Starting today, I will be doing an Indie Spotlight every Friday where I will be interviewing independent artists who do both music and art.
Usually, when you think of musicians making music, what comes to mind? Instruments? Producers? Studio time? Musical equipment? Right? Well, this isn't the case with Gaby Duran, an R&B Artist hailing from my hometown of Miami, Florida. Equipped with her high rise apartment, a TC-Helicon VoiceLive Touch2, her voice and sheer will and determination, Gaby created a very unique project.
Her 3 track EP, titled #VOCALSONLY, is exactly that. Just her voice. No producers. No studio. No instruments. Just her God given talent. And the cherry on top? She recorded it in her apartment. Insane, right? When you actually hear it, it's not as crazy as it it sounds. From the singing to the beat, Gaby did everything with just her voice. Her melodic voice sings deep lyrics over a beat she made from her basically beatboxing and scatting. Her only piece of music equipment, a TC-Helicon VoiceLive Touch2, just warps her voice and makes it deep, high, echoes it, etc. If you were to ask her what instrument she plays, she would proudly reply "I play the voice-box." That's even her Twitter bio! Nowadays, artists that have her type of pride and confidence in their natural abilities is rare and that makes Gaby and her music style even more unique. Check out a few questions I asked her about her new project, her life and musical inspirations.
I know you live in Miami now, but where are you from?
Ok, so...on a soul level, I'm not from here. I'm from somewhere...far, far away. I've come back in time to go through this journey and to help with the ascension of the earth (giggles). Buuut, humanly speaking, I was born in New York City in Washington Heights. I'm first generation American of Dominican parents. I bounced around NY and I even lived in Atlanta for a while. I permanently settled in Miami in the 4th grade. But, in 6th grade, I did live in Dominican Republic for a year. After I graduated from Dr. Michael Krop Senior High, I went to Boston and attended Berklee College of Music. After, I bounced between Los Angeles and Miami until finally settling in Miami. Despite my constant traveling, Miami always has me. I always come back here. This city has me until I do my deed with her.
Nice, nice. So, tell us about yourself. Tell us about you. Tell us who Gaby Duran is.
Who is Gaby Duran? Oh my god (giggles.) I am a creative soul. Everything I do has some form of art attached to it. Like...I am a musician and I play the voice-box. I play my voice-box. This is my instrument (she taps her throat.) My whole body is my instrument. And it is the instrument I was given by the Most High for me to carry out the vision. And to spread a message of love, freedom, self-awareness and becoming your greater self. I think I'm a soldier for that.
Beautiful. I love it, I love it. Now, this music thing, how long have you been doing it? How long have you been dealing with music? What's the first thing you've done with music?
My first memories of being 3 or 4 years old and just dancing to music because my parents always played music in the house. That was always a very big part of my life. I always heard music in my house. So, that's where it started for me. I would always hum along or sing along to things. When I was about 7 years, in 2nd grade, I was in a music class. I just moved from Atlanta. Our music class was learning that song (she starts singing "Des'ree - You Gotta Be.") And this was in 2nd grade! And I just remember singing along to that and just doing it so easily and it coming so naturally for me to sing it. I thought to myself "Ah, I like the way I sound." Also, at that age, I was obsessed with Toni Braxton. I would sing "Un-Break My Heart" as an 8 year old (laughs), but it was to myself due to my shyness. I didn't feel comfortable yet with my gift. At the time, it wasn't immediately accepted in my household. It was just something I kept to myself. I just couldn't sing in front of people at the time. The first time I performed in front of people in high school choir, I cried hysterically. But after I did it, I got so much support from everyone and that boosted my confidence greatly. After that, I started to get out there more. I was lead in the jazz band, I was singing at all the sporting events, talents shows, etc. High school is where I bloomed. That's when I made that decision that "Hey, this is what I wanna do. I wanna sing."
That's awesome, that's great. Now, a tricky question for you. Who is your favorite musical artist and what is your favorite musical genre. They don't have to match. Just give me your favorite for each.
Hmmm, that is a hard question (laughs.) Ok. Well, my favorite genre would have to be Hip-Hop. Of course. Hop-hop is a religion. It's a culture. It's been my life. I've been directly influenced by it. I'll never forget when I first heard Kris Kross as a kid and I just loved that bounce. I loved the fact that there was no singing and they were talking. It was just something new. They are probably the first thing I remember in Hip-Hop. Now, my favorite artist would have to be Stevie Wonder. He's a ridiculous singer. His melodies...his music period is just....it's therapy for me. His music is audio medicine (laughs.)
Hip-Hop, Stevie Wonder and Kris Kross. Talk about different. You said they inspire you a lot. But, what specifically inspired #VOCALSONLY?
Music wise, it was inspired by Dominican rhythms, jazz and that Hip-Hop beat...that bass and kick drum. That boom bap as they say. That sound mixed with jazz and the soul of my voice. Also, Seun Kuti is a huge influence. He's Fela Kuti's youngest son. Honestly, I don't even know what genre to put it in. You can't categorize it. Put it this way. If this album were to be drawn, a visual representation of it, it would be like a simple lined piece. Probably very minimalistic but still very defined. Simplistic but still powerful. The internal process was very intense. I've never recorded music this way before. It was a challenge to teach myself. I created different soundscapes with layers of my voice, but still keeping it very simple. The only song I had help with mixing was "Chant For Mama ft. SIN." Shout out to my good friend City Official, he's the engineer that mixed it. Other than that, I didn't mix it at all. I just leveled it in Logic Pro on my MacBook.
That's awesome. The variety of your inspirations are pretty vast. Do you have any plans for future projects and what other projects would you like to speak about?
Well, this is my first one. #VOCALSONLY is the first project I've done. But, there is a single out there in the world, on Dim Mak Records, that has my voice on it but another artists name on it. The full song is me. There's no other voice on it. But, it's under the name of the DJ who released it, Yung Skeeter. He used to be Katy Perry's DJ. I did a few demos while living in L.A. and they were supposedly supposed to be pitched to major labels. Later, he released the song with my vocals on it as his single. You can check it out here: http://www.dimmak.com/yung-skeeter-stand-again/. Other than that, I've done a ton of features with Dead Prez, Denzel Curry, Twelve'len, J NICS, Prez P, Phresh James, etc. I plan on doing much more features and more projects soon. Stay tuned 😉
Great! This went well. I enjoyed interviewing you and getting your point of view on things. Before I go, I want you to tell us where we can reach you and hear all of your music.
Well first, I want to thank you for the interview! I really appreciate it. This is all of my social media:
Thanks for taking the time out to read my piece. Tune in next week Friday where I will interviewing another independent Miami musician, Antonius Da Great