And it just so happened that: (1) Brigitte had, at that time, never been all dressed up for her Celine tribute around her daughters so they could take a picture, and, (2) my wife was right next to her, heard their exchange about a camera, and mentioned that I was right there with mine. Turned out almost tripping Brigitte had made a memorable impression on her, we laughed for a bit, and I took pictures of her and the girls.

Those few moments led to e-mail exchanges, and eventually the creation of a photo gallery of Brigitte on the site. We stayed in touch off and on, while working on the project, and I eventually got an e-mail saying she was coming back for a summer run with Legends in July of 2012. This time, thanks to our familiarity, we were easily able to arrange a few minutes for this interview and also capture some more pictures. (Check out the gallery to see even more of the pictures of Brigitte on stage, which is being updated with new material as this interview is posted.)

I want to thank Brigitte for her time and patience in working on these projects with me. She is a true class act, a wonderful person, and an amazingly talented entertainer.

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“We were brought up in a multi-cultural household where so many different genres and styles of music were listened to. So, whatever my soul is feeling at the moment, I tap into those memories and that background.”

I sat down with Brigitte and began trying to get a framework of where she came from as a young child. I smiled when I noticed some of the tricks-of-the-trade on a shelf behind her… honey and tea. Yet even with those familiar items that you might expect when speaking with a singer, there was so much more I was about to find out. I try to approach every interview prepared as well as possible to hold a new conversation with a person, hoping to ask some things that maybe they haven’t considered previously, while being prepared for any unexpected twist or turn.

What I knew of her was a California background, which included Hollywood and Palm Springs. And I began with some basic questions. How was she exposed to music? How was her talent encouraged and developed? And I was in for an amazing stretch of surprises.

On her mother’s side, her grandfather, Aime Vereecke, came from Belgium. He was a musician (clarinet) and arranger that arrived in the United States during the 1920s and worked with Carmen Miranda. For more than three decades, he worked on musical scores for Twentieth Century Fox.

Her father’s side is Greek, and also has musical connections. One of her uncles, Harry Economos, was a guitar maker, specializing in playing and making bouzoukis.

She also notes several family members, from past generations to current, that perform in bands.

As she succinctly points out, music truly “runs in the family.”

Some of her earliest… and most treasured… memories from her childhood involve standing on a wooden bench and singing in the family home. It would seem that music isn’t just woven into the fabric of her family though, as it is also a dynamic part of her own story.

She grew up singing. And by singing, I mean singing. Singing everywhere she could. She sang in church. She sang at school. She would sing the national anthem at events. And, once she joined Legends in Concert, she would even travel as far as Japan to perform.

And when our story connects with Legends in Concert… if we can be so bold… it does so with one of those connections that you might not expect, but makes all the sense in the world.

Trent Carlini performs as a well-regarded Elvis Presley tribute artist. Around 2002 Brigitte shared an agent with Trent. Their agent thought Brigitte had a strong voice that was very reminiscent of Celine Dion. The thought was entertained of developing a tribute to Celine.

So… of course… the path to professional work as a tribute artist was in part thanks to an Elvis tribute artist.

Developing a tribute has turned out to be a bit of an understatement. Performing in a production such as Legends in Concert involves several layers of entertainment abilities and skills. Absolutely, the voice is essential. Beyond that though, it also combines the visual impact of an individual’s looks and costuming with acting and choreography. It’s a complete package… and Brigitte covers the full range with her talents and stage presence.

If you’re interested -- and I hope you are -- one of the best places to check for Brigitte’s personal efforts is CD Baby, where you can find her albums Brigitte and Tribute. (I absolutely LOVE the arrangement of “O Holy Night” on the Tribute album. And the arrangements throughout that album are at once familiar and extraordinarily different.) She is in the process of restructuring her personal web site at this time, and here at In My Backpack we will do our best to keep you updated on news about Brigitte and how to keep up with her.

And with the introductions made, it is my pleasure to share an interview with Brigitte Valdez.

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I suppose it’s the standard idea, but the best place to start might be the beginning. Where did you grow up, and how important was music in your life early on.

Then I’ll start by saying that music has always been an important part of my life, from my childhood to today. One of my earliest memories is standing on a bench in the living room, singing with my family. It was a multi-cultural home, where so many different styles of music were played and listened to.

I grew up in California. I lived in Hollywood early on, and then moved away. The congestion and lifestyle of Los Angeles and Hollywood was a bit much, and the decision was made to move the family out to Palm Springs.

