The super talented musician and singer Paola Proctor found time to talk with me about her international experiences, musical successes, and evolving artistry at the Starbucks in the Gulch. She is a genuine person that I enjoyed getting to know. Paola, thanks for sharing a glimpse of your world with me. I can't wait for you all to learn about her by reading what we talked about below. Meet Paola Proctor!
ME: You spent time in Europe and the Middle East. Did you live in both Europe and the Middle East?
PROCTOR: Yes, I lived in Brussels, Belgium for three years. Then, I lived in Doha, Qatar for four.
ME: As Americans, we hear a lot about the wars, terrorist acts and bombings in those countries. The same goes for India and South Africa. Everyone is not poverty stricken and dying of diseases but that is what’s heavily portrayed. So I’m always curious about what life is really like in some of these places. The things the media fails to show us. So anytime I’m around someone who’s spent time in some of those places, I always like to ask this question. What’s one misconception you discovered after spending time in Europe and the Middle East?
PROCTOR: That’s the other thing, too. What you see on CNN and Fox…The media, in my humble opinion, has a very clear objective which is to gain viewership. So, I’d say at least having lived over there, take everything with a grain of salt. If there is a genuine threat, don’t travel there. But equally if there’s nothing going on, there’s no reason not to travel there. I’d highly recommend you don’t go to the Middle East during the summer because it is way too hot. We’re talking easily 120+ degrees. I want to say most people couldn’t even fathom what it was like to live in the Middle East. At least with Europe it’s very western. It’s a lot more modern than what people would expect. The Middle Eastern countries that I’ve been to are still considered third world countries just because they are not fully developed just yet. But they are well on their way to being first world, no question. So I want to say one of the biggest misconceptions is that I rode camels to school, which I did not. I was asked that plenty of times. To be fair, if they’ve never been exposed to it and their only reference is what they see on television than I can’t blame them. But equally, haven been there, it was some of the best years of my life. I have friends from all over the world now as a result. Not just from Qatar. I went to the American school there and I had friends from South Africa, Sudan, Kenya, New Zealand, Canada, and Ireland. The international community, worldly as it is, is a very small community. It’s nice at least because you got to be friends with people so quickly. Majority of the people were all in very similar situations where their parents were diplomats or part of an oil company or military. We all understood that we didn’t know how long we were going to be there so we were going to try to make the most of it with who we were with. Just do your research. Reach out to someone or at least read local custom books which there are plenty of.
ME: What are a few things you had to get used to while living in both?
PROCTOR: Oh my gosh, the food. I loved the food everywhere. On one side you have the kebabs, hummus, all of the different juices that they have, and what they call shawarma. I really miss Mediterranean foods! In regards to what I had to conform to…Well at least in Brussels, I think it was more of being exposed to just how small the world is. I want to say in fourth grade, I had a best friend from Finland. I had never even heard of Finland until I got to Brussels. I was like I didn’t even know there was a language called Finnish. I thought it was a joke at first until my friend was like, “No, I’m speaking Finnish.” I’m like, “Oh my gosh, that’s a language?” That was just fourth grade me being ignorant because I had no idea what that was. My other best friend was from Japan. So being exposed to all of those different countries and their cultures was new. Realizing we are all still so similar in the sense that we were not worried about politics. We were worried about what we were going to play at recess like, “Who wants to play Cops? Who wants to play Robbers?”
ME: Describe the music scene in those countries. What were some of the more popular genres?
PROCTOR: At least in Brussels, it was already so western that we were all pretty familiar with everything. My friend from Finland was actually the one to introduce me to The Black Eye Peas. She had been living there, I want to say two to three years, before I got there. She was originally from Finland but lived in Brussels. I was like, “How do you keep finding these things out?” She was like, “I watch MTV.” They have MTV Europe over there. In the Middle East, I mean we were so up-to-date with the latest like the Top 40s hits. They had a lot of similar channels like MTV and VH1 and so we were up-to-date with the latest trends. Lady Gaga really exploded when I lived overseas in Doha. That was really cool because all of a sudden everyone’s attire started changing. You could be a little more artistic if you will. So I could see that influencing people even in the Middle East which was really cool. The print’s limited over there so people would get much more exposure over media versus tangible objects.
