Nate Valdez has a master's degree in psychology, and he's fascinated by Munchausen syndrome, the psychiatric disorder in which people hurt themselves or fake illness to garner sympathy from others. The sickness inspired "Saint Munchausen." That's the debut single of an upcoming album by Valdez's solo recording project he calls Valdez.
He says that the idea for the song sprang from a true story of Dee Dee Blanchard, who suffered from Munchausen by Proxy syndrome, a variation on the disorder in which a person inflicts physical pain on another person or convinces the other person they're ill in order to elicit sympathy. Blanchard convinced her daughter, Gypsy, that she suffered from myriad debilitating illnesses. Gypsy and her boyfriend eventually killed Dee Dee.
"It always kind of intrigued me what people say and what happens, and how people need to have some validation is so important," Valdez says. "It was just an intriguing thought, and that's where the premise of the song was coming from."
Valdez says "Saint Munchausen" also explores the idea that the person who says they have your best intentions in mind isn't necessarily thinking about you when they make decisions that affect you. He says that he learned about this phenomenon the hard way while being a touring musician.
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"It's an important thing to guard your heart, just kind of ride the balance between understanding that some things aren't always what they seem," he says.
He recorded most of the record in a garage behind his Denver house. Tyler Lindgren and Craig Basarich provided the drums and trumpet, respectively, over email. He says his solo material owes a bit of its sound to indie-rock bands Bright Eyes and Neutral Milk Hotel.
"Saint Munchausen," with its acoustic-guitar chord progression and floating, gently falling trumpet line, marks a stylistic departure from Valdez's work with Denver indie-rock duo In the Whale, in which he collaborates with drummer Eric Riley. The single, and the others on the upcoming album, are more personal. They tell a story about his life choices and other situations, and how he came to understand them.
"I've always written the songs as an outlet to work through my feelings of why my grandfather passed, or why I feel like I keep messing up, or all those thoughts," Valdez says. "That's what Valdez is, and it's always been...I've been told it's different, and it's good, so I don't want to shelve or hide it anymore."
Valdez adds that the experiences he addresses in his songs aren't unique to him, so he hopes people can relate when they listen to them.
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"People have been hurt or lost a family member, or any of the topics on the album," he says. "I want people to have a voice to relate or to maybe put into words things they are working through themselves. For me, that's what it was, and that's what I want it to be for others."
He's put together a band that has been practicing, and he hopes to start doing some live-stream shows. Eventually, he hopes to take the album on the road. COVID-19 has disrupted live music for now, but Valdez says the time at home has been good for him, personally and professionally, despite the difficulties of living through a pandemic.
"Kind of the whole reason behind the record is I've actually had time to sit down and work through all the stuff I've put on the back burner for years," he says. "That's how I'm kind of dealing with it. I'm spending more time with family and being closer to others."
For more information on where to pick up the single, visit Valdez's Facebook page.