Although a musician, Gaby Paul is quintessentially visual. Her music has an uncanny ability to evoke imagery. Whether this is the sprawling deserts of Arizona or an intimate moment between two friends in a bedroom, you can see it all just through your ears. Recognised as a talent, from a very early age, she blitzed school competitions and musical theatre groups alike. The Gaby Paul of today however has evolved, she’s a self-assured mature artist who’s keen to transcend genre. Her songs, particularly the ones of late, provide a gothic twist on the new wave of Americana. Sitting down with ASBO, she talks about movies, spirituality, and nostalgia.
Tell me about your new song “Bedroom Velvet” It feels very personal and intimate.
It is very personal. I wrote this song about a very close friend of mine. We were writing music together, I’ve known this friend for years, and they were playing piano and I was singing along. I was just really feeling the environment of how we write music together because they’re receptive to me. Whenever I sing, they kind of do a call and response thing on piano; they’ll mimic my voice on the piano. I just thought it sounded really beautiful. It was late at night as well. and I had a dream about it, too, afterward. So in that song, I was talking about the musical atmosphere at that moment.
So it’s a platonic song? Not a romantic one?
It definitely could be. I’ve thought of it in that context before. But when I was writing it, I wasn’t thinking too romantically at the time. But now when I listen to it I can definitely think of it like that.
With your discography, you’ve made a gradual transition towards more minimal instrumentation. Would you agree? If so, why do you think that is?
Yeah, it’s a lot more bare-bone and isolated, there’s more of a full focus on the vocals. I’ve always wanted to do this sound. It speaks more when you isolate things, and you let the vocals speak for themselves. It gives more emotion when you’re listening to it. It kind of leaves people to their imagination so they can make the song whatever they want it to be. I wrote the song [“Bedroom Velvet”], kind of like being nostalgic about wishing I could go back to that moment. And I think it brings out that kind of those moments of the past that you wish you could get back.
When did you start working as a solo artist, is it what you’ve always wanted to do?
I’ve been writing music since I was a teenager, since I was 16. I didn’t start recording until I was around 18. I always knew I wanted to come out with music, but I wanted to find my own sound. When I was around 20 I started really knowing who I was.
You’ve always been talented musically from a young age and recognised as such. How do you think that has affected your music up to now?
I did a lot of opera and classical musical theatre, I was very trained. That was a huge deal to me, because growing up I didn’t have much, but I was able to get voice lessons and just took that, and I soared with it. That was my life, doing school choir, voice lessons, musical theatre performances and vocal competitions. I took that and it didn’t matter what kind of music I was doing, because I’ve always respected all genres. After that I kept voice lessons up until just a couple of years ago, and now I teach myself, friends, and other people that I know. So yeah, I feel really lucky to have a background trained like that.
Have you ever felt restricted by it? Sometimes that world of classical music can be very traditional you know, it’s interesting.
You say that, because at first when I was 14, I definitely did feel like that. But then, as I was doing more research, and I was finding out more about the voice I realised it was actually pretty good for you. It really strengthens it and protects your vocal cords a lot more too.
How has your relationship with your own music changed since then?
I would say I’m constantly evolving; I feel different about the music I made just a year ago. I look at my work, and I’m really proud of it. I’m still critical, but when I was younger I just wanted to find a sound. I tried psychedelic music, opera, and blues and I just didn’t know what I wanted. I feel a lot more comfortable now.
How has being an artist during the Covid-19 pandemic affected you?
I was fortunate that it was actually pretty good for me to be isolated at home because I’m naturally an introvert. It took the stress off of me, because I do have social anxiety. I get really nervous for interviews, too. But I’m getting better at it. It really wasn’t bad for me, but the previous few years earlier were hard for me, I was just going through some really bad personal struggles. And then 2020 came along, and I was able to focus more on my art, my work, and it just made me more motivated and enlightened. I’ve been more in tune with my inner spiritual self.
How have you become more in tune spiritually?
I would say nowadays, I’m more hopeful, in a sense, and I feel like I can accept that there are things that I cannot control in life. Fate is a scary thing to think about, but in a way, it can be comforting, because I feel like you can change your fate all the time. And this kind of isolation in myself over the past couple of years has given me a chance to take action on my thoughts.
How is making music and performing as an introvert?
I feel like I’m happier the less people know about me. The minute I say something kind of personal. I’m like, ‘oh, I should delete that’. I feel most comfortable recording, performing, and singing for people. But then once I have to do a speech in front of people or talk in front of people, I want to die. I like to make music because I can create my own little world.
Who have you been listening to recently?
This year, I’ve been listening to a lot of female artists. I had been listening to Sabrina Claudio, mainly her Christmas album in the lead up to Christmas. I’ve also been listening to Daniel Caesar; lots of R&B my music has been very R&B inspired recently.
What has been your favourite collaboration you have done?
I’ve done a couple that are on my Spotify one with Bradley Marcus and the other one with Jeremy Ford. They’re both very different songs. They’re both beat-heavy. Both were really great to work with and they kind of were very open to all of my ideas. My song “Settle Down Happily” with Jeremy Ford had a dark hypnotic, ‘James Bond’ kind of vibe.
Do you prefer to collaborate or work alone?
I actually prefer working alone. I think that’s the introverted part of me. I don’t even like writing music in front of people or having people listen to me write music. I used to have some roommates, and they were great roommates, but I remember they would be coming in, in, and out of my apartment and stuff. And they would say: “it sounds great”. Even just that, would make me really self-conscious. So I like being completely alone, and just in my own little world, it’s where I feel most comfortable writing music and just collaborating. I only like to collaborate when I have the idea formed already.
Yeah, yeah, I get that. Who would be your dream person to collaborate with then, dead or alive?
I have always been a big fan of Kid Cudi. I feel like if we did a song together it would be very kind of psychedelic, beat-heavy, some good R&B with some good soulful vocals over the top.
Has your upbringing and where you’re from influenced your music?
I was born in Arizona. I actually moved a lot in my childhood, 6 or 7 times. I was born here in Arizona, and then I moved to Virginia, then North Carolina, then Minnesota, and then back here again. Yeah. I have my happiest childhood memories here in Arizona, because the rest of it I wasn’t really there mentally, because of things that were happening. I feel like my early childhood were my happiest times and I’m really reminiscing about the desert, and I’m a very visual person as well. So when I see the desert, I just think of happy memories from when I was a really small child. And that’s why I feel very inspired here. I love it.
What’s your favourite film?
Oh, I would say there’s a few. ‘Black Swan’, ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ and ‘Nocturnal Animals’.
What do you have planned for the future?
I’ve always dreamed of writing for cinema, writing movie soundtracks, maybe getting a feature on some music for TV shows. As I said, I’m a visual person. I’m very inspired by film. I’d like to do perfume commercials or anything that would fit my kind of sound. Of course, I’ll make more albums and maybe explore a little bit more of my personality. Because I feel like you know, we’re all complex people. And I think, you know, really diving deep into other parts of my personality I am working on recording a new single called ‘Melt into honey’ that will be coming out in a month or so. And it’s kind of an addition to Bedroom Velvet.
Words: Aimee Armstrong
Images: Yellow Box Films @yellowboxfilms