Isolation left us a lot of time for self-reflection. Introspection has been tantamount to productivity as the months have drained on. While the communal seclusion snared us into it’s anxiety-inducing grasp, it also left many with a new found desire to stop and take stock. Gabriel Gifford has felt this in particular, as he prepares to release his EP, ‘Arrows’, his first under his own name.
With a wealth of collaborations and production credits under his belt, it’s no surprise that Gifford’s first solitary output not only arrives fully formed, but with a delectable array of featured artists across a vibrant exhibition. ‘All For You’, it’s lead single, is no exception – it’s nonchalance burning brightly with Talulah Ruby aching pensively across the track. Attempt to dispel a sense of imposter syndrome with simple nurturing and sincerity, the track yearns for candidness and self-enlightenment – to believe in one’s self when it’s only you holding yourself back.
It’s all wrapped up affectionately by Gifford’s considered vision – gently coercing the sentiment from the instrumentation rather than wringing it out with exasperation. Keahnne Carlita’s robust sax introduces itself breathlessly, an enduring, intimate element we hadn’t realised we needed but couldn’t go without. With impeccable perception for timing, Gifford is able to draw upon the empty space that confinement has left us in and illustrate the healing powers of contemplation.
These last few months have been unprecedented, how have you been? How have you felt within all this?
It’s definitely verified how important experiencing music socially is to me, but I’m extremely grateful to say that I’ve been okay over this period. It’s simultaneously felt like an age and an instant, where I’ve felt quite detached. I was super lucky to be locked down in my space with Harvey Causon and was able to find a productive routine, helped by the fact I had a break from working full time in hospitality. Lockdown enabled me to finish the solo project, which I was slightly concerned about time-wise. I’ve also sorely missed a rainy Tuesday night 5-a-side in St Pauls.
‘All For You’ is a beautiful soul-searching ode of the self. It feels quite pertinent at a time when isolation has bred so much loneliness and self-awareness?
Absolutely. Talulah and I actually wrote the track nearly two years ago, but there seems to be new life in it for all of us. All of the tracks in the upcoming project centre around introspection, self-care, re-aligning yourself etc, which seems to be more prominent in everyone’s discourse at the moment. Being in creative industries is turbulent at the best of times. I’m not sure I’ll ever shake the imposter syndrome, but now more than ever everyone is on the same page; without live shows, struggling to find sustainable income streams, and struggling to cut through the sheer amount of music that’s being released every week. So it’s nice to see people acknowledging this and amplifying each other- which has certainly been the case during my time in Bristol.
In contrast, it’s quite a collaborative piece – Talulah’s vocal graciously comforts you with empathy, and Keahnne Carlita’s sax evokes such intimacy – do you feel in working collaboratively you are able to evoke what you are trying to express more impactfully?
Working with a vocalist can always make something more accessible. Talulah and Keahnne are so good at what they do, that there’s a level of control and expression in their playing that’s going to enrich the meaning of the song. I met Keahnne when playing Lucy Lu’s Colors show where she blew us all away, so I was so happy that she was down to provide the glue for ‘All For You’. I love hearing the way different artists can put their spin on narratives, you’re naturally going to learn more and resonate with different audiences each time which is also super exciting. I’ve always worked collaboratively, and I guess I aim to be a producer in the ‘old school’ sense, working with different musicians and applying different stylistic sensibilities to tracks in a new way.
The mood of the track as a whole is so imbued within the textural consideration of the instrumentation. It possesses so much heart and authenticity in its production, while it feels quite liberating and contemporary as a whole – is that something you’ve had to really explore to be able to find a balance of?
I’m so happy it’s come across that way! As you say, textural consideration is really important to me- I find it quite disappointing when an amazing song is met with more sterile production. I wrote the majority of the project whilst being in a total soul and jazz phase, which seems to be the evolution of producers that start in hip hop. The problem then is it’s very easy to become a pastiche. I think people resonate with a feeling of nostalgia, but to not reinterpret/modernize it is quite boring. Talulah’s vocal definitely helps this, so we kept it quite dry as opposed to everything else that is drenched in spring reverb. I suppose mixing the project myself definitely ensured control of these details.
What have you taken personally from exploring this first piece of your own personal work?
I’ve always joked that you can always avoid full responsibility when collaborating, but often this can only be so fulfilling. Having worked predominantly with other artists’ projects, I’m often thinking about how to represent and compliment their ideas and feelings sonically. However, this project has given me the opportunity to have more control conceptually, and so these songs have become more personal than I ever imagined them being. It’s also been super exciting to curate everything visually, and have a chance to tie in this solo work and Charlatan Jazz under a more cohesive aesthetic.
Arrows, the new EP from Gabriel Gifford, is out 30th October via Charlatan Jazz. You can listen to ‘All For You’ below.