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Gabrielle Shonk

Jan 05/2018
INTERVIEW Emma Dora Silverstone PHOTOGRAPHY Neil Mota HAIR Patrick G. Nadeau (RDV) MAKEUP Anne (RDV)


Québécois singer-songwriter Gabrielle Shonk locates a raw vulnerability within an indie-folk sound on her debut self-titled LP released this past September. Tracing through her own experiences with a voice that pierces and taunts in equal measure, the 29-year-old has earned comparisons to the likes of Alicia Keys, Fiona Apple and Adele.

To kick off the new year, Georgie caught up  with Gabrielle by phone at her home in Quebec City.

G—Could you tell us a little about your background?

Gabrielle Shonk—I am French Canadian. Actually, I was born in the States in Providence, Rhode Island, and we moved to [a suburb of Quebec City] when I was five or six. My dad is American and my mom is from Quebec City.

G—Is French your first language?

GS—Yes. I went to school in French and everything; my whole upbringing was in French in Quebec.

G—Your English is absolutely perfect.

GS—I would say English has always come more naturally to me; I love both though, but my main musical expression language is English.

G—Who would you say are your greatest musical influences?

GS—I like a lot of old stuff, from the folk scene: Tracy Chapman, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. I listened to a lot of soul music growing up, too: Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Al Green and Otis Redding. I have the vinyl of “Let’s Stay Together”, and listen to it maybe once a week and I never get tired of it.

G—Which aspect of the musical process do you enjoy more, songwriting or performing?

GS—I think it depends on the moment in my life. At the moment I’m feeling very creative, so I’m very much into writing music; but I do love performing live. I like being out there, meeting people and sharing the music. I’m going back into songwriting right now but I’m still playing shows, a bunch of shows.

G—What came first, was it writing songs or the desire to put yourself out there and share the music?

GS—I have always loved singing, but creating music came very young for me. When I was ten I would make up pop songs in my head and write the lyrics down; I was always creative in that sense. When I started playing guitar, I started by covering songs, but very quickly after I started writing my own songs, inspired from the chords I had learned. Writing was kind of omnipresent throughout my whole career. I have only been pursuing a career as a singer/songwriter in the last couple of years with the making of this record, but it has always been present.

G—How does it feel to have your debut self-titled album released?

GS—I feel as if I was waiting for this for such a long time, so it got to the point that when it finally made it out, I was ready for it. But I had to work through that in the process. I am a bit of a perfectionist – finishing and saying “this is done” was hard. In a few years I will probably look back and want to redo the whole record differently. But I see that in a positive way, because I want to evolve as an artist and move forward. It’s something I am proud of. It’s also great to watch the record get a second life though the eyes of the fans. They take such different meaning from it which makes me look at my own music differently. I love having the songs out there living their own lives.

G—Your hit single, “Habit”, was about a breakup. How do you feel about that relationship now and do you still talk?

GS—I wrote that song a long time ago. It was when my first relationship ended, which was a long one I guess. I don’t talk to him anymore.

G—Do you think he has heard the single and knows it’s about him?

GS—I have no idea. I don’t know if he knows it’s about him or if he’s heard it.

All my close friends know it’s about him. It was a case of two people who changed, broke up, and never bumped into each other again. It was a while ago, and I’m completely healed from that experience now. It’s interesting to see where life experiences can bring you, so much good has come from that song. It feels like a win for me I guess.

G—That’s a good way of looking at it.

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