- Tracy Heck
Mychael Gabriel talks 'Genesis'
Writer/producer/arranger/engineer/mixer/musician Mychael Gabriel recently released his debut solo album Genesis, which features track "Sunday Afternoon."
His unique and compelling life story is told through the album's songs alongside a religious allegory theme.
Rock Life recently had the pleasure of speaking with Gabriel, who has worked with a wide variety of big names in the music industry from Sheila E. to Ringo Starr and Hans Zimmer to Usher.
Rock Life: How are things going?
Mychael Gabriel: Good, really good. I'm in the middle of a tour with Sheila E. right now.We're on the road and I'm in Atlanta today. We've got three days here and we have a bunch of other dates coming up as well.
RL: How is the tour going?
MG: It's great. The shows have been good and the music is awesome. As long as I've been playing with her it's just always this energy on stage. It doesn't matter how many times we played these shows it feels almost like the first time every time in a good way.
RL: Her album has been getting great reviews.
MG: Yeah, yeah, it's really exciting that something we did back in March of last year is doing so well now. It's nice to be able to circle back around to these songs again live and promote her new record. It's really great and a lot of fun.
RL: You've done a lot of collaborating over the years, but what made you want to focus on a solo career?
MG: It's something that I've always wanted to do, but I think like a lot of creative people, we started reevaluating where we were during the pandemic. You know, what is it that I really want to be doing?
One of the reasons that I got into music in the first place was because of my passion for songwriting. I almost kind of fell into a career almost by accident and then my stuff just kind of fell onto the backburner.
I said this is something that I've been doing for other people for a long time, why don't I take some of that time and energy and put it into myself and finally put out a record and so that's what I did.
RL: What has been the biggest difference?
MG: There's just a different type of satisfaction that you get. You're making an investment in yourself. Not taking away anything from all of the other amazing projects that I've been a part of, but I feel like our experiences shape our lives in general. Maybe my record would have sounded different if I hadn't had all of those different experiences.
Just the satisfaction is different when you take something, an idea that you have, and you breathe life into it. You're literally creating something out of nothing. Especially when it comes to music because there's not anything tangible that you can touch. It's airwaves so to take an idea and then see it into fruition in a form of a full length album is just no better feeling.
RL: The Genesis album really unfolds and flows together. How did you come up with the concept?
MG:Thank you! Yeah, so one of the hurdles for me on putting out a record was that I didn't want to just put a bunch of random songs together and say this is my record! It was important for me that I have some sort of a story and depth to it. When I finally had the revelation of what it was that I wanted to do, it just unfolded with ease.
The idea was I wanted to tell the story of my origin and utilize sounds and files that inspired me to become the artist that I am today. That's one of the reasons for the multi-genre record.
I needed to tie that in with some other poetic devices. I love poly semantic storytelling: stories and ideas with more than one meaning. I said ok, let's call the album Genesis, which means origin and let's tie it into a biblical allegory. All of the songs have hidden meanings.
Some of the songs are speaking from the voice of God and that perspective and some are speaking from just the general perspective of the divine and then we enter into the perspective of humanity and the Adam and Eve story.
It's all kind of from my strange point of view as well. It's a biblical allegory. It's a story about humanity and it's my personal story as well.
RL: Have you been pleased with the response?
MG: Yeah, I really have been. You never know exactly how something is going to land in the way you intended, but so far I feel like it has. I'm kind of oblivious to numbers and whatnot, but I just looked it up yesterday and "Sunday Afternoon" has already hit like 100,000 streams on Spotify and I was like, oh wow!
It's just the general response that I've received from other people that have listened to the record has been really positive. When you create something like this you're kind of baring your soul a bit. There's a vulnerability there, but I've really been happy with the response so far.
I had wondered if people would get the allegory thing, but I've been getting questions about it and I love hearing how others interpret it. I've been holding onto these songs for so long that I get excited when someone says here is my take on it.
RL: How did "Sunday Afternoon" and the video come together? Were you thinking visually when you were working on the album and that particular track?
MG: Yeah, it was such a important part of the album. I like being involved from start to finish with a project like this because it's exciting for me. I love being a part of any area of the creative process that I can get my hands on. I'm like a kid in a candy store!
There's a personal aspect to that track and all of the songs really. To be able to realize that in a visual storytelllng way is great. I jumped at the opportunity to try to insert as much eye candy or ear candy or thought candy that I could into the video.
Everybody can relate to what it feels like to be in a relationship with highs and lows and times where you feel like you're in the wilderness and that's where the idea for the video came from. We shot it in this abandoned forest. Maybe once upon a time things were lush ,but now it's barren. There was a lot of thought put into it.
The veil of the woman is supposed to represent all that is holy and maybe the things you want out of life and a relationship, but the veil is in between the two of you. Will that veil ever be lifted? It kind of ends with a question mark.
RL: Do you plan to get out and perform these songs live?
MG: Yeah that's definitely something in the works for 2023. It's just a matter of managing my schedule. It's the life of a touring musician: there's always different projects that I'm working on. It will definitely happen though. I've been chomping at the bit to be able to perform these songs live. It's where everything will come into full fruition.
RL: As you said, you are always working. Anything big coming up for the rest of the year?
MG: Well as I said, I'm on tour with Sheila E. right now. I'm kind of oblivious to my schedule until I need to be aware of something, but there is always something going on so stay tuned to my website.
I have been working on a deluxe version of Genesis, That's going to include a lot of things that ended up on the cutting room floor. There's also some expanded plays and remixes that will be included. It's a little bit more for people to chew on if they want to.
RL: You grew up with music around you, but what was the moment you decided you wanted to do this?
MG: I mean it happened at such a young age for me. For those who don't know, my parents met while working on Prince's Purple Rain Tour. My mom was in Sheila E.'s compound and my father was in Prince's camp. Music was just kind of a driving force in our household from a very, very young age.
I have many memories of Prince coming over to the house and going to Paisley Park to watch the Sign O' the Times concert film on repeat. I was just enamored with this musical genius; this force of nature.
I picked up my first guitar when I was five or six and just fell in love with it and that transformed into a passion for songwriting, which turned into a deep need and desire to learn how to record my ideas and have it sound like my favorite records. That turned into a career in engineering and production and mixing. It was always written in the stars for me.
RL: There is such a mystique that surrounds Prince, but you got a peek behind the curtain. What would people be surprised to know about him?
MG: He was human. Especially in a more intimate setting. He would joke around and was a real person. I think sometimes we forget that. The mystique and the magic and all that stuff is true, but he was also a very kind and generous person. He was more grounded than you would think.
Somebody with that level of fame can find themselves living in a different type of lifestyle out of necessity. Just going to the supermarket can be a big deal,but I think when he was home he tried to be as normal as possible and for the most part people were cool. It all depended on the setting. It could be a isolating life,but he was a lot more grounded and a very kind person in spite of it all.
RL: Finally, what do you want people to know about Genesis?
MG: That's a good question! First of all, I'd like them to listen to it and hope that they'll be inspired. I guess a takeaway for me is that I always thought man, why haven't I put a record out? Why has it taken me so long to do this? It kind of dawned on.me that it doesn't matter if you did do it before because you're doing it now. So for anybody else who is kind of hesitating about doing something they've wanted to do, don't worry about whether you did or didn't do it before, you're going to do it now!