Her voice will melt your soul and her lyrics will touch your heart. We had a pleasure to talk with Gabriella Cilmi, Australian singer whose latest album The Sting we’ve been listening to non-stop lately. After 3 years of working on it, Gabriella released the album in November last year. She said goodbye to her record label, management and her boyfriend at the time and all of those separations influenced The Sting. With no pressure from the label she was able to find her own voice and as she said make music that she will be proud of. Here’s what we talked about.
How early in your life did you realize that music is what you want to do?
I can’t say I ever remember wanting to or considering doing anything else. Oh, I guess that’s not true, I told my teachers that if it didn’t work out I’d become a museum tour guide…you know because making music is not a “real job”. I remember watching an old live performance of Cat Stevens playing ‘ Father and Son’ on TV and feeling like my dream became validated. I connected so much with the song and his vocal it made me want to be like him. Ike and Tina Turner’s ‘Proud Mary’ and ‘River Deep Mountain High” were other tunes that also gave me the same feeling. I used to come home from school and practice singing with Tina Turner blasting out of the speakers.
Did you ‘get’ your talent from someone in the family?
My mum is a fashion designer and my dad is a hairdresser so both were creative. They loved music and introduced me to a lot of Glam Rock- SuziQuatro and The Sweet being among their favorites. None of my parents are actually musicians themselves but my dad planted the seed by buying a piano. I think he would have loved to learn when he was young, so he encouraged my brother and I to have lessons. My grandfather would sometimes play harmonica in the cellar as well… maybe it stems from him, not sure…
What was the hardest part for you in becoming famous in the music industry at such a young age?
The hardest part was learning that my passion was an industry. I just thought I would be doing a lot of writing and a lot of singing. I didn’t realize I also had to do a lot of interviews, photo-shoots, have meetings, smile at strangers and all that stuff… It was hard at first but I think I’m a little more used to it now.
As you struggled to take control over the image of yourself that was sent through the media, what kind of advice could you give to young women today that feel like they have to adjust to certain ideas of what is hot and what beautiful looks like?
My advice would be not to compromise yourself. Dress for yourself when you get ready to go out not for others… paint your own portrait. Take advice and inspiration from other people you admire and give it your own twist.
How much did you change since you first album came out? How are those changes reflected in your sound?
Well I started writing my first album at 14…my sunny outlook kind of faded during the promo of my album. Then when I was around 18 I wasn’t performing much…I became very stuck inside my head, getting on stage became hard…just even expressing myself became hard. I needed to take some time away to find what kind of artist I wanted to become. Lyrically, I started writing more autobiographically and I guess the sound changed to fit with the lyrics.
How did the process of creating The Sting start? When did you feel that you were ready for a new album?
After I went trekking in Peru late in 2010 I felt more refreshed. I initially started writing with my live band… I didn’t think I could do it at first being without a label or a manager but with a little help from my friends I pulled through it and finally started writing some new music I could feel proud of.
What would you say influenced this album the most?
The idea of having to start from the beginning again as a new artist, chocolate, trip hop and coffee.
Do you agree that the best song are written when people are either crazily in love or completely heartbroken?
Both. Extreme emotions are always good for writing.
If you could do a duet or perform with any musician dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Robert Plant- I love his voice…I love Led Zeppelin, I love ‘Raising Sand’ his album with Alison Krauss. We also share a passion of the blues and roots music… I would melt.
What kind of music do you listen to? Who is on your playlist these days?
SigurRós ,Björk, John Martyn, Tame Impala …awaiting the new Beck Record.
What is the quality you appreciate the most in people?
The ability to love, the ability to cook…can’t decide…
Do you have any motto or a mantra/quote that helps you get through life and stay true to yourself?
Eat, eat, pray, love and eat and eat again. Repeat.