RVBY MY DEAR is the art-pop project of Gabbi Coenen, a singer/songwriter who hailed from Perth, Western Australia before settling in Brooklyn, NY. While attending jazz school, the artist sought out other people like herself to play music with, and thus, in 2012, RVBY MY DEAR was born.
Like most artists, music operates as an outlet for the band; this is apparent in their upfront and personal songs. In light of the RVBY MY DEAR’s recent releases, Affinity is proud to give an exclusive premiere of the music video for their single “Try” and announce the release of their upcoming album, as well as feature an interview with Gabbi Coenen herself.
Ariel Zedric: What’s the significance behind your artist name, ‘RVBY MY DEAR’?
Gabbi Coenen: It’s taken from the tune “Ruby, My Dear” by the jazz pianist Thelonious Monk. I studied jazz voice at university, and it was one of the songs I performed pretty frequently. When I was trying to think of band names, I initially wanted something with the color red in it (since my hair is bright red) and this song popped up on my list. There’s a version by Carmen McRae that has lyrics which I really connected to at the time, so it just felt like it made sense to go with it. I did initially get some side-eye from my hardcore jazz friends, but I think everyone’s used to it now!
Tell me about the inspiration behind your new song,“Try.”
This song came together very quickly: I had been toying with the idea of writing a straight-up pop song for a while, but never felt confident enough to really go for it, as I felt it wouldn’t fit with the style of music I was already writing. One day back in 2016 I was walking around listening to an episode of the Song Explorer podcast, and just sort of thought, well if they can do it why can’t I? I was also listening to a lot of Justin Bieber’s Purpose at the time so that definitely influenced the song musically. Lyrically it’s probably the most upfront and personal song I’ve written, in that I’m not trying to hide behind elaborate metaphors or short and opaque lyrics. It’s about wanting the person you’re with to essentially give a damn about themselves and the relationship and feeling frustrated with the weight of responsibility (something I think a lot of women could probably relate to).
What was your favorite part about filming the music video? How long did it take to clean up all the streamers and confetti?
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be at the video shoot as I couldn’t fly back to Perth in time, so the shoot was left in the very capable hands of my high school buddies Hannah Poppy Pascoe (who directed and starred) and Meredith Lindsey (who was the director of photography). It was shot back in 2017, and Hannah has mentioned a few times that they’re still finding confetti wedged into corners of the house to this day!
When did you first realize you wanted to pursue a career in music?
I had always been playing music from a young age, first in piano lessons, then singing and bass guitar, and then attending university as a jazz major, so the idea of being a musician as a career wasn’t foreign to me, as I’d seen so many people go on to do just that while I was growing up. I think when I got accepted into university, that was probably the time I was like, ok I guess I’m doing this. I always felt you should stick with what you’re good at, and music seemed to be that for me.
Have you ever doubted your decision? If so, what’s kept you going?
All the time! Despite being accepted into a great program, I had a pretty rough time at uni and graduated feeling like an absolute failure and with my self-confidence completely shattered. I’m still working on dealing with the emotional fallout from that period, but I’ve always felt in my gut that I was meant to make music, and I’ve had many positive experiences since then that have affirmed that feeling. I think that’s the main thing that’s kept me going, as well as the support from my friends and family. I definitely would have given up a long time ago if it hadn’t been for my mum being there for me every step of the way.
Tell me about your decision to move to Brooklyn, NY from Perth, Western Australia. What inspired the move? Do you consider Brooklyn home now?
Some of my family members had moved to LA while I was still at uni, so I was planning on joining them anyway once I graduated. By the time I graduated, I was so ready to be done with Perth and just felt like I needed a fresh start and a second chance to prove myself musically. I auditioned for The New School’s jazz program, got accepted on a scholarship, and made the move a month later. I’ve lived in New York for basically my entire twenties, so I do consider it home in a lot of ways. But I also feel like LA is home too since that’s where my family is. I’ve been back to Australia a couple of times since I left, and even though I don’t think I’ll be moving back there anytime soon, it will always be where my roots are. I think the idea of where and what home is to people is really interesting, and I’m keen to explore that in the songs on my next record.
