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Gabby Young - The IndieLondon interview

Gabby Young

Interview by Rob Carnevale

GABBY Young talks to us exclusively about her debut album, We’re All In This Together, as well as the inspirations behind certain songs and why she’s so excited to finally have it out in the open.

She also recalls some of her favourite live experiences, explains how she remained positive through her battle with cancer and which tracks are never far from her iPod at the moment.

Q. Congratulations on getting your album. It’s a fantastic listen! It sounds like quite a journey for you putting it together? Is it a relief to finally be able to talk about it and get it out there?
Gabby Young: I loved the recording and writing of this album but it’s the best feeling when it’s all done and now I get to hear what other people think of our hard work, which is the most exciting of all!

Q. The wealth and breadth of styles is often exhilarating to hear? Instrumentally, why did you decide on the structure of some songs…songs like Umm or Maybe for instance, which play out on an extravagant scale?
Gabby Young: I’ve always been ambitious with my songs – it’s a luxury to have such a big band to play out these ideas. I love the challenge of making a huge sound with a small amount of quiet instruments too but next album I can’t wait to work with a whole orchestra…

Q. Indeed, can I ask what inspired Umm lyrically?
Gabby Young: It’s about a series of dates/meetings where I have felt like the only one making an effort to talk while they sit there in silence looking cute!! I tend to talk a lot when I get nervous and this is my ‘Ode To Nervous Awkwardness’ – ‘Umm’ for short!

Q. And Maybe?
Gabby Young: My favourite lyrics actually! It’s inspired by confusion; about where you stand with someone else and trying to work out how you want it to be. It’s frustrating not knowing what you want and that’s what Maybe is… a frustration, no clear answers… just confusion and mixed signals.

Q. And perhaps One’s That Got Away and We’re All In This Together, which are among my favourites?
Gabby Young: I can’t give away ALL my secrets!! We’re All In This Together is a eulogy – it’s my version of murder ballad but with a joyful outlook -‘we’re all in this together’ – we will all die some way… no one will get out alive but enjoy life while you can – together!! Ones That Got Away is about running away to a new place to start again…

Q. The buzz surrounding you is starting to build nicely? Are you prepared for the newfound attention and the British press?
Gabby Young: I’m a bit over-excited by recent events and haven’t been sleeping because I’m like a child before Christmas. I have no idea what lies in store but I am proud of what we have achieved so far. I hope that no matter what happens I will still get excited butterflies for the future – being prepared is not as much fun!

Q. You’re also something of a fashion guru, I gather? How does that feel? Is fashion and appearance something that informs your image?
Gabby Young: When I roll out of bed and take my puppy for a walk on the Heath I feel the furthest from a ‘fashion guru’ but I do love to get dressed up and experiment with clothes, hair and of course, make-up. I have an amazing girl who does my hair and make-up and she is a godsend. I love to create unique looks with her! I’m excited to start working with new, amazing designers and launch my line – GabberDasher! I have always loved fashion so it’s an honour to be considered a guru!!!

Q. Your profile mentions your battle with throat cancer. Are you all clear now? And when did you battle that? How did it change the way you view life?
Gabby Young: I had thyroid cancer a few years ago and went under the knife to have mine removed. Thankfully, after a course of horrible radioactive treatment I got the all clear! It honestly was a very dark year but I have an amazing support group of family and friends who were incredible throughout. I also wouldn’t be in London and where I’m at if it wasn’t for all that, so I’m nothing but thankful for the whole experience. I had a lot of time to think and plan and it made me revalue everything. It has been a positive experience for me to work through.

Q. The Evening Standard mentions you’re “become an animal” scheme. How successful did that prove? And how did you come up with it? How many animals are there now?
Gabby Young: It’s still going strong! It all came about after we had to decline an invitation to SXSW festival in Texas because we couldn’t afford to get there. It was a bitter pill to swallow having dreamt of playing there for years and I hate passing up opportunities like this because of finances. I realised we would have to raise funds another way; so me and my manager cooked up the ‘become an animal’ scheme as a three-tiered system to support the future of my music.

I also wanted to find a way to get closer to my fans and involve them as much as possible. We are lucky to have a wonderfully loyal and supportive fan base and I love sending them treats, bonus tracks and giving them more for their money- it really is a two way thing and I have had nothing but great feedback from all our animals – we have A LOT more in store for them!

