Featured photo by: @theset916 and @cortexdrip and @pleaseexcusemybrilliance
Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with the Bay Area’s virgogabrielle. Together we discussed being an old soul, their love of Jazz and R&B, their songwriting process, and so much more!
1. Hello! Mustard is thankful to have you join them. How are you?
Hi Mustard! Thank you for including me on your platform and space. I’m doing well- enjoying some coffee and listening to Ms. Lauryn Hill.
2. You’re an old soul in a fast new world. Could you elaborate more on this?
As INDIVIDUALS, we are exposed to so many messages on the daily, which leads to overstimulation. As ARTISTS, we are expected to not only make music but make daily content to promote it. At times this makes me feel out of place- I am going out of my inherent element of focusing on quality rather than quantity. It is not in my nature to consume at such a fast pace, it is not in my nature to produce at such a fast pace. It’s like fast fashion versus hand-stitched. Being immersed in this speed brings to the surface what I would best define as an old soul- someone who takes her time to appreciate the beauty in life and detail in art.
3. The guitar is your baby. When did you first learn this instrument? How has rock n’ roll influenced your writing?
I started learning guitar back in 2015, when I was a freshman in high school. This was around the same time that the girls and I started Novicain Road, the all-female rock band. Because rock and its subgenres were what we were focusing on, a lot of my guitar foundation comes from this background. Being around phenomenal instrumentalists like Jack, Jayden and Ella at band practice, writing sessions, etc I picked up a lot.
The first songs I ever wrote were rock songs, so the influence will always be with me in the music I make. Certain songs of mine like “999” encompass rock n roll stylistically, with raw, edgy lyrics and an “in your face” vocal style. I don’t always stay on the sweet side and rock n roll isn’t sweet.
4. Mustard has observed that the Bay Area has some incredible independent musicians. What is it like being a part of this scene? Who was your first introduction to the Bay Area music scene?
I would definitely agree. I moved to the Sacramento area back in 2018, but am happy to still be immersed in the Bay Area music scene. I love how there is such a wide range of genres here- one day I may go to Milk Bar for a rock show, the next day I might go to Neck of the Woods and see hip-hop and RnB artists at showcases like Mentality Flow. There’s something for everyone here, and observing the variety of talent while getting a glimpse of people’s stories through their art is inspiring.
My first introduction to the Bay Area music scene was back in 2014 via Red House, a venue in Walnut Creek that is now closed. Me and friends would go see shows here during high school, and eventually Novicain Road started playing here too. It offered a space for the edgy kids, the kids who loved music and would rather go to a local show than a football game. I remember some amazing acts like A Lot Like Birds, RVLS, Elder Brother and The American Scene coming through- it was amazing that one night ourselves or our friends may have a show at Red House, and the next night musicians we really looked up to would be performing. Walnut Creek is where The Story So Far is from, so we would be hanging out sometimes and run into some of the members. Being around a mix of established and establishing artists at such a young age was really inspiring.
5. Jazz and R&B help you feel more in tune with yourself. Could you describe your connection to these genres? How did UC Davis help inspire you to take the solo route away from Novocaine Road?
I was raised with a lot of Roy Ayers, Marvin Gaye etc- the GOATS of soul. My grandfather was a Gospel radio mogul as well as concert promoter and my great Uncle started “Reid’s Records” in Berkeley- the two of them would put on a lot of shows with a variety of artists including Aretha Franklin. So coming from these roots, I’ve formed an attraction to more soulful genres of music, and that includes jazz and r&b. There’s a lot of love put into them.
Around 2017 I was listening to a lot of artists on SoundCloud, which is where I was exposed to underground neo-soul. Listening to these songs made me think- wow. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for, this fits most closely with the music I make.
When I moved to Davis, I no longer lived close to the band and we were pretty much on hiatus so it propelled me into doing my solo music full time. After performing at an open mic at UC Davis, I got approached by the school newspaper, who invited me to do a video performance for their Couch Concert series. This was my first official performance as virgogabrielle, and I’m grateful that the school helped foster that. After that, I started going to Sacramento alot, since it’s so close to Davis. It was there that I found what I had been seeking. I felt like there were people I resonated with who understood me and understood the music I was making. This really fueled my journey of working on my craft, collaborating with others, and being a part of a community.
6. Music is your form of therapy. What emotions do you feel when making and listening to music? Do you have a go-to song that makes you feel at ease?
