We talk human connection through love and music with Gabriel Garzon-Montano
They say that practice makes perfect, so when you enter the world with a pre-meditated mind full of creativity, nurtured and exercised from the direct environment you grow up in, you’re kind of destined for greatness. Just ask Gabriel Garzon-Montano.
Birthed by a singer with a means to raise the next generation of a diet of chords, rhythm and classic records, the talent and passion Gabriel Garzon-Montano has for music and the world has surely been inherited by his mother.
Fast-track to the wealth of talent and knowledge he exudes now, it’s safe to say that the Brooklyn-based artist has discovered a diverse and bi-lingual sonic entity; one where he has created his own playground in, commissioned by soul and rhythm derived from a variety of elements introduced to him throughout his musical life.
Although given a gentle boost from Drake sampling his ‘6 8’ into the artist’s own track ‘Jungle’, as well as supporting the legendary Lenny Kravitz on the European leg of his 2014 Strut World Tour, Gabriel Garzon-Montano is most definitely walking his own path, adding colour and humble power with every step taken.
Having just released the enchanting debut record Jardin through Stones Throw Records to follow the release of its standout leading single, ‘Sour Mango’, we jumped up with arms flailing at the opportunity of chatting to the beautiful soul that is Gabriel Garzon-Montano.
Musically, you draw a lot of influence from your mother. Was your childhood a very musical one?
Yeah absolutely. Instruments all over the house, rehearsals in the house – my mum was a freelance singer. So she was always singing, we were always in there for warm-ups, and she had me playing the violin when I was six and my sister was playing cello when she was like five. Then I got a drum set and electric guitar when I was 12.
Did she teach you how to play any of those herself?
She was like, the enforcer, when it came time to practice. So she’d be in the kitchen or doing whatever and be like, “Play that again three times, until you get it right. Thank you!” And I’d be like, “arghhhhh!” It was pretty much that.
And when we used to prepare an audition, she used to sit there and be like, “Alright, make this section more interesting,” or, “Come up with this thing.” She always pushed us.
You’ve just released your debut album Jardin, through Stones Throw. How did your relationship with that label blossom?
It formed through my management who also works with Mayer Hawthorne. He released one or two records with them, and I think we just sent over something, like a video of me performing. It took them a while to get back, then I went over to their studio in LA and I played them the record and they loved it. So we started chatting about how we can work together on it.
Had you been a fan of the label for some time prior?
Yeah! Basically as soon as I heard Madlib and J Dilla and how they played a part in both their careers, I looked into the [Peanut Butter] Wolf and all that, which has definitely been an institution for me.
Also definitely one of the places I saw myself sitting even before I had finished recording my EP. I started making a moodboard of where I live in the world of music, and I started writing down a bunch of names and found myself among them.
I understand the composition draws a lot of influence from your cultural heritage. Tell us about that.
The title can be spoken interchangeably in both French and Spanish, although it’s spelt out in Spanish because I like the accent. I would say there are a few French poets and composers that were big influences for me. I guess my mum introduced me to a lot of music too.
I can’t really point to anything, I think it’s just subliminally informed what I do. It combines with them, the American music that people compare it to, which is R’n’B or soul or hip hop, or like the singer-songwriter vibe, I think it’s just a fusion of those things.
In terms of the phonetic pronunciation in some of my vocals where I treat it like an instrument, like on ‘The Game’, it’s like half Erykah Badu and half French phonetic “blah blah”.
‘Jardin’ translates to ‘garden’ in French and thematically highlights factors of growth and love. How would you break down the driving message of Jardin?
I think it’s a message of love first and foremost; of beauty and placing importance on enjoying beauty and ensuring that beauty is present in the everyday; of creating a space where people can go into their imagination, and experience something a little more surreal, but that still recalls pop music that people on this planet can enjoy.
Not only are you aware of creating a particular sonic environment in songwriting, you are also conscious of this in the format of how you record your music. How was Jardin recorded?
I pressed some of the beats in Logic, and I in general created demos in Logic so I knew what the game plan was going to be. Then I would either just redo the entire thing onto tape, or create a marriage between beats that I thought couldn’t be reproduced live and then analogue over them.
Henry Hirsch had a huge amount to do with the way it sounds, because he was the one choosing the microphones, he’s the one processing the sound. I would say the sonic environment is very much a duet between the two of us.
Why do you think organic textures are so important to your aesthetic?
I think the default now has become just a very acceptable, digital sound, so I think it’s just a part of what creates an originality about it, and it also allows it to exist in this rich stereo field, and I value that.
All the records I really enjoy are from the 1970s – I definitely enjoy modern records too, and stuff from every era, but really the ones that I keep going back to are the Stevie Wonders and the Sly & The Family Stones, and the Marvin Gayes and the Beatles, so the little things that have moved me the most is enjoying music repressed on the harsher, colder more modern side of the analogue spectrum.
I feel like you harbour a lot of self control in your songwriting, for some tracks garner a minimal approach that speak volumes (the use of hand and body percussion for example). Is this something you do consciously?
Yeah, very much. Sometimes it takes a certain amount of courage for me to follow through with an idea, because I understand how homely it can come across, or how little it could grab someone’s attention. I feel like if I can pull it off though, in the right way, the statement and the appeal for people to find peace through the entertainment is a valuable thing to offer, I think.
What do you want people to be conscious of when listening to Jardin?
Ooft… That life is a work of art. You can always reevaluate things that are taken for granted, and I think nowadays people are doing just that, because they’re realising that not considering a connection with other people just creates a lot of separation and egos in the world where we don’t feel connected to anybody really. I guess it starts with ourselves.
It goes back to creating beauty in the every day; and I think the only real tangible way of doing that is by connecting with other people and having equal relationships and learning how to relate conditionally and to just treat strangers with the same love that you’d treat your family with.
You’ve just released the clip to ‘Crawl’. What was the concept behind this one?
It was a song about a girlfriend I had at the time, and I wanted to make a song that was a little more direct. A song about sex that included everyone, that didn’t feel like it came from a patriarchy. Lyrically, it was a way to talk about things both direct and in-direct so that it wasn’t uncomfortable for people to listen to it with their families, for example.
It’s about making love to somebody who you’re really into, and all the fun things people can do together.
Was the choreography portrayed in the clip to drive that emotion built in the song?
The choreography came out of the reality of being the only performer in the video, and really the limits of what you can achieve by not dancing in that context. So, after a while of standing around posing, there’s got to be movement. So I asked my friend Damani Pompey to get into a studio with me and just set a bunch of movement onto me, to make me get into my body. Mainly to just loosen myself up and get ready for that process.
It was pretty foreign. I mean, I love to dance, but I don’t dance with the aim of making it look good for other people, it’s just so I can have fun.
Sometimes you realise that the things that are natural to you are not really consumer-ready. You need to push a little more [laughs].
You’ve announced a few international tour dates. Can we expect an Australian visit soon?
There has been talk of Australia in the Summer.
Is that our Summer or your Summer?
[Laughs] Yeah yours is an eternal Summer, right? So I’m referring to June / July / August-ish.
Could that involve a Splendour In The Grass performance?
Ooh I don’t know, but that sounds like it could be a lot of fun.
Gabriel Garson-Montano‘s debut full-length record Jardin is available now in Australia through Inertia via LA Hip Hop connoisseurs, Stones Throw.
Words by Hannah Galvin.
Photo credit: Taylor Thibodaux