Interview: Gabi Ammirato
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I danced from the age of 3 so that was my first significant exposure to music. I danced every dance form available from tap, ballet, pointe, modern, contemporary to hip hop and musical theater. At my dance studio they started a vocal program, and I was intrigued as I watched other kids take vocal lessons, so I convinced my mom to let me take them. This led to chances to perform at local events and competitions. I ended up in a competition in NYC where I placed in the top 5 and connected with an artist development group. That gave me the chance to go to Nashville and work with professionals on my first EP which got me hooked on songwriting. The final piece of the puzzle fell into place when I discovered Berklee’s summer programs in Stage Performance and Songwriting. Being immersed in an environment of other creatives was electrifying and I went home with the plan to attend Berklee. Since I had just dabbled in vocal, guitar and piano lessons for fun it took some real coaching to learn sight singing and the other elements required to get into Berklee. We found a coach (Liz Radigonda from University of the Arts) who was AMAZING, and she taught me sight singing, an Opera in Italian, and a Jazz classic so I was prepared. What I have come to realize is that being a dancer from a young age I grew up swimming in an Ocean of music that ranged from the classical to hip hop which has influenced my style and love of using music to tell stories.
So. What I would be doing if not music is most likely Broadcast Journalism as Communications was the plan before Berklee changed my course. I participated in the Miss America Outstanding Teen program where I learned a lot about interviewing and that skill has served me well even though I did not go into Journalism. At my heart I am a storyteller and all around me I see themes and messages that I want to share, whether that be through dance, writing, music, or photography.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I like to read non-fiction and poetry. I find that these strengthen my creativity and allow me to pull inspiration from the work and ideas of others. It allows you to look at a topic from different points of view which further spurs your own creativity. I enjoy TV and Film too, especially how the music plays a key role in bringing the story to life. Even watching shows in a foreign language, it is inspiring to see how the music plays such a key role in the story. I like baking and playing with my mini bernedoodle Tucker which relaxes me and allows my creativity to flow.
How long has music been your career?
It has been my career goal since my first EP at age 15. As I am finishing up at the Berklee College of Music this Spring I am using my Metamorphosis EP to help me launch my professional career. I have worked hard to secure skills to allow me to work in music supervision, to song write for myself and other artists, to produce and topline. Writing for Musical Theater and Film & TV are also goals, so I have taken courses in those areas as well.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I am based out of Boston as my family ended up moving to the area shortly after I started college there. Boston may not come to mind when one thinks of music but actually it is full of wonderful music colleges and conservatories and has a very international college population, so it definitely has music vibes. Lots of shows preview in Boston before going to Broadway so it is a very artistic area. I grew up in NJ just outside of Philadelphia and that is an area that has birthed many musical artists, so something in the water? Also being only 1 ½ hours from NYC I spent a lot of time there and experienced all the artistic influences it has to offer. I would even factor in my grandparents who loved music, so I grew up with a lot of Frank Sinatra, and Perry Como on one side and country music on the other. I think all of that and my dance background have strongly influenced my music.
Tell me about the best and worst shows you have played.
Some of the best have been at the BeBop and Berklee because there is an enthusiastic audience and great sound support. The worst one that comes to mind was at a small venue with a very small audience and it just felt too crowded and unrewarding. It is always fun to perform but the audience and venue play such an important part in the success of a show so something to keep in mind when one puts together future shows/tours.
Tell me about your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
My favorite venues are the Red Room and David Friend Recital Hall at Berklee. They can fit a larger crowd and have great acoustics. There are many venues I want to perform at in the future but in the short term House of Blues is top of the list. I love that it has an intimate feel but fits a good audience.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Tate McCrae is a particular favorite of mine. Ripe is an amazing Funk band based out of Boston. Lauv is another favorite.
If I were a mega star it would be Taylor Swift, Ariane Grande, Post Malone and Ed Sheeran.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into music?
Be prepared to believe in yourself and make what you love. Don’t try to be someone you idolize, they already exist, be the original “you”. Don’t try to write to be on the radio, write what inspires you. Don’t chase what you are not or what people tell you to be, be committed to being authentically you. Be patient because everything takes time….
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
I found my voice through the creation of this EP. I spent so much of my first few years at Berklee trying to be something I thought I needed to be instead of allowing myself to evolve and reveal my artistry. It is easy to fall into this mindset as they do shows about certain artists and seem to pick certain kinds of singers…so you chase being that singer. It is far more rewarding and healthy to allow your own artistry to flourish and grow, the World needs new original artists not imitations of one that already exist
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Sunflower. My Mom took care of me and my brother after school so she played a strong role in my life.. We had an incredibly close and rewarding relationship and it wasn’t until I grew up that I realized what a key role she played in my life. The depth of our relationship was reflected in the fact that even when her dementia took most of her memories she got that mischievous twinkle in her eye whenever we visited, and it brought her back for a short time. Sunflower allows the World to peek in on that incredible relationship and feel the love we shared while giving her the recognition she deserves for all she taught me and gave to me.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Lesson to Learn is my favorite to play because it has a fun cheeky vibe and I ADORE the strings! The EP is so new it is too soon to say which is requested the most, but feedback has been pretty strong across the board. I would say Rainbow and Lesson To Learn led the way right now, but again early days.
What is the creative process for you, and what inspires you to write your music?
I usually start with lyrics or a concept because that is what lays at the heart of a story. I use object writing to explore the idea and where I want to go with it. Then I use my guitar or keyboard to find a chord that really fits the vibe I am going for. I will take that and put together a small arrangement with vocals in Logic so I can send a demo to my producer. Then the collaboration begins. Inspiration can come at any time or place so I keep Notes of my song seeds or concept ideas which I then use when I sit down to write. Other times it just comes on its own and I go with it.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
My messages focus on bringing positivity into the World because we just don’t have enough of it. Connecting through our humanity and being kind, inclusive and respectful is so important. So much music today focuses on negativity after a breakup and in Lesson to Learn I call out the wrong behavior, but the key message is to learn from it not to let it ruin your perspective or life. I also want to send messages around social change because we have become too self-centered and desensitized to the plight of many in our society. Music can bring us together, make our environment more positive and allow each of us to feel an important and valuable part of our World.
Do you ever have disagreements when collaborating and how do you get past them?
Yes it is inevitable to have differences. They are your own songs, you are so invested in them, they reflect your identity in many ways. I have learned that it is best to step back and look at it from each perspective. Seek to understand each other’s point of view. Some very cool sections come out of those experiences. No one person has it all figured out, there is so much beauty and value in diversity so tap into it.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
Big news is I am graduating in the Spring with a Dual degree in Songwriting and Professional Music and a minor in Musical Theater writing. I am already working on my follow up EP and looking to release a single from it in April. I am beginning the Internship search hoping to work in NYC or Nashville after graduation. So lots of exciting things are going on and coming up!
Social Media Links:
YouTube: Gabi Ammirato
Instagram: gabi_ammirato_ (personal) and gabiammirato (music)
Facebook: Gabi Ammirato
Spotify/ Apple Music/ Soundcloud: Gabi Ammirato