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Gabby Young and Other Animals - Interview

  by Paul Waller

published: 28 / 3 / 2010

Gabby Young and Other Animals - Interview


New Pennyblackmusic writer Paul Waller speaks to singer-songwriter and folk artist Gabby Young about her former training in opera, her band Other Animals and their debut album, 'We're All in This Together'

Gabby Young and Other Animals were recently touted by 'The Guardian' as ones to watch for 2010. When it was announced that she would be ending the Folkestone music festival with a performance at the Quaterhouse I hooked myself up an interview with Gabby to hopefully grab myself a glimpse of what it’s like to be in her unique magical world, even if for just half an hour. Paul Waller: Even though you have this large ensemble of a band behind you, you are very much the front person of the group. Have you ever considered being ‘just another band member’ or does the position you hold feel the most comfortable with you? Gabby Young: That’s an interesting question. Actually I think a bit of both because there are definitely songs where I just want to step out and be the show girl and then there are other songs when I feel that it’s really important to mesh with the band. When I play guitar in particular so the songs where I am being a musician as well as a singer I really feel like I need them close. PW: Over the past few years band membership has grown to the point where musicians flood the stage… GY: It’s just a case of me always wanting a big band. I’ve always wanted to have a brass section. I find them bit by bit. They come into my life and come into the band. It wasn’t like I just decided I wanted 8 people. It naturally developed. I’ve always had pretty big ideas but I never wanted to actually force that. It’s one thing to bring a new member in and getting to know them. It’s really important that I get on with them and they get on with me and we can be friends and part of a family. But the thought of planning to bring in 10 new people would be really bad (laughs). That’s why it’s taken time, one at a time. Let’s get to know you first type thing. PW: Financially it must be a struggle to support such a huge unit? GY: I am really, really lucky having such a wonderful band that we are all in it together. We all understand that at the beginning we are not going to make anything really and just hope to be able to get to venue to venue and be able to eat. It’s been a long time coming and now we can walk way with a little bit to go towards our rent but it’ll be a long time coming I think until we can actually afford our rent with this. The only members of the band that have turned around and said that financially this is not working for me have had to move on. We are all in the same boat, we all are trying to make it. There is definitely a problem if someone was to say I want to be paid for practices or for performances. None of us are so I would have to say(Laughs), "Okay, you should go and join another band." It’s so important that we are all on the same ground because in the performances it would show. I have to make sure there is no negative energy so, yeah, I am really lucky to have found a group of people that are in the same world as mine. PW: Are there two different sides to you. Is the Gabby at home vastly different from the persona that comes across on stage? GY: There are definitely two different sides to me. Well, I have many sides like most other people. I am far from perfect and I have flaws but at the same time I will always put in the same amount of energy into a show no matter what sort of a state I am in. If I am really tired I will still pull it out of the bag and so will everyone on stage and that’s the same for any of us. No matter what is going on we are there for the audience, not for us. We will put on a good show and create this wonderful mystery world. PW: You trained as an opera singer for years, you have come from that stiff regime of practice and rigidity to a far more organic, free flowing style of musical endeavour. It’s such a wild change. Why do you opt for this? GY: Yeah, it was a regime. The reason I did not continue with opera was because I was looking at the notes on the page and thinking I would like that note to be different, I wanted to be able to change it and the thought of being a highly disciplined opera singer and eating, drinking and sleeping opera all of a sudden really terrified me. I wanted a little more freedom than that. I have this free spirit side of me that wants to do things my own way but you can’t do that if you want to be a classical singer. You have to read the notes on the page exactly how it is. Then I had the idea of actually writing those notes on the page myself and it evolved from there. PW: I’ve read that Jeff Buckley’s 'Grace' was the spur for this change? GY: He was the catalyst. He had an operatic voice but was doing something totally different and I had never come across that before. Because I have a very strong vocal my teachers would tell me opera was what I was best suited for and then I heard Jeff