ME: How did being in those places influence your musical background?
PROCTOR: Well, I started playing the cello and singing in the fifth grade. Both classical. Going to Doha, the older I got the more I started paying attention to more mainstream stuff. I’ve always had friends who were older so I started going to their parties and paying attention to the stuff they were playing at their parties. I started really investing more time and energy into commercial music and Top 40 hits at those parties and realizing it was so much fun to dance to and party to. All of that fun stuff.
ME: Seems like you had some experiences that if we sit here longer, I may be able to learn things about the nightlife and clubs…(laughing)
PROCTOR: (Laughing) I’ll tell you everything you want to know! You’d be surprised. It’s been a long time since I’ve actually been back to Doha, although I’m trying to get a couple of shows in Doha this coming year. I would love to go back and just see how much it developed. From what I hear, it’s a completely different city, which I’m really excited to see. People over there, at least all of my friends, we knew how to party. We all knew how to have a great time.
ME: You have a pretty profound orchestra background that most dream about having. I want you to walk me through a couple of those experiences. You performed for the Prince of Wales. How did you get that opportunity?
PROCTOR: We had just moved from Brussels to Doha. Since I had been playing the cello, I didn’t want to just suddenly stop because I really enjoyed it. So we found the Doha Community Orchestra. We had some showcase that we were doing at one of the big hotels. It was a big gala event. Honestly, I just happened to be there at the right time. At the time I was kind of like, “That’s the Prince of Waals, whatever.” I was a seventh grader. Whereas now at 24, I know that’s not normal by any means.
ME: And you’ve performed at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi which is a 5 star hotel that hosts a number of high-profiled events and performances. I feel like these are things someone with a little more time in this world would work up to. Yet here you are, very youthful, and can can say you’ve done these things. How did you land it? What was that experience like for you?
PROCTOR: My experience in Belgium...There were more opportunities for the arts like orchestra, classes, you name it there. Whereas at my school in the Middle East, they didn’t even offer orchestra because it was still a developing program. They didn’t even have enough people. So when there was an opportunity, they got who they could to show what they could do with the limited amount of people they had. That opportunity still blows my mind thinking about it.
ME: We’ve spent some time talking about the countries you’ve lived in. But even with your international background, you still ended up in Florida. How and why?
PROCTOR: I’ve grown up living in a lot of different places. I’ve moved every three to four years my entire life. I originally lived in Miami, Fl in preschool because my dad had an assignment there. Even though we left, my parents had made such a good foundation in terms of friends and culture. They liked the scene so much that we kept coming back to visit every summer or winter breaks. After awhile, my parents were kind of like we’re bringing in enough hotel bills, why don’t we just buy a place there and call it home base. So we did. When I was deciding to move away from Doha, after four years of living there, I had gotten everything I could out of music education at my school there. Since I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in music and had a strong passion for music, I was thinking about where is somewhere next I could go. Since we already had a place in Miami, my brother was going to college there, and my grandma lived 20 minutes away from where we had our condo, we figured let’s look into music schools there. I had gone to a performing arts school and then transferred into a private prep school so that I could do music as well as sports, which was something I was so upset about having to give up. I’m that person I’d rather spread myself out too thin than to give up something I enjoy. I’ve always loved sports. It feeds my mind and kind of keeps me balanced. I was really missing sports. When I transferred to the prep school, it gave me the best of both worlds. My parents still lived overseas so I was doing all of this at 16 by myself.
ME: When did you decide to make a career out of music?
PROCTOR: It wasn’t until my internship in Los Angeles did I realize I have to pursue this as a business. This is the way I’m going to put a roof over my head and eat food. That’s the mentality switch I had after my internship. I couldn’t give myself the cushion of having a plan b or else I knew I was going to slack. That internship made me realize I had to pursue this as a professional. Secondly, there was a Grammy U event in Miami. This was before my internship. I went to see Rico Love talk and attended his Q & A sessions. I asked him, “As a college student, what would you recommend? Is there something I should pay attention to in class that I could take into the workforce?” He was like, “Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s fantastic that you are getting an education, that certainly opens doors. But there’s nothing like when you are actually in it. There’s so much more that you’re going to learn when you’re in it than sitting in a room.” He was spot on. It’s a lot easier to learn when you’re immersed in the environment where you have to learn what’s going on in order to keep up versus passing tests. What’s next is all cumulative.
