Folk and indie singer-songwriter Gayle Skidmore recently released her 20th independent release, which also happens to be her first full length vinyl album. She described the album as “whimsical, melancholic music for the romantic intellectual.” After following trends and chasing after deals to be successful through the industry channels, she has moved on to find something that works out for her, and “The Golden West” is about finding her own voice and creating music straight from her soul. We spoke with Gayle about the making of her album, creating adult coloring books, and her plans for touring this year.
Classically trained on the piano from the age of 4, and having written more than 2,000 songs since age 8, Gayle was destined to achieve a prestigious musical career no matter how she went about it. Her toolset includes a majestic voice that is delicate enough to accurately portray her penned musings and strong enough to portray the feeling behind those words. She also plays a number of varying instruments, ranging from electric guitar, banjo, ukulele, flute, marimba, organ, mandolin, ocarina, accordion, trumpet, percussion, and many more you’ve probably never heard of. Gayle believes anyone can learn any instrument if they dedicate the time it takes to learning music theory, confirming that even with her exceptional musical ability, it takes time to be great in your craft.
Gayle writes original material about the highs and lows in life with musical inspirations coming from Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, Damien Rice, and other artists who are are bold in their songwriting or elaborate on-stage antics. This has clearly left an impression on her and has opened the door for self-expression to the fullest. Gayle’s talents have attracted other top-tier musicians who enjoy touring or recording with her, as she has opened for the likes of Jason Mraz, Lisa Loeb, Steve Martin, Sean and Sara Watkins, Sam Phillips, Coeur d’Pirate, and many others and has recorded with such artists as The Softlightes, Bushwalla, Jason Mraz and Tyrone Wells.
Her impressive music career is an outlet to express the different stories that come from a tumultuous life, an experience that she finds personally fulfilling. It has led her to winning multiple awards, from Best Pop in the 2015 San Diego Music Awards, Best Pop Album for “Sleeping Bear” in 2014, and Best Singer-Songwriter in 2013. However, despite her successes, her new album was written as the roadmap of moving on from heartache and loss. Gayle’s first full length vinyl album “The Golden West” (her 20th independent release) was originally planned to be an E.P. but quickly turned into a full-length in 2015 following her extensive touring across the U.S. The personal journey that Gayle went through is beautify captured in the 10-track indie pop album that was recorded in legendary studio Rancho de la Luna in Joshua Tree, Singing Serpent in San Diego, and at Ninkasi Studios—a recording studio built right inside a Eugene, Oregon brewery.
“Eugene has felt like a second, though much weirder, home for the past few years since I have been collaborating with Ninkasi Brewing, so recording at Ninkasi Studios felt super comfortable right from the start,” Gayle said. “It doesn’t get much better than having Ninkasi on tap right outside the studio door, as well as nitro Stumptown coffee for a nice pick-me-up during late night sessions. They have a killer setup there and it was so much fun to work with James Book on the album.”
All the songs on the album make up the story of how she overcame loss, from the opening track’s “Pale Ghosts” that deals with the struggle of letting go of people we’ve lost and feeling afraid to move on to “Beautiful Soul,” a song about falling in love and working up the courage to confess your feelings. As the album flows on, lyrical themes cover topics about leaving the past behind, feeling nostalgic of what was left behind, and the fear of moving forward but having the commitment to journey with a trusted companion.
“I penned the chorus to a song I’d been working on while the sun set on the old mining town of Sonora, California,” Gayle said. “I knew immediately that this would be my single and title track for my upcoming album. The chorus’ lyrics, ‘Let’s bury all we put to rest in the golden west,’ captured the spirit of the record. Since I was contemplating a move to Amsterdam at the time, it seemed only fitting that this album about letting go would be titled after the song that talked directly about leaving California.”
The first song on side B is considered a turning point in the ongoing narrative with the track “How to Let You Go,” which is about getting rid of nostalgic memorabilia that hinder us from taking hold of our future. Following that is “Honey Bee,” a pop song about the first pure happy day after long years of pain with “Moving On” serving as a celebration to completely let go of painful parts of the past. The final two songs, “The Hallows” and “Only Ever You” deal with making peace with the ghosts of the past and finding a different way to look at the painful years in the rear view mirror. Overall, the record was a dissection of a troubling time and the recording of it took its toll on her, though it eventually became a very cathartic experience that saved her perseverance.
“The week before my wedding I was still finishing vocals for the album, which was pretty insane,” Gayle said. “One year, four cities, and four producers later, we finally had an album. Finishing it has been one of the most challenging things I’ve done.”
The album was also released as a full-length vinyl, making the listening of the journey an intimate one.
“It’s been a dream come true for me to release a full-length vinyl album—especially one that comes in all different colours,” Gayle said. “I have always preferred listening to vinyl albums. I know that there is still a lot of debate about the quality of sound on an LP versus a CD and that it’s very subjective. For me, it’s the comfort that comes with the experience, the magic of nostalgia and the familiarity of the crackle that make it extra special. When I was little and dreaming of being a musician, I never imagined that I’d actually get to hear my own album on vinyl.”
Gayle was proud of everyone who worked on the project because she said they brought their best effort and caught the vision of what the final product could be. During the recording process, the sound of the album had changed from its original intention but at the same time, that was exactly what she was hoping for.
In addition to music, an important part of the Gayle listening experience is the appreciation of the artwork featured on all her albums that she does all herself, even going so far as releasing coloring books to go along with her music. “The Golden West” is her third album to feature an adult coloring book with each picture depicting a different song.
“My artwork has become increasingly important over the years and I’ve begun to focus on it a lot more, especially with The Golden West colouring book,” Gayle said. “I began creating adult colouring books with my albums in 2010 with my first full-length, ‘Make Believe,’ and at the time it was more about having something interactive than really making an artistic statement. Since then I have invested a lot more time in my artwork as I did more and more research about the benefits of colouring. For this last colouring book, my third, I actually won an artist grant, which felt like a huge affirmation for me. I have worked hard to create my own special aesthetic to complement my music, and I feel inspired to pursue that more and more.”
With the album complete, she sets out to go on tour and share to the world the songs she has finished. Gayle recently moved to Amsterdam from San Diego and is still building a steady lineup in her new homeland. She has been on tour with her San Diego band and still performs with them when she is in the States.
“Blalock and Erdis Maxhelaku, who’ve played on several albums and countless shows, are my cellist and violinist in the states, and I’ve got Daniel Crawford on lead guitar, Dave Carano on bass and Danny Campbell on drums,” Gayle said. “All of them have been with me for several years and I’ll be performing with them again in the fall when I tour the States again. I’m hoping to bring them to Amsterdam soon!”
Gayle is planning to tour in both the United States and Europe, making it quite the finale to a busy 2017.
“I am planning another tour in the States this fall, but before then I’ve got a bunch of European dates on the books!” Gayle said. “I’m pairing up with my pal Arlan Feiles, who’s heading to Europe from L.A. for a few shows, and then heading home to head up the west coast. I’m also releasing a new music video for ‘Pale Ghosts’ very soon.”
Gayle has moved on from an aching past that was tough to endure and we appreciate her making an album about her experiences and taking us along with her. Only time will tell what venture lies ahead for Gayle but one thing’s for certain: we want to take every step along with her no matter where she goes.