There is nothing more exciting than a person stepping away from an honorable profession in the name of strapping on a guitar and writing pop songs. Oh the risk! Oh the uncertainty! While music was always the first love for singer-songwriter VALERIE NICOLE, she used her degree in Music Education to teach music at the elementary school-level. If memory serves, music education at that level could either be a pleasure or a punishment, but Iím willing to believe that NICOLE was an engaging teacher and not like my elementary schoolís music teacher whom everyone had dubbed ĎMR. POTATOHEADí. Eventually, tunes that NICOLE would hum in her head became too irresistible so she put the teaching aside and threw herself into songwriting and performing. The years spent perfecting her songcraft have resulted in her debut CD ĎFROM THE HEARTí Ė an earnest collection of Ďheart on her sleeveí pop gems that run the gamut of country, alternative and sixties pop.

ROCKWIRED spoke with VALERIE NICOLE over the phone. Here is how it went.

What are your thoughts on the finished CD?
I think that it shows a lot of growth from the EP that I put out in 2007 in terms of my songwriting. Iím looking to record again in the near future but I think the CD at hand definitely shows my growth as a songwriter.

How did music begin for you?
Ever since I was three years old, I always loved singing. Starting out in elementary school I got into any music group that I could possibly be in. Iíve always had this love for music so I decided to go to college for Music Education. I got my degree in that and a year after college, I decided that I really wanted to pursue writing my own songs and performing. From there, I just started to really go for it.

Before you pursued music as a vocation, you were a teacher.
Yes. I taught general music classes in elementary school.

Describe what it was like teaching.
It was challenging. I actually enjoyed working with kids on a one-on-one basis. I did some private instrument lessons and voice lessons and stuff like that. In the public schools, itís a little bit harder because you have the kids that are really, really interested in music and you have the kids that donít really care. Itís hard to bring everyone into it and get them all interested.

Before becoming this adult that decided to write music full time, had you ever written before hand?
There were a lot of times where I would make up a melody and start singing something but I never thought to write any of it down or record it. It wasnít until college when I started taking all of the music theory classes and learning about how to work with chords and progressions. I had also learned to play guitar in college and one of my professors approached me and said that I would be a good candidate for a composition class but that class was geared more towards writing classical pieces. It was a class that in order to take it, you had to be recommended. I tried the class and I really liked it and thought that I should probably sit down and try to write something with lyrics. I fell in love with the guitar at the same time that I wanted to write songs. It all came together at the same time for me.

In the course of your evolution into the artist that you are today, was there ever and artist or a group of artists that resonated for you?
There are a lot of different musicians out there that really inspire me, but growing up, it was probably THE BEATLES. They were my momís favorite band so I heard them all of the time. I think that some of my music may have been influenced by some of that in the beginning but not now. Now, itís other things.

Explain Ė if it can be explained Ė the creative process. How does a song get written for you?
Iíve done it a couple of different ways but the way that works best for me is when I get an idea of what I want to write a song about and then I hear a melody in my head and then Iíll record that and Iíll go back to it, and write lyrics that fit that melody. From there, Iíll add what ever it is that Iím going to play on keyboard or guitar and then I present the idea to the band to see how it will work.

Is this the same band you used for your EP?
Actually, no. For the CD, I had studio musicians. I didnít put the band together until February of this year.

So itís recent.
Yes. Itís recent but weíve been doing a lot more shows. Iím really, really happy with them as musicians and as people. Weíre all best friends and I donít think that it could get any better. We have such a great time and weíre all roughly the same age. I canít wait to record the next CD with this band.

What moments off of the album stand out for you the most and why?
Probably the first song MISUNDERSTOOD. At the time of the albumís release, it was my favorite song but Iíve written more since then. That one was based on the way that I was feeling about a relationship at the time. I really liked the way that the song came out in production. Of all of the songs on the album, that one has the fullest sound. We did a lot of things with the arrangement and worked hard to get to be as good as it could be. The other favorite would have to be LIVINí IN THE MOMENT just because a lot of people have come up to me after shows to tell me that itís their favorite and that they really connected with it.

Talk about live shows. How easy or difficult is it to transfer the sound of the album onto a live stage?
Itís not a s hard as you would think. The CD is pretty cut and dry. We didnít add a whole lot of extra instrumentation. What you hear on the CD is what you are going to hear live. As a band we have kind of made the songs better by changing some of the parts on the guitars, the bass and the drums but itís got the same feel as the CD.

How extensive are your shows at the moment? Are they local right now or have you started touring?
Right now, we are pretty much regional Ė in the Philadelphia/Redding area but I have started playing in the New York area as a solo musician and Iím trying to get the band up their as well. I played THE BITTER END two weeks ago and Iíll be up their later this month. So I hope to my name up their in New York and tap into the market up their.

I tend to think that east coast artists are very fortunate because the states are smaller and itís so much easier to spread the word their as opposed to the west coast where everything is a million miles apart from everything.
Exactly! The nice thing about where I live is that Iím right in the middle of Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, and D.C. Itís really easy to get to all of those cities.

Most of the country is there so kudos to you!
Thank you!

At the top of the interview you dropped hints about a new album. How far along are you with that project?
As a band weíve written about five new songs. We want to get at least fifteen and put about ten on the album. We hope to have the project completed by March of next year.

Making the transition from an educator to a singer-songwriter is quite a leap Ė especially in this economy. How do you cope?
I do have a day job as a matter-of-fact. I work as a pre-school teacher. It doesnít bring in a whole lot of money but itís a steady income. The band is playing a lot though and Iím also involved in a cover band. The members of my band are also in my cover band which as made scheduling things a lot easier. We play out every weekend. Iíll make a good three hundred to six hundred extra bucks a week. Itís not hard to make a living off of it but Iím hoping that once we start to get bigger venues, that I can just do the music full-time.

What would you like a person to come away with after theyíve heard your music?
When I write my songs, I try to do it in a way that people are able to connect with them. Hopefully people can walk way feeling good about it and about whatever situation that they are in. I just like to make people happy I guess.