Francisca Valenzuela: Chile's Breakout Star

Francisca Valenzuela is a busy woman.

The 24-year-old Chilean singer/songwriter has been performing in major cities across the U.S., Latin America and Europe. Recently, she appeared at the SXSW music conference in Austin, Texas, and performed for the first Lollapalooza ever held outside of the U.S., in Chile.

But by most music industry standards, she is an underdog. She has refused, at least for now, to sign with any major recording label.

The artist has independently released two albums, “Muérdete La Lengua (Bite your tongue)” and “Buen Soldado (Good Soldier),” with enough success to attract the attention of publications like Rolling Stone Brazil and The New York Times, which called her “one of Chile’s newer hitmakers.”

Her latest album, “Buen Soldado,” is a change for Valenzuela, whose vocals are often compared to singer Fiona Apple. Straying a bit from the style of her first release, which was mostly pop rock, the new album shows she’s developed a maturity and range that includes piano-driven ballads, jazz influences and more varied rock arrangements.

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While preparing for her show in Los Angeles, Fox News Latino chatted with Valenzuela about how it feels to be flirting with mainstream stardom.

“I have always been inclined toward the arts,” she said. “I began writing and training on classical piano when I was a child in the Bay Area (San Francisco). When my family moved back to Chile, I got deeper into songwriting.”

After high school, it wasn’t long before she recorded her first album. The challenge, however, was getting it to play on air.

“Fortunately for me, Myspace took off. I formed a music page and was very hands-on and proactive," she said. "I went knocking door to door on every radio station; the ones that liked the demo began to play it.”

Independent artists in the states often rely on mixtapes and a vibrant, but frequently fleeting, underground music scene to develop a following. However, in Chile, regular radio airplay does not require the backing of a major label, allowing for more widespread exposure.

“Of course, every label I went to did not want my work but what is amazing is that in Chile, there is a very autonomous and independent kind of industry," said added. "Once the album started getting airplay, the labels came back.”

In a bold move, Valenzuela did not answer the calls of courting labels after her success with “Muérdete la Lengua”. Instead, she focused on her next project.

“They wanted me because the songs were working. But I chose not to work with those guys," she said. "I think if the right contract and the right label came along, it’s a perfect opportunity. In the meantime, I’ll work independently with great local alliances.  It’s difficult and challenging but it is rewarding.”

Rewarding, indeed.

During a recent U2 performance in Chile, lead singer Bono invited a surprised Valenzuela to sing on stage with the legendary group. In just a few weeks, she will be one of only three Latin acts to perform at the popular Austin City Limits music festival (along with newbies Bomba Estereo and veteran group Manu Chao).

“This year has been exceptionally exciting,” she said. “I am really looking forward to September!”

Erica Y. López has written for and is a regular freelance contributor for Fox News Latino. She can be reached at

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