Buckley and said, "Well he’s got an operatic voice and he can do rock so maybe there is hope for me." I remember saying that to my singing tutor and he said, "Oh, I’ve always thought you had a great rock voice" and I thought, "Well ,why didn’t you tell me?" I still have aspirations to go back to opera. I would love to say, "Well, I have done this career. Let's go back to that." It is the most discipline a voice can get. It’s such a challenge and I would like to go back to that at some point. PW: In today’s musical climate there are a huge amount of female singer songwriters… GY: Tell me about it. PW: Has it been difficult to carve your own little niche and to stand out from this saturated scene? GY: I try not to think about it. It’s not like somebody else is doing folk now so I should change how I write. But there are definitely times when I think there are so many females out there and I wonder to myself should I try to head in a different direction and then I wake up the next morning and think, "No. Do what you’re doing!" It’s a quite scary being part of this over saturated thing out there and there is a new comparison each day. I try and not let it get to me and carry on as truthfully as I have always done. PW: And of course you have the band backing you up. GY: Totally, the band are so supportive of that and they are so different. I am not worried as coming across as some kind of copy cat because we are always mixing things up. I have belief and faith in what we do and I believe it has it’s place wherever we may be. PW: From the outside it seems your parents are incredibly supportive of your chosen career path, being involved with running your Gift Of The Gab record label from the admin side to the management aspects involved. Normally parents would want their child to be a dentist or a lawyer. It must be a huge relief to have them on your side? GY: I think pretty early on they realised that I wasn’t going to be that, since 11 they have been of the opinion not to push me and to let me do music because that was the only thing I was good at (Laughs). With the label I started it and then my mum just started to take it over and now they have totally taken over the label and I just let that happen which is great for me. I really am lucky to have that> They are taking huge risks and I really am impressed with them. They truly are putting everything into my career. PW: There must be a huge amount of pressure on you to keep things together? GY: There are times when my dad says, "Why haven’t you got a number one record yet?" and I think to myself, "Oh my God, I can't take this pressure. I’ll never have a number one (Laughs)." They get what I am up to now, my mum really gets it but every now and again my Dad slips into "Why are you not on 'Top of the Pops'?" They are both absolutely incredible and I am so lucky to have them. I really am. PW: So with the release of this new album, 'We’re All in This Together' there is a track called 'Too Young to Die'. Would you say that with this song you feel you have put the subject (Gabby was diagnosed with thyroid cancer a few years back and after a successful operation has made a complete recovery-PW) behind you personally and musically or will what you went through remain with you and influence your future musical and non musical endeavours? GY: It’s not always there. People who I haven’t seen in years always ask how I am really intensely. And I think "I’m okay. Oh, that." It’s not always in my head. I think that you’re right about that. 'Too Young to Die' was me closing that book. I’m really proud of that song, I found it really hard to write. I wanted to write a song about it for years and then suddenly the song came out of me complete. I didn’t have to re-write one word of it. I literally sat down, pressed record on my dictaphone and it all came out and then that was it, the song about the cancer. I always knew one would come but it was always really hard to do. I would just start crying and I wouldn’t be able to handle it. There may be more to come but that is my pivotal song. The I ‘ve done it moment. PW: It is such a huge moment on the record. GY: I still can’t play it live. It completely tears me apart, especially if I see my parents in the audience. I’ll see my mum crying her eyes out. I just can’t do it live. I’ve tried it twice and both times I’ve said I am never doing this again. Saying that I know I will, it’s just that by the end of it… it’s hard. At this point I let her go so she could eat her probably by then cold meal with her band mates. The show that night blew me away ). It was one of those shows that you wish would happen but never do. The kind of show that leaves you with songs stuck in your head and memories of hairs standing up on my neck. I can not recommend her enough and if you are off to Glastonbury this summer you could do far worse than spending half hour watching her on the Avalon stage rather than wasting money at the noodle stands. This interview was published originally on Paul Waller's blog http://wallernotweller.wordpress.com

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