To get back to the music idea, it runs through my family, between generations and both sides. On my mom’s side, my grandfather, Aime Vereecke, was very involved in the entertainment industry. He came over to the United States from Belgium in the 1920s, and worked with Carmen Miranda. He played the clarinet and also worked as a musical arranger. Later, for more than three decades, he worked with Twentieth Century Fox on their musical scores.

On my dad’s side, a good person to mention is my uncle, Harry Economos. That side of the family is Greek, and one of the traditional instruments is called a bouzouki. My uncle was a guitar maker, and he made and played bouzoukis.

And as you grew up and became more involved in outside interests, did music follow?

I’m not sure if that’s the way I’d describe it, but basically yes.

I’ve always loved singing, and so that was a common theme in many of the interests I would look at growing up. I enjoyed singing at school and in any special events that I could be a part of, whether offering the national anthem or something local on to corporate events and other things I’ve been part of over the years.

So it wasn’t simply something you enjoyed doing, but something you wanted to do and felt it might be a career of some sort?

Singing is simply what I always wanted to do.

My dad pushed me. (Pauses) Well, that’s not right. He was closer to nudging me. (Laughs) He saw what I loved, encouraged it, and helped me develop it.

I’m very happy now, and I enjoy the opportunity to perform and be on stage. So while it was hard at times, it has definitely been worth it.

Was your dad’s involvement a large part of developing a career?

There are so many unexpected and strange twists that can make connections and advances for a career. When I was 16 or 17, my dad’s efforts led to working with an agent. That brought me to a day when I was singing at Albuquerque Downs, a horse racing facility. Someone saw me sing there, and it ended up being a connection that led to Hollywood Sound Recorders.

Jesse Hodges was a songwriter that started Hollywood Sound Recorders. At the time he heard me in Albuquerque, he was looking for a country singer. If I had to give you an idea, someone young and country, like LeAnn Rimes, would be a good example. So in a lot of ways it never should have gone too far. I was more interested in pop-oriented material, with a lot of Christian music mixed in as well. Still, the event in Albuquerque led to an audition. I decided to sing what I knew best, and he ended up going with me.

I recorded an album with him, which was done on spec. It was a tremendous experience, and I learned a lot from the work and from Jesse. I co-wrote that album with the producer, Jim Ervin. He taught me so much about writing, recording, and just the entire music industry in general.

Is that album available now?

Well, that’s another of those legendary stories of musical politics. It did get an Asian release, but you can’t find it today.

Jesse passed away, and just the rights to the material are tied up in a good deal of paperwork. I believe Hollywood Sound just closed their doors for good recently, so I’m not even certain where one would start today.

In reality though, for me it really was the experience that can’t be reproduced. The material I’m writing now, and the work I’m doing with Legends and bands back home, is closer to me as a person and an entertainer.

How did your efforts as a tribute artist begin?

Another strange story. It involves Trent Carlini, who is an Elvis tribute artist.

Trent and I shared an agent at the time, and back around 2002 we were discussing my professional plans. Our agent felt I had a strong voice that sounded like Celine Dion, and that I would be able to handle performing a tribute for her.

At first, I couldn’t understand how a person could make a living as a tribute artist. I didn’t have much information on how it worked as a business. And, I worried about whether or not it was going to limit or even stop me in the future with my own endeavors.

One of my first assignments with Legends was performing at Universal Studios in Japan in 2003. That kind of travel was just one of the ways that I found out there was a great deal more to the work as a tribute artist than I ever could have anticipated.

The reality is, the decision to go for it was the best thing I ever did, and the hardest thing as well.

There’s so much more to being a tribute artist than the voice, isn’t there?


I can tell people, quite honestly, that I’m an actress. It’s not simply me singing Celine’s songs. I’m supposed to be delivering a tribute of Celine, which includes creating as closely as I can her voice, stage presence, physical appearance, and so much more.

Also, everything behind the scenes is our responsibility. I do my own makeup and hair, and have to find my own costumes. And that’s an amazing and strange part of it as well, because you learn so much along the way to do things better or faster. No one else is doing that for you. (Laughs) I owe so much to drag queens for their advice early on when it comes to makeup tricks and tips.

It’s been incredibly rewarding for me. I’ve met so many talented people, and I’ve made lifelong friends. And that continues to be true, with every place I perform and all of the new people I meet.

I’m very thankful for the opportunities Legends has brought to my life and the experiences I’ve had with them.

How do you find audiences respond to your efforts?

The audiences have given me great responses.

Here’s a funny story. I was performing in Las Vegas once, and Celine happened to be ill. I met a few people after shows that told me they had come to see me because Celine wasn’t performing and they were hoping to see her. It made me a bit nervous at first, but they were so kind and wonderful with their thoughts and compliments that I eventually realized they fully understood what Legends was about, and what my tribute is about.

