A pause in college led Gabe Watkins down a dream-come-true career of being a signed musician.
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Appropriately enough, Gabe Watkins was studying music production in university when a much hoped-for career change came his way. The Thai-Australian musician always loved music, but it wasn’t until he made his first track in high school just a few years ago that the music bug truly bit him. At that point, he was just releasing music as an indie artist, often to tepid fanfare. Still, it was clear from his small yet growing fanbase that his talent in his indie-pop tunes was there. Soon enough, the music label What The Duck came a calling, and Gabe decided to put his studies on hold to sign with the label.
One thing led to another and Gabe Watkins is now a rising artist thanks to his distinct blend of pop rock and alternative sound. His debut single under the label Flowers From Japan and follow-up Sunsets give shades of the best of the genre told in Gabe’s honest lyricism. And with his career only beginning in earnest this 2022, it’s clear that this young crooner has his ways to go. NYLON Manila was able to chat with the Gen Z indie-pop solo artist as he opened up about his music, university life, staying authentic, and more.
Why did you decide to pass on your studies for a bit to pursue your music career?
So, my first gap year was after high school. And that was kind of due to COVID at the time. And I had planned to go to the UK, but then obviously, I couldn’t go. And so I just decided to take that time to learn how to produce music and hone my craft.
And then in 2021, I went to university in London for a year. During that time, that was when my label approached to sign me and everything. So, this summer, I came back, I signed with them and decided to put my studies on hold for a little bit. I just thought it was a really good opportunity. And making music is my dream. I just want to really give it everything that I have.
What did you take up in university?
So, I’m going to do business marketing. I did music production for a year in London. I felt though like it wasn’t really benefiting me in the way I wanted it to. So, I think degree in in business marketing, it just made more sense for me. And then I can continue my music as this thing.
Let’s take it back to the beginning. How would you say you got into making music in the first place?
It didn’t actually start until I finished high school and kind of going into that lock down period. I’ve always loved music, but I never thought I’d be making it. I produced a song in high school and then I just fell in love with it from there and decided to do my own stuff. It kind of happened out of nowhere. But as soon as I wrote my first song then I wanted to do more.
And what is it about making music that you enjoy?
I just feel like music has this power, this ability to heal. I think it’s a really beautiful thing. So for me, it kind of started as like a therapeutic thing. It just really helps me and I just hope that when people listen to my music, they feel the same effect as when I do.
How would you describe your music?
In terms of genre, I would say it it’s quite melancholic, sounding, I guess. Especially my latest song Sunsets that’s definitely very melancholic. Flowers from Japan, that’s a bit more upbeat and fun. But I’d say indie pop is where we’re at.
How did you like settle on that style?
It was a mixture of things. I think it stems from the kind of music that I love and listen to. It’s just kind of the music that I gravitate towards, and I like to listen to. I just decided to make something like that it was kind of also just the natural process.
So when it comes time to make music, where do you turn to for inspiration?
It can come from it can come from anywhere, really. For me, I kind of have these like, these sparks these moments. So, whenever I feel inspired, I sort of quickly rush over to my bedroom and try to start making something. Whenever you feel that spark adds, I think it’s very important to me to have to put something down even if it’s just like all on my phone, in my voice notes, just like a little melody that comes in my head or something.
2022 has been definitely a special year for you because you finally made your debut in the industry. So, how does that feel?
It feels great. So surreal for me because obviously I’ve released like music independently before. But being in a label, it’s like a whole new experience. And especially the latter part of this year, I’ve been able to play a lot of shows and meet a lot of fans of my music, which is just great. It’s so much fun to be able to play on stage and see the people out there. I can’t wait to see what the future holds. And I hope more people gravitate towards me and my music.
How is that experience like jumping from being and indie artist to signing with a label? Has the way you approached your music changed?
In a sense, yes, I guess because it’s sort of I have a team now to talk strategy. There’s a bigger picture there. When I was releasing independently, it was sort of everything I was doing by myself. So, that’s kind of like a different vibe, but it is kind of the same as well because even though I have this team to help me, ultimately, these are decisions that I’m making, and I think that’s really important. I have my vision and the label, they kind of just help me and guide me towards that.
As a new artist, What do you hope to impact in the industry?
I just hope my music helps people, honestly. I just want to be able to connect with whoever listens to my music. I’m often very personal. In my songs, it’s all about my own experiences. To whoever can relate to that, like, I really hope that they can see that I’m being real with them. They can be vulnerable with my music.
What do you think is it about you or your music that helps you stand out from like, the sea of other new artists coming out?
One thing that I really take pride in is my lyricism of that authenticity. It’s because everything stems from my own experiences. So, whenever I’m writing, I try to always make sure that you get that feeling. And another thing would be that my voice is kind of quite distinct. And that kind of paired with the type of music I’m making; I think that makes me stand out for sure.
Do you ever have those moments where you feel you’re getting too real for your music?
When I’m writing not so much, because it’s kind of therapeutic. So, if I am feeling a certain type of way, I do like to put it down. And I do like to pour that emotion into the words. It’s only sort of when I’m about to release a song that is really, really personal. And that’s kind of scary in a way because, you’re letting these emotions go and they can be judged by people. And that is quite a scary thing. But ultimately, what I want to do is to connect with people. So in order to do that, I feel like I have to be to be real and to be vulnerable and honest.
What’s next for you?
Next year, I plan to release maybe a couple more singles and then drop my first sort of project, like an EP, which I’m really really excited for. I hope to come over to like on a press tour in Southeast Asia, come to Philippines, that’d be really cool. Obviously, play more shows, get more fans and you know, have more people love my music. Long term. I mean, it’s a dream of mine to make music and if I’m able to make a career out of it, then that would be that’d be amazing for me.
What advice would you give to like other young artists out there who, like you, also want to pursue a career in music?
I think if the love is there, then then anything is possible. I never thought that I would be in this position. It can happen if you put that work in and you’re doing what you love. So, if you love it, keep doing it, and good things will happen.
What do you think is harder: being a college student or being a signed musician?
They’re challenging in different ways. Going to college, you got to keep on top of your classes, your lectures. In my experience, there was more coursework than there were exams, but it might be different, depending on the course you’re doing. So, that was challenging in its own way. Music is challenging in a different way, because it’s kind of like you’re still very busy, But I think because I’m doing something I love, I don’t feel that same sort of pressure as I did in university. I’d say maybe university is more challenging.
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