By Tom Dougherty
Victoria Watts is sitting at a small, round table with an iced coffee alongside her blue sunglasses at J&K Euphoria in Northern Liberties. She’s telling a story, which isn’t uncommon.
“It took me 25 years to figure everything out,” she said. “I’m 27 now. I came out when I was 25. I can’t expect them to magically have an understanding of it in a few months. It’ll take time.”
She’s describing telling her parents that she is gay. It’s been almost exactly two years since. Watts grew up in San Diego, California. Her mom an ordained minister; her dad a business owner.
Not exactly the ideal environment.
But her parents’ reaction wasn’t as expected. She anticipated more backlash. Instead, her parents told her they don’t agree with it, but she’s still a part of the family.
Still, acceptance didn’t happen overnight — they might never fully come around. Her parents didn’t speak with her for three months. Then came her birthday and they each called their daughter.
“To wish me a happy birthday,” Watts said. “From there, it’s been a slow process of getting them comfortable and being able to start a dialogue, but they’re starting to come around now.”
Watts grew up in a religious background but no longer practices. She respects her family when she goes home and believes all religions have something to offer but it’s not for her.
And, yet, church plays a role in where she is now. Watts recently released her second EP, Late Nights and Weekends. Her dad’s a drummer, but her musical career really began in church.
“I’m thankful for that experience,” she said. “It (gave me) a lot of empowering mentors who believed in me in an environment that’s not super supportive of young people and females.”
She recalls two, in particular, Lisa and Randy. The latter would always advocate getting her in bands. Lisa? She helped Watts land an internship at a new church. That led to college.
“We grew up poor,” Watts said. “There was a time right after I applied for college, I was a straight A student, got all these offers but we didn’t have any money beyond what I got in scholarships.
“My parents both lost their jobs the same week my confirmation deposit was due for college, and the only reason I was able to make the deadline was because Lisa went to the church board.”
Watts left San Diego when she was 20 years old. She loves it, but she embraces change. She earned a certification in music at the Contemporary Music Center when it was in Massachusetts. (It’s now located in Nashville, Tennessee.)
From there, she toured with a band in the Southwest but had too much time on her hands, which she says is dangerous for an artist type.
“It gets in your head really easily,” she said.
So Watts applied to schools and received offers from two, one in Boston and another in Philadelphia. She chose Philly because her friend from the CMC had an extra room at his dad’s house.
The 27-year-old played with her friend in his band for about a year, where she networked and eventually went on to do her own thing.
Ever since she’s worked on building her own name. Two albums later in addition to being in a cover band called Element K, how would she describe her voice?
“Emotionally right and technically wrong,” she said.
But that’s OK with Watts.
Her heart isn’t in singing.
It’s in the storytelling.
“You don’t have to be a great singer if you’re telling stories and people respond,” she said.