I am thrilled and honored to be doing my tribute as Celine. I can’t stress enough that it’s truly a blessing, and I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t have so much respect for her.

Legends in Concert has been your primary professional effort for more than ten years. What else are you up to?

I cherish the time I can spend with my kids and my family. That’s very important to me.

I’m always happy to be busy, and most of my time is spent with Legends. At home I do work with bands, mostly doing covers.

I love traveling, especially with my husband and children, but often times performing involves a lot of travel already. So honestly, while I stay busy, I just enjoy focusing on my family whenever I can.

I keep wondering if you have heard some of the other versions of “I Drove All Night” and what you think of those. As I know the story… the song was originally written for Roy Orbison. He recorded it around the time he was in the Traveling Wilburys and also recording his album Mystery Girl. But, it was left off that album and then he passed away before it was released. Cyndi Lauper then recorded it and released it before Roy’s version came out. These days, most people know the Celine version.

I like all the versions I’ve heard... but probably most of all, Celine’s. You knew I was gonna say that though, right?

Who are some of your favorite singers/musicians (especially those that influenced you)… and what are some favorite songs?

Well… some of the earliest favorite singers who influenced me most were, Barbra Streisand (I wanted to have THAT voice! I was awe-stricken and so inspired by her amazing gift). I would lock myself in my room as a young child and listen to and try and emulate Barbra Streisand for hours on end. Then came the same activity with Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Sandi Patti, and of course Celine Dion! I loved and still do adore the vocal stylings and clarity of Nat King Cole and his daughter, Natalie. Unforgettable was one of my favorite albums! And of course there was Michael Jackson, as well as all the Motown singers and musicians… Wow!

As I said before, we were brought up in a multi-cultural household where so many different genres and styles of music were listened to. So, whatever my soul is feeling at the moment, I tap into those memories and that background.

You’ve recorded multiple albums, and I’m wondering how different creating music off stage is for you compared to being on stage.

I like that both are collaborative efforts. The real difference comes in the creative demands of writing and recording material.

With the songs I’ve written, I feel comfortable developing my own lyrics and often work on the melodies for my songs as well. If I get help, it’s usually with the music.

It’s a different process, for sure, but I think you know that. So I suppose my answer is that recording involves even more of my personal interpretations and expressions. The majority of time, when I’m on stage, it’s to deliver a tribute performance. I love that. However, it’s me portraying Celine, singing Celine’s music. It’s not just me singing Celine’s music.

Does that make sense?

Yes, and that was pretty much what I meant. I was looking more toward the connection to the music, and not necessarily the process of recording an album as opposed to performing on stage. Because I get the impression you have an inner motivation -- a passion or a drive -- that in part comes from a love of connecting with an audience.

That’s a good way of thinking about it, because I do feel I have a connection with music in general and singing in particular that is part of what I should be doing.

I truly feel blessed to have these talents, and I want to use them to the best of my ability. I love talking with people and encouraging others. And, with a song on an album or a performance on a stage, if I connect in some way with just one person, well, that’s something special.

And there is no way of telling where or when those connections might happen. Every song, every show, every stage is an opportunity.

If a younger person… say 12 to 14… wanted to know what they could do to get started (school, lessons, etc.), what advice would you give them?

I would say to this young person: “Get involved in as many activities and aspects of the industry as possible. Sing in church, school shows, plays, and contests, as well as locally in your hometown. Take as many lessons as financially possible and feasible to your schedule; dance, voice, acting. All of this will aid in your future as a performer and entertainer. But, just as important as all these things, is remaining true and committed to your family, faith, and roots. Stay grounded in the reality of life and remember that the gifts you have been given have been bestowed upon you to help, touch, and bless others. Selfishness and pride will not take you very far, nor to very nice places. Humility and gratitude will help you soar. And also, just be a kid! Enjoy your childhood because you only get one chance at it! Don’t put so much pressure or allow others to put on you that you lose the joy in what you were called to do.”

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I would like to thank Brigitte for her time and consideration. While the majority of this material was assembled in 2012, the reality is that between photographs and this interview we’ve been sharing information for more than eighteen months. She has been incredibly kind, patient and helpful throughout this process, and I am honored to not only share this interview with you, but pictures of her performing as well.

If you can, find her and see her performing live… you will not be disappointed. Once it is up and running, I will update this material to reflect her new web site. For now, feel free to catch up with Brigitte by using the following links…

Brigitte Valdez at CD Baby

Brigitte Valdez at iTunes

Brigitte Valdez at Legends in Concert

Brigitte Valdez on Facebook

The Brigitte Valdez photo gallery at In My Backpack

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at