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✦ Gabrielle Marlena Interview ✦

interviewed by coco lashar

Gabrielle Marlena is a indie/folk musician based out of Brooklyn, NY. She recently became a friend of Gold Hand, and since, we've found ourselves obsessing over her debut album - a must add to your fall playlist. 

1. Tell us a bit about who you are - where are you from, what's your musical background like?

I’m a singer/songwriter originally from Connecticut and now living in Brooklyn, NY. For four years, I was a student in Montreal at McGill University, and during that time, I moved around a lot, spending some time in Eastern Europe and Melbourne, Australia. A lot of my songwriting has come from experiences living in these different places. Movement, which often includes loss and new beginnings, has very much shaped the theme of my songs. 

My musical background starts with studying clarinet and classical piano in my very young years, and I even spent some time as the glockenspiel player in my middle school band. I wisely decided to take up guitar, which improved my social life and also helped me discover my love for songwriting. I began performing Avril Lavigne and Fefe Dobson covers at my middle school talent shows in CT, and in my bedroom I was writing sad songs about tragic scenarios that didn’t exist. Fast forward through high school, I ended up at McGill in Montreal and performed my original music any chance I got. I also finally started to gain life experience, real content that I could sing about. I was studying nothing music-related, though, so songwriting was always my side project. It wasn’t until I moved to New York that I really made it a priority and imagined myself pursuing a career as a folk singer. 

2.  You just put out your debut album (SO exciting!) - what music and which artists were your biggest influences for your record?

Artists that I’ve always loved are Adele, Amy Winehouse, Avril Lavigne, Regina Spektor, Alanis Morissette, First Aid Kit, The Head and the Heart, London Grammar, and more recently I’ve been very into Sharon Van Etten, Julia Jacklin, Overcoats, Cat Clyde, and Big Thief. But to be completely honest, I never really like to answer this question. If I think hard, I can decide which artists have subconsciously influenced my style the most. For example, I recently realized that Dido probably had a huge influence on the way that I sing and the way that I write. But the inspiration for the making of this record didn’t come from anyone or anything but myself, my emotions, and my need for a creative outlet for expression.

3. What has the experience of touring a debut album been like, and what advice would you have for other young artists wanting to share their work?

I’ve mostly been playing shows in the NY area since the release, and I’m about to leave next week on my first cross-country tour. I’m excited to sing these songs for new listeners. It gets hard to perform the same music over and over again, but you find new meaning in it when you perform for new people in new places. I’m excited to be traveling again, and I hope it will give me more to write about. 

It’s funny thinking about giving advice to young artists, because I am a young artist and I need advice. Ha! But to everyone out there who is passionate about making music: perform wherever you can, whenever you can. I seriously never say no to performance opportunities, whether it’s in a kitchen in Bushwick to 12 people, to my grandmother and her 90-year-old friend, or to two strangers in an empty bar in Manhattan. Every new real fan that you gain is more important than 50 fake Instagram followers, and you’re really only going to gain real fans through live performance. Also, the nicer you are and the more good friends you have, the more successful you’re going to be in spreading your music. So don’t be an ass, and don’t dismiss anyone!

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4. What has it been like being a woman in the music scene for you? Has it impacted the way you create or feel about the music industry?

Every time I walk into a new venue, I’m afraid to talk to the sound guy (it really is always a guy). I’m conditioned to be afraid to ask silly questions, and I think a lot of that has to do with being a woman. We have very far to go as a society, and the music industry is a sadly perfect representation of gender inequalities that exist in 2017. But making a record with female producer Katie Buchanan is the best decision I’ve ever made, and I strongly believe that if my producer had been a man, this album would have been a lot more mediocre. The comfort and confidence I felt working alongside another woman was so important for conveying what I wanted to create and hear on this album. And that would maybe be true even if we lived in a world with perfect gender equality. I do think women share a certain emotional vulnerability and honesty that a lot of men just don’t have. Don’t get me wrong though… I LOVE men. I mean, just listen to the record.

5. Lastly, what are your hopes for the future of your music and career as an artist?

Honestly all I want to do is keep making music and keep sharing it with the world. It’s hard, though, because living is expensive, records are expensive to create, and pushing yourself, your brand, and your own songs is hard work. Especially when you’re your own manager, publicist, booking agent, and label, like I am right now. It gets really tiring. I’ve been sending so many emails this past year that I’ve barely had time to write. All I can hope is that people continue to listen and inspire me to record more. It’s possible that in a few years, I’ll be back in my bedroom with my guitar, and my songs won’t be getting further than a few of my close friends. But songwriting for me feels better when it has the potential to reach and move a broader audience. Just the other day, I got a Facebook message from a girl I went to high school with who I hadn’t spoken to in 6 years. She wrote me a lovely paragraph about how she admired that I was chasing my dream. At a Sofar Sounds show, a woman about 60 years old (not exactly my target audience) approached me and said something like this: “When you reach my age, you start to reflect a lot more, and you start to experience random moments of complete bliss. Watching you perform was one of those moment for me.” It’s Facebook messages and interactions like these that keep me performing and recording. I hope that my music continues to exist for more than just me as long as it possibly can. 

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Check out her album on Spotify below:

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