Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Gabriel Tajeu Interview

Gabriel Tajeu Interview

Alabama Music goes to Highland Music in Birmingham, Alabama to interview Gabriel Tajeu.

*Gabriel Tajeu-R&B Folk Rock Artist   by Jerry W. Henry
I met with Gabriel Tajeu at Highland Music for our interview. It was a convenient place for both of us to meet. His new album, Finding My Way, is getting lots of attention. I recently recorded him on video when he played for Secret Stages. The comments on YouTube tell us they think Gabriel is a renaissance man! His vocals are described as “Clarity, strength of voice. Nice, catchy rhythm.” In other words, folks like him.

Gabriel was raised in upstate New York but went to high school in Auburn, Alabama.  He went back up north for college but now calls Birmingham home. He grew up taking piano lessons and was in the band during high school. Gabriel came from a musical family. His mother plays piano and his brother plays trumpet and keyboards. His father is from Kenya;  has a distinctive voice. Gabriel did not start singing until he went to college.  He joined an acapella class on a whim but found he really could sing. He began to develop his voice then and guitar soon followed. That has led to him playing around town with the cover band, Bonus Round. That gig has lasted for almost 10 years now.

He has branched out and has been doing his own shows for the last couple of years. He released his first album last May. He has a direct approach to his songwriting.  He said, “I listen to a lot of different music.  When I compare my music to others, I don’t use as many fancy metaphors and similes. I think my style is more conversational. It comes from a place that says this is what it is and this is how I was feeling. There is something to be said about simplicity. With some of my lyrics I manage to convey an emotion or feeling or a time in my life without directly saying it. I have come to appreciate my more stripped down style of songwriting. I am working on some music right now that is a little more poetic in some ways. The content in Finding My Way is poetic by nature because the songs represent what I was going through. I think other people can relate to that. The next album that I am working on have a  few lines in there that I think people are going to say ‘Oh that’s a great line!”

Gabriel calls his music “R&B Folk Rock” because it is not quite R&B. He uses all live instruments and is heavy on the drums, electric guitar and bass. His vocal delivery, the harmonies and the underlying cord structures are from traditional R&B. He says, “There is a little bit of everything, it’s music! Like I said about the songwriting, it’s something people can relate to, it’s easy, it’s out there, but it’s advanced in the sense that I’ve got incredible musicians playing.  The song structure isn’t as typical as verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus.  There is more depth to the actual cord structure. That’s how I describe my own music.”

Those incredible musicians that played on his album, Finding My Way, were Mark Lanter who plays drums and helped Gabriel polish some of his songs. Allen Barlow (Homewood School of Music owner) on guitar. Matt Slocum plays keys. He used 6 different bass players Sean Michael Ray, Beau Treadwell, Abe Becker, Luke Reynolds  Jaron Olevski and Gary Justiss. The horns featured Chad Fisher on trombone, Gary Wheat on tenor Sax, Ledama Tajeu (his brother) on trumpet. Additional musicians were Matt Wiley on piano, David Crenshaw on percussion, Sam Pointer on guitar and Bethany Borg Martin on violin. Finding My Way was recorded at AudioState 55 in Woodlawn and engineered by James Bevelle.  He tells me about James, “Incredible! He brought my music to life. He helped polish things up.” He adds, “Really everybody that has been involved in this since day one has been phenomenal musicians or phenomenal at their craft whether it be playing or recording.  I am very blessed to have been associated with all those phenomenal people. I had other friends that gave input and help me develop ideas.”

Where does he see the future for himself? He answered, “I really see myself going and playing a lot of live shows. I would like to get in front of as many people as I can. The music lends its self to festivals as more than half the album is up-tempo, but also lends its self to coffee shops. More toward listening environments because we can take the instruments on the album and strip them down to just a couple of people. Some of the songs are slower songs that you can really vibe out and feel some emotions. I just want to get out there and play. I want to have as many people to listen to my music as possible.”

Gabriel tells me, “I write these songs because I am connecting with myself. There is something that I have to say. There is something that I have to put out there. In creating that, you create a connection with other people. You hope that they will get what you are saying and hope they will feel that way. When I hear a song on the radio and it touches me I know that someone gave that song to me. So as a musician I feel it is my responsibility to give that back. As a musician I have been blessed with certain talents. If can sing a song that helps somebody it’s my responsibility to do so. I have gotten twitter message all the way from Japan.  I have people from Japan that resonate with this album. It’s beautiful to see the music crosses all kinds of boundaries. At the end of the day you are connecting with people and exploring our emotions. We have to do that as a society.”
Gabriel Tajeu’s Finding My Way is available from all major outlets, iTunes, Amazon, Spotify or his website where he will have more merchandise soon.

*This interview was published in the December 2013 Issue of The Leaf

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