By Carl Begai
It’s considered poor journalistic form for a writer to put himself / herself in what’s supposed to be an unbiased info piece, but the catalyst for this story was in fact my personal disdain for teenagers in the music business. A hypocritical attitude to some degree given that many of the bands and musicians I hail as personal heroes started in their teens, but in this day and age it doesn’t seem to matter if newcomers are talent free with regards to achieving success. More than ever, the worn out music industry cliché of record label suits snagging disposable prettygirls’n’boys and thrusting them into the public eye with an image and songs written by an overpriced producer seems to hold true. And it’s not an illlness restricted to the pop music world (Baby Metal, anyone?).
With that in mind, if I had stumbled upon 16 year-old Gabbie Rae Trial through normal online channels, I likely would have dismissed her as just another fresh-faced marketing mogul’s dream guaranteed to be history before the end of the year. As luck would have it, she was introduced to me through a Facebook post by Queensrÿche vocalist Todd La Torre, who is known for his talent and integrity. Having spoken with La Torre several times in the past, there was no way he would waste his time and breath on fluff. Asking him to elaborate, he made it clear that Gabbie Rae is the real deal as far as he’s concerned. Curiosity piqued by the song being hyped (‘Scream’), a trip through YouTube’s infinite wealth of music yielded a startling catalogue of Gabbie Rae material. It runs the gamut from singer/songwriter ballads, an anti-bullying song, pop covers, and some positively startling live acoustic renditions of metal classics from Dio, Iron Maiden and Queensrÿche.
Her killer cover of the Queensrÿche classic ‘Queen Of The Reich’ – which really shouldn’t work acoustically – was enough on its own to push for this interview.
“The first time I met Todd I told him that I’d covered a Queensrÿche song acoustically, I’m pretty sure he thought it was ‘Silent Lucidity’ or ‘I Don’t Believe In Love’ or something like that,” Gabbie Rae laughs. “But… nope (laughs). It’s kind of fun to mess with people.”
Gabbie Rae called New England home until the age of 7, then moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where her musical journey began. She became a local favourite thanks to a Hannah Montana tribute show, which she considers “a great learning experience” looking back on it. In the wake of another move – this time to California – Gabbie Rae surfaced with (among other clips) a ‘Call Me Maybe’ cover/video, one of her last pop efforts before moving in her current rock direction. She’s fortunate in that she has parents who provided the inspiration for her chosen dream, supporting her every step of the way.
“I made the decision to go in this direction, and my parents aided me a lot in that. My parents are completely stuck in the ’80s (laughs), which is awesome, so I grew up listening to Queensryche and Mötley Crüe and everything from that era. In fact, I was listening to most of the band’s that played on the Monsters Of Rock Cruise 2014 when I was 5 and 6 years old; that’s what my parents were listening to around the house. Eventually I got to the age where I said ‘I don’t want to be like every other pop star.’ I don’t want to be Miley Cyrus, I want to keep my clothes on, I don’t want to have to worry about a choreography or lip synching. I want to be a person that can rock out wearing combat boots.”
“I’ve gotten flak from people asking how I went from singing Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Call Me Maybe’ to stuff like ‘Queen Of The Reich’ and ‘Wasted Years’ (Iron Maiden), but this is a learning experience,” she adds, heading off the obvious question about authenticity. “I had to grow up to realize who and what I want to be. I mean, come on, nobody decides what they want to be at 10 years old. I had to grow a little to figure it out. What’s helped me a lot is the support from people like Todd, Michael Sweet from Stryper, and the guys from Great White and Y&T. The funny thing is, when I was first announced for the Monsters Of Rock Cruise everybody was wondering who the heck I was (laughs). Nobody understood, but after those four days I was accepted as an artist by these people. To be honest, without their support I don’t know if I could pull this off.”
Which opens up a potentially ugly can of worms about talent versus connections. Admittedly, this was a line of questioning where I wondered if Gabbie Rae’s answer would be a coached damage control response penned by management. I was pleasantly surprised to learn she’s both honest and genuine.
“I have to go back a bit. I met Michael Sweet when I was 10 years old. Stryper played the House Of Blues in Myrtle Beach and I was at the show with my parents. I was holding up this huge Stryper sign and he saw it, and after the show security came over and said Michael Sweet had invited us backstage. We met and I told him I was a singer, and I ended up singing a song for the guys backstage. That was the first time I met him; it was like a movie (laughs). I kept seeing him over the years and we became friends. About a year-and-a-half ago he invited me to sing ‘Always There For You’ with him and Oz Fox at an acoustic show at the Whisky, so of course I said yes. I did the song and there was an industry person in the audience that was connecetd to Michael and is now connected to me. If it hadn’t been for that night I doubt I’d be where I am right now. I wouldn’t have been on the cruise, I wouldn’t have gotten to know Todd, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. I give so much credit to Michael Sweet for this.”
“I’ve had people say ‘Oh, you’re just where you are because you’re connected…'” she adds, “but isn’t that the case with everybody to some degree? It’s not just me.”
Up to this point Gabbie Rae has garnered most of her attention through performing cover songs. ‘Scream’ is her first official studio single, written by Patrick Kennison (Heaven Below, Lita Ford) and Chase Jentz, and its done a decent job of putting Gabbie Rae’s foot through the door.
“It’s been better than I expected and that’s very humbling. The response I’ve been getting is amazing. It was first released on Ron Keel’s radio show, then we put it out on iTunes and did the video. The amount of online shares, comments, views and likes since the release has been crazy. It’s more than I could have hoped for.”
“I’m going to be working on an EP and I have a lot of live performances coming up, so the important thing is to get a band together, which I have now. We’re focusing on the live performances, but once I have some downtime we’re going to start working on new music. I think doing an EP is better than a full length album because I want to see how people react to the songs and the direction that I’m going.”
Given that ‘Scream’ has been described as “a hint of Def Leppard’s ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ meets Metallica’s ‘Sad But True'” by those in the Gabbie Rae camp, what direction would that be?
“I have two different voices. There’s the rock heavy ‘Scream’ voice, and people have told me I also have a voice like a Steve Perry or Heart (Ann Wilson). I want to try these two voices out on different material and I hope that doesn’t confuse people. People like putting artists in a specific genre and I’m trying to think outside the boxes and do something different. We have ‘Scream’ now and we’re working on material that’s a little more classic rock, so we’re going to have both.”
“People have asked what I’m going for because there are so many different types of rock. I’m trying to put it all into one because I don’t want to pick one (laughs). If I had to pick something I’d say it’s 95% and 5% pop. I don’t want to be super pop-ish, though, because that would ruin exactly what I’m going for. I cover songs like ‘Queen Of The Reich’ and ‘Rainbow In The Dark’ because those are the artists that inspired me. I want to honour them, and that’s what I want to be.”
Check out Gabbie Rae’s rendition of ‘Queen Of The Reich’ featuring Patrick Kennison here.
The ‘Scream’ video can be viewed here.
For information and updates on Gabbie Rae go to this location.
Glamour photos by Adam Hendershott Photography