We sat down with Gaby Montiel. October 2023 Artist of the Month and the youngest Open Mic Fridays Industry Pick of all time to learn more about her, her music, and her artistic journey.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you originally got into writing and performing music.
I am a ninth grader who attends Thousand Oaks High School and is taking theater. I have been in love with singing ever since second grade and have never stopped since. During the pandemic, I had started to become entranced in songwriting. As I was stuck at home every day without anything to do besides schoolwork and browse on Netflix in sixth grade, I turned towards learning the guitar. My parents had gotten me a guitar for Christmas, and I self-taught through YouTube and an app called Ultimate Guitar. Eventually, I realized that I could combine singing and playing, and my first few originals were born. The COVID lockdown started a snowball effect that has led me to so many amazing people and connections, including Music Forward.
How would you define your genre of music, and who (or what) inspires your songwriting?
I would describe my songs as indie-pop, as I am an independent artist who listens to many pop songs. Some of my songs work in some folk-y melodies. Lizzy McAlpine has captured me with her soothing voice and her lovely calming tunes, and she has remained my idol for the past few years. Another smaller artist that I am in love with is Emma Hamel, who’s release of her album Headspace inspired my own Elizabeth the Rebel.
What is the hardest part about being a young, independent musician?
The hardest part about being a young, independent musician is that people’s bias will always cloud their praise. I understand that there are exceptions, but whenever an adult says that I am ‘really good’, they follow the comment with something along the lines of, ‘I can’t believe you’re only fourteen.’ Obviously, I’m not an artist just for the compliments and praise. I’m in it for the connection. However, when I hear the words ‘only fourteen’, I can’t help but feel as if the only reason I connect with people is because of how young I am, and not because of my art. It is so amazing that I was able to find mentors that have seen me as an artist aside from my age and who continue to expand my abilities as a singer songwriter.
What has been the most rewarding part of being a singer-songwriter?
Connecting people is one of the most rewarding feelings. Music truly does have a large impact on an audience, and on various aspects of my life. I have witnessed (through Youth Open Mic Night, my own performances, and my friends’ performances) people who have never met prior to an event be able to come together under one roof and enjoy the same experience. Being able to provide a performance that strangers can hold in their memories and be able to share with each other is one of the most magical aspects of sharing my music.
How did you get involved with Music Forward, and how has Music Forward helped you along your journey?
I found Music Forward on social media and participated in their Friday Open Mic Nights. Besides the many connections and performance opportunities I gained from Music Forward, I was also rewarded with connections to seminars and workshops that have furthered my learning about my art. I am so grateful to Music Forward for deepening my understanding of my own creations.
What’s next for you and your career? Do you have any upcoming projects or performances?
I am constantly writing songs, as it is my joy in life. I just released an album called Elizabeth the Rebel, and I will continue to share that with people as well. I am also currently working on a musical, which I hope to produce on a community stage one day. I host a Youth Mic Night every month for young artists, singers, performers etc. to come forward and begin to feel comfortable on stage, or simply share their hearts’ desire. Youth Mic Night is being sponsored by community organizations and members which allows performers to not only perform for free but also get cash for their courage. And audience tickets are only 5 bucks. Access to Youth Mic Night is the most important goal I have where cost shouldn’t be a barrier.
Finally, how does music move you?
Music is more than a whole-body experience for me. It captures me from my core and spreads throughout my life. A performance that moved me will stick with me for the rest of my life, and a song that I really connect to will replay in my head over and over and over again. I am entranced by music, and it works its way into every aspect of my life. At school, at home, at the store, while I’m sleeping. Music is always around me, and I am grateful to be able to, not just see or hear it, but to feel, create, build it. Music is a whole-life experience.
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