Thomas Neil chats to the hugely talented singer / songwriter Djana Gabrielle, check it out folks, then as usual get yourself over to her Facebook page to hear some new music!
Where are you from?
I am originally from Cameroon, but I was born and raised in France.
How long have you been playing your respec?ve instrument(s)?
I have been playing guitar for about 20 years. I started playing on classical nylon strings guitars and ever since I stuck with it. I just love the sound.
What genre of music do you consider your work to be?
I would describe it as Folk music....with a bit of soul.
What are your influences?
When I started writing, my very first influence was Alanis Morissette. I just loved her songwriting. I also tend to listen to a lot of female singer-songwriters : Joan Baez, Laura Marling, Regina Spektor, Yael Naim, Lisa Hannigan, Agnes Obel, Basia Bulat, Brooke Annibale, Jesca Hoop, Lissie, Lucy Rose...
I also love vocal jazz: Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Norah Jones, Madeleine Peyroux...
Do you do covers and if so what’s your go to?
Covers can be pretty tricky but I like to go for songs that are completely different from my own style. Recently I covered a Green Day song, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and I really enjoy playing this one. My music is pretty mellow and smooth so no one expects me to cover a rock song. So I will always try to go for something a bit different but at the same time I will still put my own touch to it, just in the way I sing or play the guitar on that particular song.
Do you have a process for writing your songs?
I tend to write my songs intuitively. In a way, they come to me. I never try to force anything and that's why it can take quite some time for me to have a good bunch of songs to record. But nowadays I try to be more proactive in my writing and I found out that listening to classical music (especially piano and strings pieces) inspires me a lot. To me, it's very visual and it helps. It's easier for me to write when I can see or imagine a certain scene or an event in my mind. In that sense, reading a book or watching a movie can also be a great source of inspiration.
Do you have any interesting/funny stories about gigging or touring?
Touring is pretty fun! I love it. I was gigging in the Netherlands a few months ago and there was this very drunk guy right in front of me. He was talking and singing pretty loudly which can a bit annoying at times, but he was so into it and really feeling the music that it was fun to watch and I enjoyed this moment.
What has been your biggest challenge as a performer? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so then how?
My biggest challenge has always been stage fright. I used to have terrible stage frights, to the point where I wondered if I was really meant to do this. But it got better with time. I used to take performing so seriously that I had forgotten the joy it was supposed to bring me. If I made a mistake, it would really upset me.
But now I always try to remember to enjoy myself first. And if you let go and enjoy yourself on stage, the audience will also enjoy the experience. I persevered and kept playing. I'm still nervous 5 min before I get on stage but now it doesn't last long. I really enjoy performing now.
I also wrote a song about it called “The Fear”. It's always fun to play that song at the beginning or the end of my set.
How can fans-to-be gain access to your music? Do you have a website with sample songs or a demo CD?
I do have a website “www.djanagabrielle.com” and I also have my music on Spotify and Soundcloud.
Have you released anything yet/if they have how has it gone down and are you planning anything for the near future?
I have released my debut EP “That very first day” in December 2015.
I am in the midst of gathering songs for my 2nd release and hopefully I will release my next EP by the end of 2017 or in early 2018. But nothing's set yet. In the meantime, I keep playing gigs and it's a good way to try out the new songs as well.
Where have you performed? What are your favourite and least favourite venues? Do you have any upcoming shows?
After the release of my debut EP, I toured around the UK and Europe. For the first time, I played in Germany, The Netherlands, Iceland, Ireland and Northern Ireland. I had great experiences all around. Iceland was amazing because the country in itself is magical and I played in lovely art centre in a small village to a very attentive audience, and I loved it. I also loved playing in Dusseldorf, Munich, Amsterdam and Haarlem where I met the kindest people.
What do you think about downloading music online?
Well, I have my music available online. For me personally and at this stage in my career, I just see it as tool that would help me reach more listeners and potential new fans. The money we make from digital platforms is close to nothing unless you have thousands of followers. But I do like the idea of Spotify playlists for instance. I discovered many artists through the platform. Some of these artists that I will go see at a gig.
Indeed, it's a pity that the value of a piece of music has decreased and it is now more considered as something “free” regardless of the work that has been put into it by the artists. But fortunately we can rely on other sources of revenue like touring, sync, selling merchandise, or even using new platforms to get sustainable income like Patreon for instance.
What's your outlook on the record industry today?
I like the fact that nowadays more and more artists are taking the self-release, independent route and are succeeding doing it. Being signed to a label doesn't seem so vital anymore. It's definitely harder because you don't have the instant access to resources or contacts a label can have, but you can build those slowly and most importantly you can keep your creative freedom. Also being able to reach your audience directly through social media is great. You definitely have to be creative in finding ways to make a living oﬀ your music but I believe it is possible. One good example is American singer-songwriter Kina Grannis. She's a successful independent artist. I think her journey is interesting and she is extensively and cleverly using social media to build her career. And now there are many more artists doing so and I think it's pretty cool.