Artist Spotlight: Gayle Skidmore
A songwriter’s songwriter, Gayle Skidmore has an ethereal and magical quality about her music that will capture your heart.
LSB: It’s often said that you didn’t choose your calling to be a musician, but rather, your career was “unavoidable.” When did you first realize this?
Gayle: I remember telling my parents that I wanted to be a singer when I was in third grade. I had started unofficially writing songs before that, but wrote the first one down when I was eight.
LSB: Did you ever entertain notions of pursuing other careers?
Of course I entertained many notions of pursuing other careers, and continue to do so, but songwriting is something that I just have to do. It’s a part of how I process my life and I sometimes write songs without thinking about it. I’ll realize I’ve been humming a tune for a half an hour and didn’t notice it. It’s been an interesting road for me as far as preparing for a career in music. I wasn’t one of those kids whose families are already in the industry. Far from it. I had to learn as I went along, and I continue to do so.
LSB: Tell us about your new release: What was the inspiration behind “Sleeping Bear?”
Gayle: The inspiration behind “Sleeping Bear” is something I haven’t really spoken about in depth. Two years ago, I went through a traumatic experience with an ex boyfriend. He had a psychotic break from which he didn’t recover. It took me a long time to work through. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to go through and it felt like a death. During that time, my mom was going through chemotherapy for stage 4 cancer, and I lost several friends to disease, cancer, and the like. “Sleeping Bear” is my attempt to transform my painful experiences and memories into something I could tolerate, and to expunge some of what I went through from my head and heart. It’s been a difficult album for me to discuss because it is so very personal, and this is probably the first time I’ve been this direct about the meaning behind it. I poured so much of myself into this album, and though the themes are dark, it is essentially an album I wrote to find hope. I think this is most obvious in the fourth song, “Tourniquet,” which ends with the chorus,
“In my heart, in my soul
In my faith, in my bones
There’s a light that never fades
In the deepest, heaviest shade.”
LSB: You’ve won numerous accolades for your music, including “Best Singer-Songwriter” in the 2013 San Diego Music Awards. which was the most important or memorable for you?
Gayle: My win for Best Singer-Songwriter this year was definitely important to me. I had been nominated for 4 different SDMA’s before that win and it was about time I won one. I think, though, to be perhaps a bit cliché and cheesy, the most important win for me this year has been my dad’s reaction to my new album, “Sleeping Bear.” As I’m sure a lot of musicians can relate to, my family hasn’t always been incredibly thrilled that I’ve decided to pursue music as a career. I discovered recently that my dad has a copy of my album in every music player he owns, and has been getting all of his friends to buy the album. When I was visiting with him the other day, he said, “Usually when a band puts together an album, people buy it for the single, and then there are a few other good songs and a bunch of throw-aways. On your album, all of the songs are good. I love every single one!” It was pretty much the best thing I’ve ever heard, and overshadows all the awards I’ve won.
LSB: Over the last few years, you’ve run several successful Kickstarter campaigns. What is your approach to crowdsourcing? Any lessons learned? Other than being a source of income, how has crowdsourcing helped your career?
Gayle: My approach to crowdsourcing has always been to communicate individually with my fans. There have been people who’ve discovered my music on their own from these sites, but the majority of the support has come from me reaching out one at a time and letting people know what I’m doing without spamming them. People want to be involved with artistic projects, but I find that they want to know that they are appreciated, acknowledged, and that their involvement is meaningful. I have tried my best to let each Kickstarter backer and Sellaband believer know that they are each important to the success of the projects and that they are all valued. Both of these sites have enabled me to stay independent and to release the albums that I’ve wanted to release with full creative control. I wouldn’t have my last thee albums without the amazing support of my fans, and I believe that that makes the music I have created through these projects more personal to both me and my fans. It’s a very special connection when someone opens the door for you to live your dream- on whichever side of the coin you happen to be.
LSB: Do you have any favorite tour stories or war wounds?
Gayle: Most of my favorite tour stories happened in Arkansas. The first time I ever played there (in Little Rock), I thought I’d be well received since I had brought my banjo, and… well, I stereotyped them. I got up on stage and said, “Everybody here like the banjo?” and this guy in the back shouted, “No.” It was pretty awkward and awesome, and I said, “Okay, then. I’ll play you some banjo songs.” He ended up liking my set anyway. The third time I played there I was with my good friend Chelsea from Minor Birds. We showed up at the brewery where we were playing and discovered that our show was delayed for two hours due to the football game. We ended up chatting with a lot of people in while we waited, including a snobby couple who was watching the game. The guy told Chelsea that he used to work in that brewery and that he’d get really into the games and break dishes. When she finally got up on stage to soundcheck as the game was ending, the same guy got very upset at the game and kicked a trash can. Chelsea playfully did awkward robot arms and said, “Don’t break things!” at which point he shouted, “F*** you!” threw his glass into the trash can and stormed out. It was kind of an awkward way to start a show, but the show ended up going well anyway.
After we packed up our gear, we headed down the street to the White Water Tavern to see another band play, and right away ran into the snobby couple. We tried to avoid them and made our way to the restroom, but the gal cornered us and began apologizing profusely, saying, “You guys, I’m SO sorry. No, I’m so, so sorry. My husband is so passionate about football. He really loves it. I’m so sorry!” We assured her that it was alright and that we were completely over it, but then her husband saw us, came running over, and began apologizing over and over. We tried to tell him that it was okay and that it didn’t ruin the show or anything, but he kept apologizing. He told us that he had just gotten off tour and that it was the first game he’d seen since he returned, so I asked him where he had been touring. “Oh, Japan and Europe,” he tried to sound nonchalant. “That’s nice,” I replied, “What’s your band?” “Green Day.”
It turned out he was the rhythm guitarist for Green Day.
LSB: What can we look forward to you from the near future?
Gayle: I’m working on some tours for the New Year, including a trip to New York and back with Minor Birds, and hopefully an excursion to Russia. I’m also going to be announcing the new show that will be using one of my songs in January, which you’ll be able to find on my website,www.GayleSkidmore.com.
Check out Gayle Skidmore’s newest music video for “Little Bird” here: