Quebec City's talented singer/songwriter Gabrielle Shonk's recent rise to fame has been a long work in progress. The recent release of her debut album through Universal Music, her getting a rare "four-chair turn" on The Voice and her performance at Montréal en Lumière are just a few of the highlights of this young and talented artist.
With a voice that echo's Tracy Chapman, Joni Mitchell, Jewel and Alicia Keys, her soulful, rich, smooth and fragile-when-needed lyrics compliment each other perfectly.
I spent a few minutes with her recently to chat about the past, present and future with this wonderfully trained jazz vocalist.
How did you balance excitement in your head with not being distracted in such an exciting atmosphere?
There was so much adrenalin that it’s hard for me to perfectly remember.
Two judges turned pretty early in the song and two others turned closer to the end so I didn’t notice I had a four-chair turn until the very end.
I lend you my time machine – do you go forwards, backwards, to what year and why?
I would go backwards to 70’s because I love a lot of different things about that era. I’d actually hang out with my parents as teenagers and experience that magical era.
When you create a song, do you write the music or lyrics first?
I do music first and here’s why; I consider myself a singer and musician first and a lyricist second.
The music will inspire the lyrics for me. I love it when the music and lyrics fit together and produces something emotional.
I don’t write poems and put them to music. Although there are times where I wish I had the ability.
You’re a good pianist and guitarist – which instrument do you write music with?
Guitar, always guitar. I know my capabilities as far as playing piano live and I’m more comfortable playing guitar as it’s my favourite instrument…it’s so versatile.
You can totally change a guitars voice with a capo, barre chords, open chords.
Is there anything you would alter along your musical journey?
I would not change anything. Yes, I’ve waited a while to release my own music…I started creating music at 14 and I’m almost 30. However, it’s a journey and learning process and I absolutely feel that I’m ready now based on the past nearly 16 years. If I’d started earlier with releasing music, perhaps I wouldn’t have been ready. Everything happens for a reason and I’m much more in touch with myself now.
Part of me is a perfectionist so I suppose I was a bit scared to release my music before as I thought it may not have been good enough.
Now that I’ve released an album, all I want to do is continue to release material!
The most important thing I’ve learned is that songs are a stamp in time – that one song is not my full identity.
Yes, you can grow out of some things in your life but I like knowing I can look back and listen various songs and be brought back to that moment in time and what I was experiencing…it’s a great time capsule.
Three of the songs on your first album are in French. Will there be French songs on your next album?
There may be one but I’m not certain yet. I’m more proficient writing in English.
When’s your next album coming out?
I don’t quite know…there’s lots of music written but I need to finish them up with lyrics. I truly feel the strong need to create right now so that’s what I’ve been focusing on.
When the new album does come out, will it have the same style/feel as your first album?
I’m still experimenting slightly with that. It will still be vocal and melody heavy as very humbly, that’s one of my strengths as a musician.
My base will always be a folksy singer songwriter style but I embrace learning and trying new things musically. I do have a lot of soul influence as well as indie influence, so those may make their way into my songs at some point.
Who would you do a duet with?
Feist. Absolutely Feist. I saw her at the Montreal JazzFest in 2017 and it was one of my favourite concerts. She’s so free on stage and inspiring on stage….I absolutely love what she does.
What’s up for 2018?
I’m opening for Dashboard Confessional, who were one of the prominent bands during my teen years, so that’s really exciting.
Last question: What do you want readers of this article to know about you that hasn’t already been answered?
That I’m very approachable, grounded and welcoming. I want people to feel that they can come talk to me. I love being at the merch table and having fans strike up a conversation with me…it gives me a chance to connect with them.
I love the spontaneity that comes with playing live and giving my audience a wonderful show every single time.
My favourite part of the music world is playing live.
Just kidding. This really is the last question: What’s your middle name and shoe size?
Rose. Women’s 11.