Music brings about waves in my soul in ways unlike anything else in this world. In songs where someone speaks from the depths of their consciousness and conveys that sonically, I feel like I travel to a place of reflection and introspection.
When making music- sheeeeeeeeeeeeeesh. I’m feeling something strong, regardless of positive or negative. Many of my songs I’ve created from a feeling of loss- loss of myself, loss of someone else, loss of something. Another feeling that inspires me to create is confidence- confidence in myself and in the universe. Maybe I just had an amazing experience and I feel that I’m on the right path. It’s really a spectrum, but the common denominator is that it comes from a place of visceral feeling.
As far as what song makes me feel at ease…. I have a lot. “Head in the Ceiling Fan” by Title Fight is one. The riff is so ethereal. A2’s album “All Spill” is my favorite album ever, so that makes me feel at ease too. So wavy, vibey, it takes me to a place in the clouds.
7. Losing Sleep, Lucid Dreams is your first single. What was the inspiration behind this song?
That track was written during a period of transition. I was young, like 18, and didn’t realize that some things are GENUINELY out of my control. If someone doesn’t want to invest in me, it isn’t always a reflection of me, but of that person and their capacity. Essentially, I wrote this song in the midst of cutting off some people from my life- a few friends, a situationship- for this reason. I felt jaded and my mind started going to places like “what if all these people I cut off get together?” and that would show up in my dreams- it felt so real, felt like a horrible way to tie everything together. That’s why the song deals with the theme of lucid dreams- it is the blurring of physical reality and the dreamworld. At the same time, the song is a shedding of skin and a form of introspection towards the authentic self that is further revealed in times of solitude.
8. What is your songwriting process?
In most cases, I like to start by either finding a sample loop or making one myself with guitar. From here, it goes one of two places:
If I’m writing for myself: I’ll listen to the loop for a while and transition into my lyrical headspace, then start freestyling what is truly on my mind. I’ll record it with a voice memo and listen back to see if there are any phrases, lines, flows and indentations that stick out to me. I’ll likely sit down and write based on those, build on those. Or in some cases, I will just keep it-alot of my music is free flowing rather than strictly structural, which is a double edged sword.
If I’m co-writing or writing for others: Co-writing is a whole different ball game. I tend to write cognisant of structure in these situations, thinking of specific phrases that fit together rather than freestyling. The experience of writing lyrics with or for others pushes me to branch out and write in a way that may resonate on a wider scale, or with the intended theme of the song.
9. In your latest single DOLO you make the statement “I promise I won’t fold.” What obstacles are you going against in your newest single? What inspired it?
I wrote this song in a WAY different place than my first singles. I wrote it after the rocky loss of a love so bad for you that it starts looking like it’s good. I’m saying I won’t fold, like this time I won’t go back and I also won’t go off the deep end. That made me realize the cyclical nature of experiences like this- they’re almost like an hourglass. You can either let the sand that is toxic love, memories and an illusionary sense of belongingness run its course and fall to the bottom never to be flipped over again, or you can keep turning it over and it becomes an eternal open wound that gets deeper and deeper. At that point, you never get better, you never elevate. The thought of that reality was so terrifying to me that I accepted my “loss”- and truly realized that it’s better to be on my lonesome, healing and thriving than it is to persist in a VACUUM, a VOID. If it is raining and the jacket in front of you is tattered, you leave it alone and find something whole rather than settling for brokenness. I chose life over the state of being a shell.
10. Do you have any upcoming shows or projects?
I plan to release my next EP in the early months of 2023. More on the theme to be revealed later, but I will say that the tracks revolve around the temporary nature of moments in our life.
As far as shows, on September 16th I will be performing at 916 Fest in Sacramento. I’m excited to celebrate the city on our special day (Sacramento area code is “916”), and honored to be a part of the event.
I will also be performing in Guerneville the weekend of September 23 for Big Leap Collective’s Sunset Songwriters Showcase at Real Neato Fest. I am looking forward to playing music in nature as these are two of my favorite environments.
11. Where can readers listen to your music?
- My music is on all streaming platforms. Here are some common links:
- Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/7f9FPgKCYN5RdUuwmJW8vG?si=gb0MaJlqSj614Q3BzU8s5w
- Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/virgogabrielle/1470186312
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkH_wPsy93UWraSoruVwX5w
- Deezer: https://deezer.page.link/PS3WrPN51eK9GkUE9
- Bandcamp: https://virgogabrielle.bandcamp.com/releases
- Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/virgogabrielle