Australian native/ New York-based artist Gabbi Coenen aka RVBY MY DEAR is proving herself much more than just another indie musician. Coenen who had the music bug bite her by the age of four when she was properly trained in piano. Later, she learned how to play other instruments as music is her passion. She continued on the road following music that she relocated to New York where she studied at a jazz school. By 2012, she formed her project RVBY MY DEAR as a way to express herself through songwriting and performing. Her band was named twice “Artist of the Month” by The Deli Magazine in 2014 and 2019. Now that her debut album Waiting is out, it’s been well received by critics. Even The AU Review calls it, “a stunning indie/alternative sound that should get the attention of music lovers around the world.” We get to hear from Coenen about her Waiting tour, performing songs live, and life as an artist!
Hello Gabbi, thanks for speaking with B-Sides! You just embarked on a tour. How was that? What were some of the highlights from touring?
We just came from Oakland and L.A this past Friday and Saturday. The tour just happened! We did it in little chunks. We did the Northeast in June and we did the West Coast this week. We’ve been really enjoying it especially Seattle and Portland. The guys in my band are really into coffee. There’s a lot of good coffee in those cities. L.A was nice! I have family that lives in L.A and we stayed with them. I like being in L.A because it reminds me of home [Australia] because of the weather and the general vibe.
Congrats on the release of your debut, “Waiting”! Were there any challenges to performing the songs live or recording in the studio?
I think the biggest challenge was more translating the songs from the studio version with the live version. We try to keep the tunes similar as possible. The studio version has a lot more effects and sounds that’s not really played by just one instrument. The songs that we do have samples playing in the background. When we play live, we try to recreate that particular sound. Like in the songs “Cycles” and “Try“, there are prominent effects throughout so we have a sample track running when we play live to give that vibe. With this band, we had to pull out from this jazzy realm when I first started it and trying to make it more pop. Sometimes when we don’t have those extra elements like the samples then everything sounds the same. It wouldn’t be as precise as I want it to be. I like that we’re using studio sounds on stage! It gives each song a personality.
You have a lot of formal training in piano and going to The New School in New York for their jazz voice program. What was your initial intention with the formal study/training and making this into a career?
I always knew being a performer/ musician was a career because I started so young. My intention for moving to New York was definitely to be a jazz singer. That’s what I thought I was gonna do. Then when I got to New York, there were so many jazz singers! There’s so much music in general, like lots of vocalists there. By then I started writing my own music and got good feedback on those early songs. While I was at university, I was working more on my own songwriting. By the time I graduated, I was gonna do my own songs. I do miss singing jazz. I wish that I could find the time for it. For now, I’m gonna focus on being a songwriter and artist.
Is Waiting entirely autobiographical to your experiences? What’s the motivation behind the songs?
Yeah, the majority of the songs were. The first song that I wrote for the record “10:17“. I wrote that knowing I had to be here [U.S.A]. The first work visa that I applied for after graduation, it took so long! It was six months of me not being able to work or play shows. I just had to sit and wait. I had a lot of time to write music. With 10:17, I liked where it was going and the sound that I was envisioning. Then the direction of the song— this pain from the wait. I think “Cycles”, “Away From Here”, “Draw“, and “Waiting” that little group of songs share that feeling of not knowing what to do with yourself. After graduation, I had all these plans then it came to a halt because of the visa. It definitely wasn’t a fun time. In the end, I got a lot of songs out of it.
There’s a quote on your FB “in the sense that such beauty can cause so much discomfort”. Can you explain this and how it’s reflected in your music?
That quote is from a review we got from the first EP Balloons back in 2014! I used to have the full quote, but that line always stood out to me because, in essence, that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to make really beautiful, immersive, cinematic music. I don’t want it to just be happy. I want it to have some edge and feel to it. All my fav artists like Portishead, James Blake, and all those people have that beautiful quality in their music that’s bubbling on the surface. That quote summed it up.
If you can cover a Green Day song what would it be?
Maybe something like “Extraordinary Girl” from American Idiot or “Prosthetic Head” off Nimrod. In the mid-2000s when I was in high school I was obsessed with them! They came to Melbourne, Australia in 2005 and I had to fly there to see them. I met some people in the line. Green Day usually pulls fans on stage to play a song and they picked me to play bass! There’s a video out there. It’s so embarrassing. I was mad I didn’t keep the bass though (laughs), but they had me do a stage dive instead.
If you could collaborate with any Jazz artist who would it be?
Oh gosh. I would pick some singers. I love Gretchen Parlato and Becca Stevens!