In conversation with poetic blues-rock singer Gabriel Douglas

Photo by Jason Larkin

Behind his guttural howls and moody blues-rock sound, you will discover a heart of pure gold in Gabriel Douglas after reading this exclusive interview with him. Gabriel is a quirky, small-town guy that enjoys the simple pleasures of quiet retreats and countryside escapes. His latest album is Darker Still, released via The Double Asterik Group, is a soulful and sincere piece of art that touches on the need for human connection.

We are pleased to present Gabriel Douglas’s heartfelt and sincere sentiments below.

Looking back, what were some of your earliest entries into music appreciation? And music production?

I remember being fascinated by the way somebody in a small building – always a lone building on a hillside in movies, so my young mind would always go there. You could conjure up sentiments and ideas and broadcast them to everybody within range of that tower. I remember being just awestruck by the community that was unseen every time you’d turn your radio on. I grew up in the countryside, so sometimes knowing somebody else was listening to the same song at the same time within a tank of gas from our little farmyard was comforting. 

I had my father’s record collection and would use those big, bulky hardshell headphones with the BIG plug (1/4”) and listen to them. Music production’s earliest memory for me was later Beatles records. Hearing the harsh pans, the lush arrangements, and the layered vocals really opened my ears and my mind to the way that music could be recorded and manipulated. Yet, also brought together in a final and cohesive unit, a song.

Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?

The process always changes. I’m always drawing from experiences in my life and in other’s fictions (cinematic masterpieces, other’s tunes) and relaying those synapses into things that I could relate to. Hopefully, others can relate to them too. 

Sometimes it’ll start with a simple tag line thrown into the phone while binging a Netflix series. Sometimes it’ll start with a melody I’m humming while trekking across the vast American expanse. Sometimes it’ll start with some cowboy chords on a porch or some cowboy chords next to a bonfire late at night. Sometimes it’ll start with a stanza written on both sides of a coaster after the phone died. (Remember going out and having technology fail us and still having community and camaraderie built in those pubs? I miss those stanzas, and have used this pandemic time to revisit a lot of the fragments.)

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Experience. Passion. Those are the big foundations, without one of those pillars, the song probably doesn’t make it past the voice memos stage. Those are vague and abstract though, and finding specific things can be fleeting. And can be ever-changing. 

Things that might be unconventional (or at least not forthright) in creative processes (at least to myself) before experiencing them: 

The Marvel Cinematic Universe. Levelling a picnic table. Watching any of the many major sports teams from Minnesota consistently underachieve and never bring home a championship in the 21st Century (excluding the Lynx, I salute those wonderful people and their championships!). Trying new potato chip flavors, finding the irony in enjoying seltzer water after gawking it for most of my adult life. Deciding how a life jacket should fit. Revelling in the great decision to get a grippy skin for my Nintendo Switch pro-controller. Continually learning how to communicate with other people via actual words. Frequently failing at letting others know how much they matter to me. Deciding to finish the pint of ice cream in one go. Mistakenly putting two additional logs on a fire that did not need them and waiting in vain to see if they relinquish their flames (they won’t, and you should have just put the fire out hours ago). And so many other weird moments that I wouldn’t have thought could fetch the muse to bring about a song. Yet, those moments have all helped find a song closer to its finish line.

As a musician, it becomes apparent that there is a huge difference between the art and the business. Is there anything about the music scene that you would personally change?

I hope the music scene continues to become more welcoming, more warming, more caring, and more cultivating.

Studio work and music creation or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?

I do not have a preference, I think both sides of that coin are vital and immersive to my experience. I enjoy the unlimited abilities and takes that you can have in a studio in modern times. I enjoy the connection from somebody showing me their songs or somebody allowing me to show them some of mine in real-time. In the current climate, I miss live shows much more, as I have had access to recording throughout the pandemic, so it’s not missed as much. (Although the joy and stimulation of packing in fellow musicians for a recording session are sorely missed.)

What is the most memorable response you have had to your music?

On our first West Coast tour, we played a small club in San Fransisco called Hotel Utah and as we started a song called ‘Undertow’. I thought the sound guy had put some delay or some sort of chorus effect on my vocal, as I kept hearing what I thought was my voice slowly hang and drag in my monitor and in the mains. As the song got to the breakdown, I realized that people in the balcony were singing along with the song. We had never been to San Fran and the people had listened to us before we got there and they knew the song. It is still a vivid memory for me.

What’s on your current playlist?

Val Son, Aaron Frazer, Album Leaf, the Guess Who, Ibibio Sound Machine, Aero Flynn, Bud Brunson & the Good Timers, HALFBROTHER, Rationale, J.E. Sunde, Waxahatchee, Dosh, Led Zeppelin, Bad Bad Hats, PUP, Bonobo, Dillinger Four

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you in the near future?

Lots of music. Mid-2020 was spent getting Darker Still ready and in that time, lots of recording sessions. You can expect some hope when I can, and some frustration when I can’t find it. This pandemic takes a lot on us all. Be honest, be yourself, and be vigilant. That’s what I’ll be doing too.

Famous last words?

You are enough.

Follow Gabriel Douglas:

Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Bandcamp

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