ME: Although you don’t look it, you’ve been in the music industry for a while now. You’ve seen how hard it is for an upcoming artist to book a gig or get their content out there. I’m sure you’ve had to face rejection at some point in your professional career as it is practically inevitable in this industry. Talk about a time when you were rejected as an artist or musician. How did you persevere?
PROCTOR: My last two years of high school were the hardest still to this day. At 16, I was already dealing with so much. I’m pretty sure I might have been the only student who was living there fully time without her parents. I was juggling so many things. Ever since then, any hardships I experienced wasn’t the worse. But basically all of my undergraduate years, I certainly wasn’t one of the poster child’s in the choir department. I was okay with not being the soloist. My song wasn’t selected for the school’s publishing company or record label. It was one of those things, though where I’d ask what do I need to do. I would listen to advice from people who I knew would provide me with constructive criticism. You have to figure out what’s something different you can do. Nothing changes until something changes.
ME: What bothers you most about the music industry?
PROCTOR: I’m a firm believer that there’s many ways to get to the same place. As easy as it may be to say a specific artist have this giant company backing them financially so of course they’re going to be successful. I try not to make excuses. I try not to generalize but a lot of people are convinced that there’s only one way to get to the same place. It takes someone to research that and find a way to be cost efficient and get the same results, or at least close to. That’s number one. Number two, the assumption that musicians should do everything for free. No, they need rehearsal space. They need equipment. Their time, travel, all of that stuff.
ME: Let’s talk about your artistry. You perform a number of covers on your YouTube channel but you have actual songs available anywhere music is heard such as iTunes, Spotify and YouTube. What do you hope to do with your artistry?
PROCTOR: A little bit of everything. I have so many things I want to accomplish. I can’t even say I’m scratching the surface just yet. I have a bigger vision of what I want to do. Ideally, I’d like to be able to sustain all of my business endeavors in house under my umbrella of Paola Proctor. I like jingle writing. I wrote my first jingle—-Are you familiar with the company Caterpillar, the construction company?
ME: On West End?
PROCTOR: Yes! So, they had a financial department conference and commissioned me to write a jingle for the week of the financial conference. So I licensed it to them for the week. They ended up liking it so much that they purchased the copyright from me and are using it on their internal website. I try not to just do music in the artistry way but keep it under the things I want to do personally. I feel like these other projects help my personal projects as well, because it kind of engages different parts of the brain where I can induce more creativity in other ways. I never want to peak.
ME: When can people expect new music from you?
PROCTOR: 2018. I just finished the video for the first song I’m releasing in 2018. We’re in the process of figuring out when everything’s going to come out, where it’s going to go, all of the fun stuff behind the scenes, the nitty gritty.
ME: What’s something you want to do that you haven’t had the opportunity to do?
PROCTOR: I have some big collaborations that I want to do one day. I would love to do a song with Bruno Mars—--
ME: You know that song would be timeless, right? Let me tell you about Bruno Mars. He’s the only artist out right now that can stay away for a good five to six years. Then drop a single and still be just as popular as when he left. People will still play his old songs until his next release. Based on the pace of mainstream, if someone else did it the way he does, they’d fade away or get replaced. But because he has that timeless element, he can appear at any time and be a hit.
PROCTOR: That’s a pillar goal! I also have another. There’s an EDM DJ artist named Frank Walker. He’s up and coming, as well. I think he’s really good. I’m a big fan of his music already. I actually did a mashup with one of his songs called Angel Falls. I would love to write with him. It’s completely different from my personal genre, which is pop soul. I think it would be fun to go out of the box and do something different but still do a good job.
ME: What type of influence do you hope to have on future generations that may encounter your music?
PROCTOR: Realness. There’s nothing wrong with a song that has four lyrics and the chorus but makes you get up to dance. Also, I feel there’s a lack of substance sometimes. The thing I’m hoping to accomplish with my music is something that’s fun but will still come off as something that is well-written and clever.
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Creator of everything you see on here.