GAYLE went through a manipulative and gaslighting boyfriend and channeled her anger into the surprise hit that was abcdefu.
When it comes to inspiration, there’s nothing more universal then heartbreak, especially when it comes to making music. Nearly every musician has used heartbreak as inspiration for a song, lyric, or tune. Some of the most popular musicians in the world have used heartbreak to fuel their global successes. 17-year-old rising musician GAYLE is one such artist that used heartbreak to inspire music. After going through a particularly bad breakup, she used that experience to pen the anthemic abcdefu. But little did she know that the track would become a breakout hit from 2021 and give the young artist her biggest success to date. NYLON Manila got the chance to chat with the musician to talk about the track, her future plans, and advice on how to get over a heartbreak.
TALENTED AT A YOUNG AGE
Growing up outside Dallas, Texas, GAYLE first started singing at the age of seven. Eventually, she took up piano and guitar as well writing songs on her own. By the time she was 14, GAYLE was already making her own songs. Later on, she crossed paths with GRAMMY Award-nominated songwriter, former American Idol judge, producer, and music publisher Kara DioGuardi, who promptly took on the role of mentor after recognizing the talent she had. In January 2020, she dropper her first single, dumbass. The rest of the year was filled with single drops in the form of z, happy for you, and orange peel. While the songs did receive praise from critics, they weren’t necessarily hits. But that all changed in August 2021. After signing with Atlantic Records, the young musician released abcdefu.
ABCDE F U
“I wrote abcdefu when I was trying really hard to be nice and considerate to my ex. Then I heard through some mutual friends that my ex wasn’t saying the nicest things about me and all bets were off,” she said in a press release at the time. The track is a mixture of GAYLE’s raw sincerity with a sometimes irreverent perspective. She pulls no punches as she details a laundry list of the things she hates about her ex during the memorable choruses.
“I really just came out of talking, like I was just ranting,” GAYLE tells NYLON Manila. “I was just like, ‘I hate him. And his mom and his sister and his job,’ because all of those things are true. I hated his mom and dad. I hated his brothers. and his sister. His job was terrible. His car was the worst.”
She continues, “And yeah, all of the stupid things that he would just like, buy off Craigslist that would break in seconds. And like, he would think he was so financially responsible and be like, ‘You should be more like me.’” With its minimalist backdrop of jagged guitar work, the tongue-in-cheek breakup song explodes into a free-for-all that serves as the highlight of the track and one you won’t forget easily.
“HE WOULD JUST BRING ME DOWN”
At first listen, the track makes you think that it was a bad breakup. But by GAYLE’s own admission, the relationship was more than just being with an immature boy. It was a toxic and unhealthy one that affected her deeply. “It was one of those things where a lot of little things just kind of built up to bigger things over time. And it changed who I was as a person and build myself because I never felt like I was good enough for him.”
She continues “All I ever tried to do is be good enough to make him happy. It was one of those things where he just never made me feel good about myself ever. I just like lived in this constant state of feeling I was a problem and I didn’t deserve happiness. And I didn’t know how to be like happy around him. Because anytime I was happy, he would just want to bring me down.”
It was only after she broke things off with him was when she was able to really sit down and process what she went through. “I was just mad that it took me that long to get mad. And that it took him saying things behind my back to actually let myself feel that.” This is why she sees abcdefu not just as a breakup anthem, but a song where she could validate her feelings. “For me personally writing that song was very empowering. It was very therapeutic to like, just get all of my thoughts out on into a song.”
And if you’re curious, no ,she doesn’t know what her ex thinks about the single. “We haven’t reached out to each other at all. I literally have no clue if he’s heard it. I feel like maybe he’s heard it, but yeah.”
A BLUNTER NAME
Just at looking at her song titles, GAYLE is not one to be subtle about how she feels. From her debut single being called dumbass to her latest, ur just horny, a rock anthem of calling out a guy who just wants to sleep with you instead of getting to know you, the 17 year old can get blunt. And as forward as abcdefu is, it was originally meant to crasser.
“Originally, the title was going to be abcde f*ck u,” she reveals. “But any time I posted about [my single dumbass] or put it out there in any way, it always got flagged or taken down because it’s considered a curse word. And so in the title we kind of just decided as like a group, as the writers, to censor it.” But if you want to know how the original would have sounded like, GAYLE dropped an abcdefu (angrier) version where she doesn’t censor the f part.
FROM SINGLE TO CHART TOPPING HIT
When abcdefu first dropped in August 2021, whose cover art is her an actual X-Ray of her broken middle finger, it made a splash in the music industry. It went relatively ignored for a while until in late November when the song started gaining attention, especially on TikTok. It subsequently went viral with over 2.3 million uses as of this writing. The song started climbing charts and even topped a few such as earning a coveted number one on the UK charts. So far, the track has accumulated 313 million streams on Spotify alone and even topped the Top 50 Global chart.
For GAYLE, she first realized that the song was trending when she was on tour. “At first, as an opening slot, most of time, people don’t know who you are, you’re kind of there to be like, ‘Hi, this is who I am. Please don’t boo me off stage.’ And that was basically it. Nobody knew who I was, which I get it like I knew my place. But [later on tour] I’d be like ‘this song’s called abcdefu‘ and they literally started cheering. Or sometimes people would miss my show. But then they’d see my merch and they’d see abcdefu, they’re like, ‘Wait, you’re that alphabet chick?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s me.’”
“MAKING THE BEST MUSIC THAT I POSSIBLY CAN”
GAYLE has so far been enjoying the moment, promoting the song and even getting to perform at The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, making her late night debut. But with abcdefu doing so well and with more eyes now on GAYLE, does she feel that the pressure is on? Not necessarily. “I don’t particularly want to write another song that’s like abcdefu. I don’t particularly want to repeat abcdefu in what happened with it over and over and over again, I want to continuously be doing different things and be pushing my sound. And so that’s really what I’m focusing on is really just making the best music that I possibly can. And that has been there before abcdefu was in my head.”
As she expounds, “Since the second I started making music was to make the best thing that I possibly could. So, I don’t particularly feel pressure. I feel like I definitely could, and I probably will, in some moments, and it might get overwhelming. But overall, I’ve just kind of set kept the same goals and intentions with my music.”
WHAT’S NEXT AND GETTING OVER A BAD BREAKUP
As for what’s next for GAYLE, she did tease new projects in the pipeline, including a new album. “I will be coming out with the body work. And then I will be doing some shows. My goal is to leave the States [to tour] but you know, everything is such a question mark right now. But I want to be able to do that as soon and safely as possible. I’ll be writing for my project. And yeah, I mean, I’m just really excited to get the opportunity to perform and just release more music.”
And when it comes to moving on from a traumatic relationship like the one GAYLE went through, this is what she had to share. “My parents got divorced when I was at a young age and I never really got to see a good example of what love was. And so it really was just a guessing game. I think it’s one of those things of being lenient with yourself without always knowing the right decisions to make about love and people. And just understanding the fact that like, you’re going to make mistakes, you’re not going to do everything right. You just have to continue to see love and relationships as a learning process and figuring out what you do. Just let yourself take lessons and take the good with the bad.”