Gabby Young looked set to find a career in opera until Jeff Buckley, Jazz and Thyroid Cancer made appearances in her life. Buckley brought her a pop music perspective, the jazz a fresh approach to the pop, and the Thyroid Cancer an urgency to put her talents to good use.
The combined result can be heard on Gabby’s latest CD ‘One Foot in Front Of The Other’ and even more so in her live shows where brave souls have had to invent a category for her uncategorizable sound – ‘Circus Swing’ is what they came up with. Judge for yourself on Wednesday (9 April) when she and her band the ‘Other Animals’ are at Bonn Harmonie. 3Songs asked Gabby about her music and lifestyle – If I say that the girl has a gardening blog, a designer range called appropriately ‘Gabberdashery’, a fashion blog, not to forget a hand in making unique album covers and videos, then forgive me if the interview seems incomplete. There’s a lot more than inventive pop music to this talented lady from Bath.
Hello Gabby. Your show at the Kunst!Garden in Bonn last year was my favourite of the many acts I saw there so I was very pleased to see you were coming back to Bonn’s best indoor live music venue The Harmonie. How did the show come about and what are your memories of Bonn from last year?
Well we are very lucky to have a wonderful booking agent Gaby Eckhardt who organises all our German gigs. We played at Harmonie a few years ago and loved it, so it made sense to come back! The people in Bonn are very friendly and welcoming and we can’t wait to see them again.
It’s hard to imagine you not as the introvert, crazy redhead purveyor of ‘Circus Swing’ but you were the youngest ever recruit to the National Youth Choir at the tender age of 12. Any regrets at not pursuing an operatic career? Or indeed, can we expect future recordings to go in that direction?
No, I don’t have any regrets, as I knew opera was too heavy a discipline to pursue at such a young age. It was more important for me to find my own way. My dream is to return to opera when I am older.
So you came to be playing ‘Circus Swing’. Is that a known musical genre or just one invented to encapsulate Gabby Young’s music?
Our music is so eclectic that we never what to call it, so “Circus Swing” means you have to come to see it to know what it is about!
How do you feel about being “An exhuberant Vaudeville throwback” as I’ve also seen you described? How would you describe what the Band does?
There is definitely a vintage feel to our music, because I love the way 30’s jazz makes you want to get up and dance and join in, and I always wanted to recreate that for the audience. The band is an integral part of building that atmosphere.
The best of talent needs a break, and yours came with being an early ‘Crowd-Funder’ which means you were one of the first raising money by public funding to Make records. This seems to be an increasingly popular avenue for new musicians. How did that work in your case?
I think it is an amazing time for artists by empowering them with tools like crowd-funding to get closer to their fans and do exactly what they want! It is a huge compliment to have our wonderful fans supporting what we do with their own hard earned money, and gives us a new drive and encouragement to achieve big things together with them.
Press coverage even spread to the point where you became something of a fashion icon. Are you going to keep your ‘Style Blog’ going? And what exactly is/was Gabberdashery?
It has become increasingly difficult to keep up with blogs and side projects because we are so busy, but when I do get a chance, I love how blogging brings you closer to people and to promote up and coming designers through it.
‘Gabberdashery’ is still going strong as a platform for me to sell and promote the work of designers who I feel are a good companion to the music. We have some very exciting collections coming up very soon including a collar collection from each song on the album which I can’t wait to introduce to our fanimals!
And the new disc ‘One Foot in front of the Other’. Was that also crowd funded?
Yes, our fanimals were incredibly generous to help us make a third album, because of this involvement it’s a very collaborative experience. We now can’t wait to release it to the world.
Tell me what we can expect from the new CD.
The music is more varied on this album than ever before, and the instrumentation is more lush and complex, whereas the lyrics are more mature and vulnerable.
It is always special and we have a vinyl coming this time too. I am so pleased to have Andy Hau and Gem Hall on board again for this album as they did the artwork and packaging for the album you mentioned. Also we have beautiful illustrations from Kate Rosenware who we met at an east London Club called Dead Dolls House, where we did the photo shoot for it as well and played a residency there last Christmas, so they are an integral part of the artwork.
Something I love about you almost as much as the music is the inventiveness behind what you do. Even recently I saw that the dress you wear advertising the new release was made from the sheet music of the record?
Well I always want to give the audience a visual treat and involve as many people as I can. When I first started thinking about the album artwork I really wanted it to be like a fairlytale book, which developed into a paper world idea and led me to ask designers to make dresses out of paper. One of these was the musical score. Kumiko Tani is a genius and took a pile of paper and turned it into that dress within a week. I am so blown away by it and love that outfit.
Your ‘All In This Together’ video was my favourite video of last year. I discovered since that you have made some incredibly inventive videos. Tell me a little about who makes them and what input you have towards the finished product.
The next video is going to be completely different, and is going to be filmed by, and involve, the band while on tour. We are getting our lovely fanimals involved and I want people to see our real characters shine through on this one.
I am always involved in everything that we create from the start, but when I collaborate I love to allow people to have their own creative vision and don’t want to stifle that, as everything we do is meant to ultimately be enjoyable for everyone involved.
Extensive visits to America and three months coming up touring round Europe. 2014 looks set to be your busiest touring year ever.
I hope so, we have a lot of ideas in the pipeline and I believe that my team will pull it off so that we can be getting to as much as the world as possible this year. Performing live is my reason for being, so as long as I am doing that I am happy.
What dates are you particularly looking forward to doing?
We can’t wait to go back to Wurzburg as that was our highlight gig of our 2012.
An eight piece band is a lot to take round the world. I take it you don’t have an air-conditioned touring coach with all mod-cons, so how do you keep sane and not want to kill each other by the end of a long session of journeys?
I’m very lucky because my band are like a family to me and we all give each other space when needed. It is true that we don’t travel in luxury, but I think that is part of the fun. Although I am not going to lie, we would all like to be in a tour bus one day.
Up to now you’ve been your own Manager with your own label. How will that change with the increasing workload and popularity of the band?
I have found recently that the workload is getting to be a bit much, but I have a wonderful team, like my parents who are helping me with it. I now feel ready to be able to hand that responsibility over to someone else. I am open to new people being a part of this family.
Finally, is there anything you would like to say to your growing army of European/German fans?
I would like to say a massive thank you for all their love and support, we can’t wait to give them all a big hug.
For more proof of her creativity visit the excellent GABBY YOUNG WEBSITE
Gabby Young & Other Animals
9 April 8pm