Coming off an eventful summer of touring festivals and the success of her hit single “ABCDEFU,” recent MTV Video Music Awards nominee GAYLE chatted with Variance’s Ethan Ijumba to discuss the aftermath of her successful single, her recent collaboration with blackbear, and the release of her new EP a study of the human experience volume two, which arrived Friday.
In their conversation, GAYLE detailed the changes in her life from her recent success and the process that follows her new EP, and what it represents to her. Be sure to read the full interview below and to stream a study of the human experience volume two on all platforms.
So you're coming off a variety of shows and festivals that you performed at; you were at Austin City Limits, Firefly, and in the U.K. and Australia. What's it been like having such an intense and interant summer?
It was a lot of fun. I was a bit intimidated because I didn't want to say no to anything obviously because it was all just so exciting, but then I also didn't know how I was gonna feel after all of it. Obviously, it was so much fun, but I didn't know after all of the travel and everything how I was gonna feel emotionally, mentally, and physically so I was a bit scared, especially when I was going to Europe. But it's been absolutely amazing. I was 15 when the pandemic started and I hadn't even been to Ohio. The fact that I can say I went to places like Austria, Belgium, the U.K. and even going to Ireland, Sweden, and Germany... it absolutely blows my mind that I got to go see any of those places. I always wanted to see the world and I've always wanted to do music and the fact that I get to do both at the same time.
So to go along with that, you got to tour alongside the likes of AJR, Tate Mcrae, among others. Are there any main takeaways that you learned from who you got to meet when it comes to advice that sticks with you to this day?
A lot of these people I toured with, I was listening to them in my bedroom, and now I'm doing festivals with them and meeting them backstage and I still feel like that 15-year-old. It's very, very surreal. I guess the biggest thing is when I was younger, I would glorify these people's lives, and being backstage definitely made me see them as a human and I was able to interact with them as normal human beings, where two years ago I would have legitimately fangirled and screamed the whole time. The piece of advice that I got that is really helpful is a phrase I repeat to myself where it's like if you're walking on the street and someone goes, “I don't like your purple hair” and then you're like “I don't have purple hair”, they're like “I don't like your purple hair, you fucking suck for having this purple hair. That person is still going to hate you and say all these things for having purple hair, which is completely out of your control. So sometimes people say things about you that just aren't true, and sometimes it's true to them, but it doesn't make it definitive.
You mentioned how at 15, you were really fangirling and going crazy when you turned 17. “abc” came out and everybody would assume that's gonna be the big height of your career. See all the success from it. Do you still have moments where you’re just like, wow, I can't believe this is my life?
For sure, I mean a year ago today “abc” hit a million streams. So even this morning, I kind of had a moment where I was like wow if a year ago I could see where I am, I would lose my shit. There were a few moments. I did a show in Quebec for a festival and I was opening up for Maroon 5 there were 90,000 people there and that was the most ridiculous thing in the entire world. I was able to open up for My Chemical Romance in Dublin, Ireland. On both days there were like 25,000 people. I went to Tel Aviv and I did a show with Noa Kirel and there were 33,000 people and that was absolutely mind-blowing. I was able to play Jimmy Fallon this year and it was also just such a monumental moment that my family and friends watched me on TV. Even at the festivals, having people mosh pit to my songs, sing my lyrics back to me, and I'm about to put out a song with blackbear and I absolutely adored his music. My brother and I have geeked out over his music for years and the fact that we get to put out a song together, makes 18-year-old me, 12-year-old me and 15-year-old me happy and just the girl who started music just because I liked Aretha Franklin and wanted to sing.
I can only imagine that you have to go through a lot of adjustments and adapt to this life and that's what we're doing. We chose this, we wanted to do this and this is what it's gonna be from here on out.
I am happy that it had happened kind of on a quicker side with “abc” on where it went because I feel like I don't feel any different. My life is very different as a person but I kind of expected to feel different or have more of something I really don't and I'm happy that my life has changed but I haven't changed. Still live with my mom, take the trash out, and do the dishes.
Aside from that, you spoke about having blackbear on your EP, collaborating together. With the guy who made "do re mi" with the girl who made “abc” and now you come together and make “FMK.” What was it like working together with him on your song?
