"I don't like to write by myself. I'm better in a room with other writers where I can kind of bounce ideas off of them and then they get the ball rolling" In conversation with Gabby Barrett
2020 has been something of a breakthrough year for Gabby Barrett. Her rip-roaring 2019 hit 'I Hope' carried through to this year, and her debut album Goldmine was released in June. And later in the year, not long after we spoke with her, she announced she's expecting her first child with husband Cade Foehner. That's some year.
We spoke to Gabby back in the summer, on a "scorching hot day, it's in the 90s" while taking some time out from the Nashville scene back home in Texas, spending time with family and "focusing on my little one and a half year old nephew who, you know, I want to see you grow up." But still, amongst that downtime ("it's definitely not the worst thing. It's been a huge blessing really.") there's promotion of the album to do.
So, releasing an album in lockdown in the middle of a pandemic... there are some upsides. "I'm just taking everything as a blessing as it is in many ways, even releasing a new album during quarantine. I think people are channelling in and listening to music more and in different ways. So it gives people more time to learn the songs and the lyrics. So when we get to perform these live for the first time, it'll be fun because I imagine more people are gonna know the songs, and it'll be fun to play it for the first time and have people sing it for the first time, too."
It's also meant more Zoom and Facetime calls and less of the radio tours that are so crucial for country music in the US. "You have a general sense of how promotion goes with an album: going to your key States here in the US, going in and promoting it, seeing people in person and having that kind of personal connection. And so, of course, that can't happen. But I'm thankful for the Internet, we're still able to see people and talk to them and sing for them."
And a chance to do things a little differently than usual, letting fans be "the ones who created posters and released the tracklisting for the album right before it came out". The most exciting thing has been getting the chance to see reaction live on release night on social media. "I've been writing for two years and I wrote, what was it, 30 songs for this album. So, you're kind of biting your nails because you're like, oh, I want people to love this music and I can't wait for people to hear it. So when it came out on midnight on June 19th, normally I'd be dead by then, but I was up just looking at what everybody was saying. I wanted to know what their favourites were."
And initial reactions were great. "'Footprints on the Moon' is one that people loved a lot. People like 'Rose Needs A Jack' a lot and 'Write It On My Heart'. And 'Got Me', which is a Christian song, which I was so excited to include on the album, featuring a Christian artist Shane & Shane. I actually decided to release that before the album came out." And Gabby's faith is something that's "such a huge part of who I am" and important to share, especially "in such a difficult and uncertain time".
One of the interesting things about how albums come together is the timeframe in which the songs are written, which can vary from a number of years, to a condensed period of a week or so, for Goldmine it was the former. "It's funny how a lot of people don't realize how you can put an album together and have songs from years ago on it. They're not all just songs that you just wrote recently; sometimes they can be but a lot of times they're that's not how it is. There's actually a song on there that is the first song I ever wrote in Nashville. That was two years ago, and the song was 'Rosie Needs A Jack'. I remember going into the writing room and I was like, oh I know I want to write a love song, but I know that the main source and theme of love songs in country music are Johnny Cash and June. I was like, I wanna write something different because there are already so many songs about that. So I thought what about Rose and Jack from Titanic, because that was such a huge movie. And everybody knows about that love story. And that's where 'Rose Needs A Jack' kind of came into place. I'm always trying to look to do things a little bit different, kind of separate myself from the pack."
And that song is a good example of Gabby'spreference for collaboration when songwriting. "I don't like to write by myself. I'm not somebody who's good at just writing a whole song and then bring it to another writer and say put music to this and we're done. I'm better in a room with other writers where I can kind of bounce ideas off of them and then they can kind of get the ball rolling. Some days we don't know at all what we're gonna write about, somedays we do. And somedays you go in and it's a complete block and you come out with nothing. It just depends. But I have been very blessed to be around so many talented writers in the Nashville scene with country music."
Nashville is always talked about as having a great community of songwriters and Gabby's experience is proof of that. "In the Nashville community they always write what is genuine to you, every person in your story. Those are the songs that I believe last the longest time, those that are genuine to you. And so that's something I love, that most writers never forced me into any corner of something I didn't want to write about."
The biggest song to come out of Gabby's experience so far is 'I Hope' which demonstrates the qualities of her voice, as well as having a monster chorus and a kick ass payback. And it's a song that was never supposed to happen. "So it was me, Zac Kale and Jon Nite, the three of us wrote that song on Halloween of 2018. It's funny because it wasn't really supposed to happen. It was just thrown together that day. We'd come into the room and one of the boys had said, hey, how about we write a song where the guy treats the girl bad but the girl kind of wishes the guy well in the end, like, "I'm fine, everything's fine, I'm not hurt at all". I was like, I don't really think that's how people normally react to a situation like that, when they get done wrong. So I was like, let's just write from an honest point of view of how people normally react to something as terrible as being cheated on. Granted, I would deal with it differently now. But it was it was a fun song to write."