Gabby Young and Other Animals is a flamboyant eight-piece British pop band, bringing together ragtime, jazz and Balkan influences. Praised for her live shows, Young is a classically-trained singer who crowd-funded her first album to the top of Amazon’s download charts. Her ability to lead a band that includes brass, banjo and accordion is a testament to her versatility as an artist. We spoke to Young ahead of the launch of their second album. For more visit: www.gabbyyoungandotheranimals.com.
You were in the National Youth Choir at 12, and firmly on track to become an opera singer. What made you step away from your classical roots?
I was interested in opera because, at the time, it was the most powerful and theatrical way of singing. I then started listening to Jeff Buckley. Looking back I never would have hacked it in opera, as I always need to “ad lib” and change the notes, and you can’t improvise with Mozart!
You’re part of an eight-piece band but are very much the front woman. Does that cause any friction at all?
Not at all; apart from the occasional sulk, we get on like a dysfunctional family! I have always run the show because this started as a solo project, but I’ve avoided the “band politics” by making it clear that everyone can get involved as much or as little as they like. I’m very lucky to have an understanding band and a brilliant musical director, Stephen, who has really given this project legs.
The cover art for your new record is particularly striking. Did you work with a particular graphic designer on this project?
Thank you. Yes, I worked with the architect Andy Hau, Brighton-based Kundalini Arts, and photographer Gem Hall (who is also our tour manager). Getting this right was really important to me as I wanted to make something that people could keep and treasure.
What is the experience of performing like for you? Do you enjoy it?
Oh I’m all about live shows. I actually don’t really enjoy the studio, but gigs are my oxygen. I get kind of possessed on stage and I love it. Connecting with an audience, whether they are singing along, dancing or even crying, is the most magical feeling and I can’t get enough of it. If I had my way and my voice could endure it, I would play every night for the rest of my life.
What’s the most important thing about a good song?
I don’t think I can put my finger on it really – sometimes it’s a great melody that you feel you know instantly; other times it’s a beat that you want to dance to or amazing lyrics. When it’s all three plus a brilliant band / singer then it all gets pretty exciting and I will listen to that on repeat until the cows come home.
What are you most looking forward to in 2012?
It has to be the album launch at The Scala. We really pull out all the stops for our big London shows and I am plotting an extravaganza for this one. At the same time I’m working on setting up an online shop for Gabberdashery, a company that my stylist Katie Antoniou and I set up. It’s a glorified merchandise stand but everything is handmade by British designers. The ethos is this: if I want to own it and it’s affordable, then we want to sell it.