It was just insane, the song already existed; it was already written and had a free verse and everything for him to work on and I was actually on tour at the time when we were talking to each other over the phone and DMs and stuff. I remember when I got the verse I recorded myself listening to it and when I had the opportunity to ask him to jump on the song it was just absolutely mind-blowing because we were able to get to his manager and send the email of the song asking, do you want to jump on it? I was so nervous and I remember it took a couple of days to reply and I was just shaking and then they were like he'll do it and I was genuinely in awe. I didn't even talk to anybody about it cause I just couldn't find the words to talk about it and thought he wouldn't do it for obvious reasons cause it's fucking blackbear. Like I'm just a random ass bitch who just put out a song with the alphabet, telling my ex to F off. I don't know if he would be like sure and he did and I really love what he did for this song and I'm just very, very excited that I get to say that I'm putting out a song with blackbear.
It's dope because not a lot of people get to collab with blackbear 'cause he’s someone that doesn’t just work with anyone unless your name is Mike Posner. Having all these newfound experiences from a year ago, we literally talked about how it's been a year since “abc” and now you're going on all these tours and festivals and now you're back to in the studio. With these newfound experiences and lessons that you experienced how would you describe the second EP for those that have yet to listen to it?
I would say I did most of the songs after having more life experiences and performances. So some are very light-hearted. My song called “snow angels” basically just talks about how life is very overwhelming and sometimes you just have to forget everything and party with your friends to do that. Then there's “god has a sense of humor” where I talk about God and how I never really grew up with religion and I'm almost envious of people who have a strong sense of religion in their life because it can help them make sense of the world and I just don't have that at all. I also went through a breakup two years ago with the same guy I wrote “abc” about and when I first realized I wanted to break up with him I was very sad about it. So then, being the crazy bitch that I am, I put something close to his name in a song.
To go along with how your music has different meanings not only based on your experiences, you also have chromesthesia, which allows you to see colors based on the sounds you hear. You mentioned before, “abc” is pretty much red, but is that normally a majority of your music being variations of the same color, or do they all just differ?
It really differs. A lot of the music I make is green for some reason. I honestly have no clue why a lot of it's green. Some of it's orange and it really goes into greens and blues. The second EP is green, blue, white, and gray. So it's kind of more like earthy, natural, neutral tones. The first EP is more like red, orange, pink, and a brighter blue. It's basically any music I hear just has a color right away where I'm like, "whoa!" Sometimes when I'm making music I hate the color of the song and it's frustrating. I think when I realized that I had because I didn't like a song and I couldn't figure out why there was a song that I made and I just could not figure out why I didn't like it and I realized I didn't like the color of it, but I don't know what that meant to see the color of a song and I couldn't change the color. But with “abc,” it originally was red but then Pete Nappi being the b*tch that he is although I adore him, did something in the chorus where he changed the color of the song and made it green and I was like, I refuse to acknowledge this song is red. So for the alternate versions, the chill version is purple and so the artwork cover is purple, the demo version was red but I made it green because the angrier version is red because that's what it truly is and I made the single cover black. The wild remix was blue so I made it blue and most of the versions of the songs are pretty true to what the colors are. I try my best to do that as much as I can but sometimes it just doesn't work.
So aside from other colors, your music in terms of general connection or just depth that you have with this song from this new EP, I remember we talked about your last EP and you said “Kiddie Pool” was the one that really was your personal favorite out of it. Do you feel that there's one you’re most proud of that has a personal connection with you at all?
I'd say there are two for different reasons. I’d say “snow angels” just because that sounds very light-hearted and it feels like a representation of me. I've had so many nights similar to that very realistic to that and another song that I have is called “15” and I want people to hear it just because I think it gives more context of why I am the way I am and opens up more about things that I've struggled with in my life and for me. I wouldn't even necessarily call it empowering to necessarily talk about it. To some extent, it's just acknowledging something that I have to go through every single day and showing the fact that possibly you're not alone inside of that. I also think it gives context to some of the songs in the first EP and I think if you went through what I'm talking about in the song you're going to understand it a little bit more.