Gabby Young Interview

Operatic chanteuse and talented songwriter Gabby Young, along with her very well behaved and beautifully preened Other Animals, wowed the critics with her debut album We’re All In This Together back in 2009. Now there’s a brand new Gabby Young And Other Animals record, The Band Called Out For More, out next week and the stylish singer spoke with Soundbite Culture about her new album, those outrageous costumes of hers and, ah, knitting…

Soundbite Culture: First things first Gabby, how did you come up with the name of your band, or at least the second half as I guess the first bit’s pretty self-explanatory?

Gabby Young: Ah well it’s actually directly taken from the brilliant book “My Family And Other Animals” by Gerald Durrell. I went through quite a few names that didn’t stick, including Gabby Young Has New Friends, but when I visited my family home I saw the book and had a brilliant eureka moment. It fits us perfectly!

SC: Your new album, The Band Called Out For More, is released this month. What’s the one thing you enjoy so much, you’d literally call out for more?

GY: Playing live actually… I can’t get enough of it. I love, love, love performing and connecting with audiences all over the world so keep me on tour and I’ll be happy!

SC: Following on from your pretty much universally acclaimed debut We’re All In This Together, how did you feel about making that “difficult” second album?

GY: It’s funny because recording and writing this didn’t feel like a second album, it’s just what we do now. When I had twelve plus songs ready to go, it made sense to put them on record and make the next album. But now that it’s done and people are hearing it, people with opinions… I am terrified.

I know I don’t make music that will be everyone’s cup of tea, and I’ve always been fine with that, but at the same time I am so proud and happy about this record and it makes me scared of hearing people judging it. It’s a personal thing writing songs, and a whole album of them is like saying “Here’s my life on a CD, now judge it”, and I don’t know if I’m ready to hear negative comments yet.

So yes, I am now feeling the worries of the difficult second album as it is different and I have no idea how people, and most importantly our fans, are going to react to it. Eek!

SC: What was the process like in creating and recording The Band Called Out For More, and did this differ from your experience and methodology on the first album.

GY: Because I love playing music live so much, I’m actually not a born “recording artist”. I really enjoyed the production side of this one though as it was done by Stephen Ellis who I live with, co-write with and who plays in the band.

So I felt like the album was in good hands, I could get fully involved with that side, and I love making odd sounds and recording music; the brass section, the strings, harp etc. But the moment it comes to my vocals, I become less enthusiastic.

When I’m on stage I connect with the audience, our energies meet to do weird and wonderful things that you can’t control and take us all on a different journey every night. But in the studio you have to sing in a box over and over again, and I really struggled with the worry that the emotion I wanted to pour out of me felt forced…. I got there in the end and learnt how to tap into it so I am happy with my vocals, but it is hard to perform without an audience!

SC: Now that it’s finished and soon to be out there, how do you feel about The Band Called Out For More?

GY: As I said, I really am proud of it. The musicianship, arrangements and production are of such high quality that I can’t help but feel honoured that they’re playing my songs. And they do it so well!

I think album’s carry a certain nostalgia to them, and I hold this record very close to my heart as I had such an amazing time working with Stephen and the band on it. I’m also happy with the songs, they’re all new songs that I wrote at the beginning of last year and it’s been amazing seeing them become real musical pieces and go off on their own journeys.

My songs are like my children, I just want them to be happy!

SC: A personal favourite song of mine, Horatio, finally makes it onto this new record. You gave fans a snippet of this song on We’re All In This Together, but it’s taken ’til now for you to put it on an album. Any reason for this, or do you just like being a bit of a tease?

GY: Not at all; we recorded the whole song in the first album sessions but decided it didn’t quite fit and have been dying to put it out ever since! We got a chance in these sessions to re-work bits and re-record parts so it sounds even better which I’m very thankful for. As a band we have definitely tightened up since the last album and I think Horatio showcases that very well.

SC: What inspires your songs?

GY: Everything, from buttons found on the road to people I meet. I don’t really get a choice in what I write about, or when for that matter. A song comes over me at random times like a fever and just comes out and presents itself! Sometimes it takes a while to realise what it’s about as it’s definitely my subconscious talking, also it’s on a three year lapse… I always write about things that affected me three years earlier! No idea why.

SC: So what comes first for you, the music or the lyrics?

GY: Both at the same time, most of the time. When I write a song I just start to play and sing whilst recording on my phone or computer, and most of the time they come out fully written. But when I am re-working something I just wrote I solidify the melody first, then look at the lyrics last. Sometimes during the recording process. When I listen to music though, I am really drawn to lyrics and phrasing sometimes more than the tune.

SC: I can’t let you go without asking a few questions about your live performances, which are just about as much fun as you can have at a gig. Where do you get all your fantastic ideas for a Gabby Young concert, and how does it feel to see these come to life?

GY: We are always trying to push our live gigs into being an event for our audience so that they feel like they saw a complete one off and something special to remember. So we add guests – brass bands, dancers, choirs etc. – wherever we can to add to the show, and we also have Gabberdashery stalls set up so our fans can shop there and take something home.

I also love the idea of people meeting at these shows and always try and get the audience to interact with us by joining in, so that they start to talk amongst themselves too and make new friends/ I love it when someone comes up to me and says “I loved meeting your other fans and have made some great new friends through your shows”, that makes me feel like we are pulling people together to have a good time, which is exactly what I am always trying to achieve and it feels amazing to see it all come together.

As for the ideas, the moment we book the show the whole band starts to throw ideas in as to how we can make it the best yet and I like to jump right in at the deep end and work to achieve something really ambitious.

SC: Your on stage costumes, as well as those of your Animal friends, are often jaw dropping. How much input do you have with these, and has dressing up in outrageously stylish outfits always appealed to you?

GY: Yes, absolutely – I have always loved dressing up. When I first started as a singer / songwriter, I just wore jeans and the occasional long skirt but I quickly realised that I wanted to offer a visual treat. As my job is entertaining, I wanted my costumes play a big role in that; so out came the dresses and the hair, make-up etc.

Now I work with a great stylist, Katie Antoniou, who sources lovely outfits from amazing up and coming designers who I love to support. And the band is sponsored by the vintage shop Beyond Retro, so they are always looking sharp! I always say “the bigger that stage, the bigger the dress”, so I’m looking forward to seeing how far I can take that!

SC: The theatrical element of being a performer is something that seems to resonate with both you and the band, but what kind of person are you off stage?

GY: Ooh well that would be telling. I am a do-er definitely, I’ve realised that more this year than ever before. I hate boredom and we weren’t touring until last week, so I’ve been filling my days with sewing, crafting, gardening, blogging and working on the new online shop for Gabberdashery as well as lots of walks with my dog, Hobbes.

Oh, and the occasional song writing session!

I like to immerse myself in everything I do and there just aren’t enough hours in the day sometimes, especially as now I’m back on tour and want to carry on all the other things too. I am not a party girl, I’m allergic to alcohol, so I guess I’m in the “early granny” category and that’s fine with me… Now, I must get back to my knitting!

SC: Finally, what do you hope to achieve with The Band Called Out For More?

GY: I have many goals but they are mostly a wish list of places I want to play, so I would love for this album to get us closer to playing these places. And gather together a new bevvy of fans to meet and play to, as well as making our loyal fan base proud to be part of something that’s constantly evolving and shows no signs of stopping!

The Band Called Out For More is out on June 11th, and Gabby Young And Other Animals are launching this album at The Scala on June the 13th.

Interview by Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

June 2012