RVBY MY DEAR is the art-pop project of Gabbi Coenen, a singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist that originally hails from Perth, Western Australia but is now based in Brooklyn, NY. Formed in late 2012 as an outlet for Coenen’s songwriting, RVBY MY DEAR just released their latest EP Remains in February.
I got the chance to talk with her about how she originally got into music, what she learned about herself both personally and as an artist since moving to the states, how RVBY MY DEAR came about, their latest EP Remains and so much more. Keep reading to see what she had to say!
Tell me a little bit about how you first got into making and performing music.
I started piano lessons when I was four, went to a performing arts high school as a bassist and then to university for jazz singing, so music has been a part of my life since the beginning. I’ve been performing and gigging professionally since I was young, but didn’t start writing songs properly until I was in university.
Was there a specific moment or person that made you realize that music is what you wanted to pursue professionally?
I can’t think of anything specific, but I’ve always been a huge fan of music since I was little. I would obsessively watch music videos every morning on the weekends, and that carried over to the internet when I was in high school. Being in performing arts classes and music lessons from a young age, I would see people older than me go on to get jobs and pursue things professionally, so I guess just seeing other people do it convinced me that it was a job that people could do. I think out of all of the arts classes that I took, music was the one that came the most naturally and easiest to me so it just made sense for me to focus on that.
You are originally from Perth, Western Australia and are now based in Brooklyn, NY. What have you learned about yourself both personally and as an artist since moving to the states?
I think the main thing I’ve learned is that really anything goes – you can make anything into art or a song or a performance, and what’s considered “good” is so subjective. Perth is a little more conservative in terms of what counts as good music, whereas in NY there’s so many sub genres and micro scenes; you can find an audience and a community for almost anything. Personally, I think I’ve learned that I’m pretty resilient; I was very shy and unconfident when I was living in Australia, but for some reason I really came out of my shell when I moved to NY, even though pursuing my own music and the business of being in a band is stressful at times.
Talking about RVBY MY DEAR, can you give us a brief history of the project and how it culminated into what it is now?
We played our first show under that name at the very end of 2012, and put out an EP called Balloons in 2014. I changed the spelling from a “u” to a “v” in 2016 (due to search engine issues), which is also the same year we recorded a bunch of new music and had some lineup changes, so I kind of see that time as a new beginning.
Where did the name RVBY MY DEAR come from?
It’s from the tune “Ruby, My Dear” by the legendary jazz pianist Thelonious Monk, though my favorite version is by the vocalist Carmen McRae.
I’m always genuinely curious about what artists want to convey to listeners with their music. RVBY MY DEAR’s sound would typically be classified as alternative, but if you had to describe it without using genre names, how would you describe it?
I love movies so I try to make my songs immersive and cinematic, like a big warm hug or like you’re in a dark room enveloped in this world of sound.
Kind of going off of that, who are some of your musical influences?
Film scores for sure. I love the bands that came out of Bristol in the 90s because their music gives me that same feeling that I’m trying to capture in my own. And I’m a huge fan of more current artists like Elena Tonra and James Blake. My harmonic instincts are very rooted in jazz, but I can find something inspiring from every genre, whether it’s hip hop or electronic music or indie folk. I’m guess I’m mainly attracted to songs that are rhythmically interesting but catchy and make you feel like you’re in their world. If I tried to list every artist, we’d be here all day!
You just released your EP, Remains, in February. What was the recording process like? How long did it take for this to come together from start to finish?
I reached out to my producer Andrew Lappin at the beginning of 2016, and we recorded in April and September-November of that year, though the songs themselves were written at various times. It was my first time working with a producer and it was really amazing to have someone fully as invested in the sound as I was, and who understood the vibe I was trying to capture.
I always love hearing about the songwriting process so I was wondering if you could give me a glimpse into what that’s like for you.
I usually start with the chords. Most of the time, I’ll adapt chords from a song by another artist that I’m into at the moment. I’ll try to come up with a rhythmic pattern or riff to go with them, and then build the melody and lyrics off that. I keep a list of lyric ideas and quotes separately, so the hard work comes in when I’m trying to match those to the musical ideas.
Do you guys tend to write by yourselves or do you like collaborating with other writers and artists in co-writes?
Up until this point, I’ve only written by myself, aside from some occasional arranging input from my producer and the guys in the band. But these days, I’m very open to co-writes and writing for other artists.
I know you’re aiming to release a ton of new content this year. Are there any details you can share about what fans can expect?
There are two more music videos on their way, plus our debut album is coming in May!
Lastly, we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd so what is something that you’re currently nerding out about?
I’m going to be very basic and say Game of Thrones! There’s a podcast I listen to called Binge Mode where the two hosts analyze every episode in painstaking detail, so I’m very excited for that to come back as well. And I have to mention Zelda: Breath of the Wild – I fully completed it 100% back in 2017 (yes, I got all 900 Koroks; it took months) and I’m itching to start it up again.