Explain the personal and professional struggles you’ve encountered in the music industry thus far. How have they molded you?
It’s definitely not easy trying to break through as an artist in 2019 – on the one hand, we have so much more access to music than ever before, but that just makes it that much harder for a potential audience to find you. In the beginning we have to do all the legwork ourselves – find the money to record, spend hours every day sending booking emails, dealing with the interpersonal conflicts that can arise from being in a band with people for so long, all while trying to find the space to just be creative and make your art. And of course, social media is a whole other job in itself. I think for me it’s made me consider what other paths within the industry I could take if I do eventually get burnt out on the artist side of things – whether it’s playing for other bands, writing songs and producing other artists, or getting into management and booking. But I’m not there just yet!
What’s it like being a female in the music industry?
I’m lucky in the sense that I haven’t had anything really bad happen to me, and that my male collaborators are all super chill and respectful. But there’s been so many little things that have built up over time, from rude comments from venue managers to people assuming I don’t have creative control over the music, I could sit here all day listing things. But actually one of the best parts is that I’ve been able to build an amazing community of female-identified musicians who are all extremely talented and supportive of each other. An ongoing goal of mine is always to collaborate and perform with more women – something I’m considering now is a remix EP for the album featuring all female producers.
Tell me about a moment in your career that has left you extremely proud.
Having the album on vinyl has probably been the highlight so far – having a physical copy of all that time and hard work feels really special.
Who is your biggest inspiration? Why?
My younger brother (who is an actor based in London) inspires me a lot. He’s so focused dedicated to his craft and is always working to improve his skills. Seeing that makes me want to work harder at what I do. I’m also consistently inspired by my female musician friends, there’s too many to list here but they know who they are!
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists in the field? How has your success story panned out?
Find and build your community and try to be generous with them and share what you can, whether that’s contacts or resources or advice. It can be so easy to hole yourself up in your room endlessly working and wondering why no one’s paying attention, but good things will come your way when you open up. It’s important to have goals, but I also think it’s just as important to be flexible with them, and if an opportunity comes up and you have to deviate a little bit, that’s not a bad thing. I never thought I would be writing and performing my own songs, I was deadset on singing jazz standards for the rest of my life when I was at university, but I tried something different and I think it’s working out so far. Success is in the eye of the beholder, as cheesy as it sounds, but I really think there’s no single way to define it. So I wouldn’t say I have a “success story” to share, aside from just carrying on with it, not giving up, and continuing to pursue whatever opportunities come my way.
You’re also here to announce the release of your album! Congrats! What can fans expect from this project? What’s the message you’re trying to convey?
Thank you! This will be our first full-length record, up until this point we’ve just been releasing singles and EPs. In 2015, I spent about 6 months waiting for a visa renewal which was fraught with complications, during which time a lot of the lyrical content of the record was written as little fragments that I combined with music later. The album title, Waiting, derives from the weeks and months I spent waiting for my life to begin again, as I wasn’t able to work or gig or do anything productive while the visa case was pending. It’s not a concept album, but a lot of the lyrics reference circles, cycles, mazes, repetition. I felt stuck between wanting to please collaborators/old band members and assert my own voice and getting my life on track while waiting for permission by this huge force to do so. This was also the first time I’d worked with a producer, which I was nervous about initially, but it turned out to be a really important experience for me as a writer and producer in my own right. I learned so much from recording this album, and I think the songs and production represent a significant progression from our earlier work. I can’t wait to finally release it!
- May 23 – New York, NY @ Bowery Electric
- June 20 – Baltimore, MD @ The Undercroft
- July 12 – Los Angeles, CA @ Hotel Cafe (2nd Stage)
- July 13 – Oakland, CA @ Oakland.Secret