Gaby Moreno is back in Australia, and anyone already exposed to her captivating voice and stage presence are already excited about it. Equally mesmerising whether she sings old jazz and Tin Pan Alley tunes next to Hugh Laurie, or the David Bowie Songbook – not to mention her signature ‘Spanglish Folk/ Soul’ songs – the singer shared her memories of Australia and explains how she managed to become a genre-transcending artist, refusing to “pick a locale.”
What are you going to present in Australia this time round?
I will be performing in a trio setting with my drummer and bass player from Los Angeles. We will be playing songs from all my past albums as well as some new unreleased material and a few songs for a new album I have coming out in May.
How has your previous experience in Australia been?
Every chance I get to visit Australia is always an unforgettable experience. I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for the first time I was there of course, touring with Hugh Laurie and The Copper Bottom Band. But then also the times that I’ve gone back to perform with my other band project, The SongBirds, with Dannielle DeAndrea and Erica Canales, and my own shows in Sydney and Melbourne have just been fantastic experiences. Another highlight was singing at The Sydney Opera House on the ‘Celebrating David Bowie’ show with some of Bowie’s longtime touring musicians.
How would you describe your music to someone not familiar with it?
I came up with a funny name for it and that is “Spanglish Folk/Soul”. Throw in a dash of ’60s sounding rock and blues and I think that sums it best.
From Bowie to Sharon Jones to Hugh Laurie, you’ve been part of a lot of different projects; how do you transcend music genres?
Honestly I try not to think about it too much. I just focus on making good music and being as honest and real as I can be whether it’s writing my songs or singing and playing on stage. In the end I feel my voice will be the common denominator.
I do love many different styles of music and have been told I can sing my way seamlessly from one genre to another.
I can tell you this wasn’t always a good thing. Many people in the past would criticize me for it or would tel me I needed to “pick a locale already”. Obviously I didn’t listen to any of them and so far I haven’t felt a negative effect. Quite the contrary.
Why did you pick ‘Ilusion’ as the title of your album? What is the significance of this song to you?
‘Illusion’ is a very special song to me. Definitely one of my favorites on this album. It’s essentially a song of loss and escapism. When I was looking for an album title I looked through all the songs first before trying to come up with something else, and that word, ‘illusion’, just seemed very fitting. Also I was looking for a word that could be understood in both English and Spanish.
What has been the one Illusion you had to deal with?
Probably wanting to sing in English and Spanish. You have no idea how much I had to fight for it at the beginning. Especially years ago, when I was signed to a major label. They just didn’t believe I could have a “career” doing both. Thankfully I released my first two albums independently and I was able to do whatever I wanted. Now a lot of people can see how this is actually something that makes the music more special and unique.
How has your journey in music, as a Latin-American artist, been so far?
I’ve been blessed to have my music be well received by both Latin and Anglo audiences in the US. NPR (The National Public Radio) has shown me a lot of love over the years. This has been one of the biggest platforms I’ve had to showcase my songs in two different languages to the world. I can’t be more thankful and happy for this. There are still challenges of course, particularly in the mainstream world. But I can’t really complain. I’m perfectly content where I am right now.
What is the role of music in the current political context?
As an artist, I personally feel a sense of responsibility to fill the world with beauty, to inject it with positivity.
There is so much out there I don’t understand. I don’t have all the answers but I can raise all the questions I want.
I can raise my voice and sing a powerful message that will hopefully get to the right ears.
Who are your heroes?
Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Nina Simone, David Bowie and Mavis Staples. Among many others.
Which tune best describes your current state of mind?
‘Heroes’ by David Bowie.