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LAist Interview: Vanessa Marquez

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Former protégé of super producers The Neptunes, Vanessa Marquez has sang alongside big names like Justin Timberlake, Usher and Nelly. Marquez, best known as the female voice on Timberlake's hit single "Rock Your Body" is on her own and looking to make a name for herself. The Rialto native, who takes the stage tonight at the National Orange Show Fairground in San Bernardino opening for Omarion and Marques Houston, took some time out from a studio session to speak with LAist.

Tell us how you got started in music and how you got to where you are right now.
I started recording when I was 13, I was just doing demos because I was too young to know what kind of sound I wanted. I did a lot of demos. Years later, I went out to New York and met an A&R guy who really liked one of my demos. It just so happened that he knew Pharrell Williams. He played Pharrell the demo and he loved it. The thing that really got me though was, Pharrell listened to my demo while working with Justin Timberlake who is one of my favorite artists ever. In high school I always told people, one day I am going to sing a song with him and it happened. After hearing my demo, Justin told Pharrell he wanted to have me on one of his songs. Not long after that I got signed to Arista as a joint venture with Star Trak which is Pharrell and Chad Hugo, the Neptunes' label. Then I underwent my album, I did backup vocals with Bow Wow, Nelly, Usher and of course Justin - I sang on "Rock Your Body" and "I'm Lovin' It" (the McDonald's campaign). I was with Star Trak for about four years. In my last year, Pharrell had this big idea to start a Latin girl group singing R&B and crossing over in Spanish language. I thought it was a great idea but it just didn't work out. When my contract was up, I had the option of staying on with Star Trak but I chose to leave. And now I am here. I get to do whatever I want. I've got some songs lining up here and I'm doing me. I'm writing everything, producing myself as well.

Along that path, what is one of the things you took away from it as far as the music industry goes?
It empowered me to do me. To be stronger as an individual and as an artist. You have to fight for what you want to do. Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a singer and here I am still singing. Knowing what you want to do and go with it, in the past I used to have producers bring stuff to me, saying here sing this. Now I am like "I like this, let me write something to that, and let me sing this." I now have the freedom to do what it is that makes me, me - Vanessa Marquez.