Q. Are you still cautious of record companies?
Gabby Young: I have nothing personal against them, I’ve just never been interested in waiting around to let things happen. If I want to make an album then I will make it happen someway. A label could postpone and complicate things and I’m far too impatient and stubborn to let that happen. I like to be involved in everything I do and the moment decisions are made about my life without me I feel uneasy!!

Q. How important is the Internet to emerging artists… You have a Myspace and Twitter following. Is that now an invaluable tool for making a name for yourself, where it’s not all about the whim of a record producer or label?
Gabby Young: I’ve always used the Internet as a way to get my music out there. Right from the start – I would make a demo in my bedroom and post it on MySpace that night and spend hours trying to get people to listen to it and give me feedback. I think the fact that artists can get instant responses for their music from people across the world is a really amazing thing.

I have met so many great people (including musicians who I now work with) on the net, so for that it’s been an invaluable tool. I love Facebook as I am in touch with old school friends as well as brand new fans from Brazil! Twitter is the same and I personally feel the most important for keeping people in the loop that want to know what you are up to. I follow my idols and its makes me feel closer to them and much less untouchable.

And the fact that ANYONE can do this without any backing from a label, producer and on a very low budget is a great thing and an exciting time for accessible music.

Gabby Young

Q. How do you enjoy the live experience? What have been your favourite concert memories so far?
Gabby Young: Gigs are where I come alive – where I get to get dressed up and spend 45 minutes singing my heart out, dancing around and having fun with my band and the audience. I LOVE them. I also love sitting down with an acoustic guitar – reworking and playing with my songs in front of people who are supportive and hanging on every word. It’s such a powerful place to be and humbling all at the same time.

I have many highlights… our album launch at Bush Hall last month has to be up there because that was an emotional, overpowering gig for me. I didn’t realise the hall was full until I got out to sing the first song and there they were – 350 people there, facing the stage, screaming their heads off there to see us… wow! I still feel overwhelmed by that moment.

Q. How useful has your classical training been?
Gabby Young: I am so thankful to my singing teachers at school – they really pushed me to challenge myself and also let me be myself. I was lucky to have some rebellious tutors who didn’t mind that I sang opera with the odd accidental blues note – they liked the fact that I always did my own spin on anything I was given to sing. I don’t think I would have enjoyed music so much if I was made to stick exactly to the notes!

Q. At what age did you know you wanted to pursue music as a career? And how easy was it to do so?
Gabby Young: My earliest memory is my sister and I playing (badly) on our little pink upright piano, writing little ditties and charging our parent’s friends to come and see us perform them!! I think it was set in stone from the beginning that I was going to be a singer – but I had no idea that I could write and do anything other than Opera/ Classical or Musical Theatre until I was 18 and then I was determined to be a singer/songwriter and I haven’t looked back.

I have done years of being the musician travelling the country and America with just my guitar and a lot of ambition… it has been quite a journey and I would definitely not call it an easy career option but I wouldn’t dream of doing anything else.

Q. What advice would you give emerging artists?
Gabby Young: If you want to do something – do it. Don’t wait on anyone to help you, pick you up and make it easy. Keep focused and true to yourself, don’t let other artist’s success affect you and GOOD LUCK!

Q. What are your hopes for the future? Do you have details of any touring schedules?
Gabby Young: Everyday I have more new ideas of what I want to do in terms of touring, recording, writing etc, etc. At the moment we have a few gigs booked, we are about to shoot our new music video and start promo-ing the new single. Also there are whispers of gigs further ashore which I’m so excited about. In terms of gigs; we have a special intimate Christmas show at The Borderline on December 16, which we are preparing some festive surprises for!

Q. If you could cover any song, what would it be and why?
Gabby Young: Minnie The Moocher by Cab Calloway. It’s one of my all time favourites – it makes me feel excited about music when I hear it. The instrumentation is incredible, his phrasing is second to none and what a sing-a-long! I would want to totally re-write though – I’m not one to ‘cover’ a song – I just see it as a jumping off point!

Q. Finally, what are the 10 tracks that are never far from your iPod player at the moment?
Gabby Young: In no order…
1. BOWER BIRDS – Talons
2. REVERE – I Can’t (Forgive Myself)
3. LOUIS PRIMA – Buena Sera
4. JANIS JOPLIN – Summertime
5. ANI DIFRANCO – Joyful Girl
6. EDITH PIAF – La Foule
7. JONI MITCHELL – Nathan La Franeer
8. PIXIES – Debaser
9. RADIOHEAD – Paranoid Android
10. FEIST -1234

Read our review of We’re All In This Together