17-Year-Old Tampa Local Performs at Gasparilla Music Festival

By Vanessa Moreno

After being pushed back due to COVID-19, Gasparilla Music Festival (GMF) returned to Tampa from Friday, Oct. 1 to Sunday, Oct. 3. This year’s lineup included Nas, Sofi Tukker, DJ Casper, and Tampa-born Gabriella Valdes. 

Valdes, known professionally as Vella, is bursting into the music industry at only 17 years old. She began by singing covers on TikTok in 2020. Now, over a year later, she has signed with L3V3l Music and has begun releasing her own music. 

“I’m so happy that I’m able to do what I love most… the fact that it’s happening to me now is such a dream come true,” said Vella. 

It’s clear that performing is her passion. Before each song, Vella would talk to the crowd about the song and have a small conversation. She would also walk around the stage during each song and look at a specific person and sing like she was singing specifically to them. 

“My favorite part of performing is being able to interact with the crowd, I feel like I perform better with a bigger crowd because of the energy,” said Vella. 

It’s clear that she’s a natural at performing, and it’s probably helped that she started performing at the age of eight. 

While she started performing at that age, she actually began singing at the age of five. That’s when she knew that this is what she wanted to do with her life. Her family supported her decision and got her a vocal coach, who she’s been working with since she was eight to help keep her voice healthy. Her family showed their support even more by moving to Los Angeles to be closer to L3V3L Music. 

Vella knew L3V3L was the right label to sign with for her.

“I wanted to sign with them because they got my style right to the T,” said Vella.

Her current style includes influences from soul, rock, and blues, but she hopes to one day sing R&B as that is another genre that she is interested in. Currently, she draws her inspiration from Amy Winehouse & Janis Joplin, which is evident in her music. 

Her newest song “Angel” is a perfect example of her current style with a soul funk vibe. The song’s upbeat tempo gives it a fun aura and is, “so much fun to sing live,” according to Vella. 

“Angel” was one of the songs on the setlist for her performance at GMF on Sunday, Oct. 3. The crowd’s energy was amazing and it was obvious that they enjoyed it. Everyone was dancing along and singing whenever they knew the lyrics. After each song, they would cheer and clap to show their support. 

After releasing her own music she has continued to grow as an artist. Before, she didn’t normally write her own music, but since signing with L3V3L, she has started to.

“I’ve been writing a lot of my own music and I just always wanted to do that as a kid,” said Vella. 

While she has never attended GMF, the young artist has always wanted to perform at the event. 

“It’s so exciting,” said Vella. “Being able to sing and perform [for Tampa] is the best feeling ever.”

Photo Courtesy of Christian Flamio.

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