Gabrielle Mooney: “Stay true to yourself”

My heart is towards young foster kids. I had a friend that was taken from his birth father because of abuse. I saw how overwhelmed the foster care system is. It’s harder to place older kids and they end up just getting crowded into rooms together. After these kids turn 18, there’s nobody to look […]

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My heart is towards young foster kids. I had a friend that was taken from his birth father because of abuse. I saw how overwhelmed the foster care system is. It’s harder to place older kids and they end up just getting crowded into rooms together. After these kids turn 18, there’s nobody to look out for them. I think bringing awareness to this and people coming together to find solutions for this would make a huge impact.

As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Gabrielle Mooney.

From a little town on the border of Arkansas and Oklahoma, Gabrielle Mooney seemed like any other girl. The daughter of a farmer, she would travel with the family band on Sundays, singing “He Leadeth Me” and, hours later, fall asleep on a church pew. But Gabrielle had a secret. “I’ve always been a rebel,” she says, laughing. Monday through Friday she was smuggling records from My Chemical Romance, Hinder, and Sick Puppies into the house. At 17, she joined a Southern rock band and traveled to dive bars in the Southeast. “Country music would talk about what I knew,” she says, “but rock music would speak to who I was, the emotions and feelings.” After two long and arduous years of touring and a strained relationship with her parents, Gabrielle alongside younger brother Shay, from the Grammy award winning Dan + Shay, moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with hopes of finding a fresh start there. Her days were spent attending classes at a bible college, but her nights were spent following her true passion of performing music at various venues. “It made me tough, and it gave me the love of music,” she says. “It’s fun to tour. It’s fun to be a musician.” With the encouragement from Shay, who had recently moved to Nashville, Gabrielle decided to pursue her career in Music City. As the years have gone one, Gabrielle has found a newfound sense of peace within the world of country music. “When I accepted who I am and where I’m from, then I loved country music, because it spoke about everything I grew up on — riding four-wheelers and going to bonfires and being a mile from every neighbor we had,” she says. “When I write country music, it’s just me writing about my life.” In 2018, Gabrielle pulled inspiration from her early years, Gabrielle worked alongside Grammy Award-winning producer Shane McAnally and Walker Hayes to co-write Walker’s 2018 single “90’s Country.” The story hits all the high notes from the country smashes of the decade in which she grew up. “People talk about old country, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash, but I grew up on Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Shania Twain, and Faith Hill,” she says. “Walker and I were talking about the artists that inspired us to be country musicians, because all of them, at that time, were different from the old country. They were different, and now we’re different.” Off the heels of the release of her self-penned debut single, “Come On In,” Gabrielle brings to life the memories of her hometown and those closest to her in this deeply personal track. The catchy, upbeat melody allows her strong and captivating vocals to shine throughout. With this release, Gabrielle announces to both the world and country music that she’s her own woman with her own influences, and the only one that will write that story is herself.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Thank y’all! I grew up on a farm in Arkansas, and honestly I had no idea everyone didn’t wake up at the crack of dawn to milk cows. LOL — Now, I know that was a tad different. Me and my sister Erica and brother Shay grew up as best friends. We didn’t have a lot of kids in our town so we just hung out with each other. My parents took us to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night and had a southern gospel group with my Granny and Papa Mooney and his side of the family as “The Mooney Family.” We sang in churches our whole lives! My parents are very talented singers and I learned how to play the piano by ear by watching my mom play in church. They encouraged us to be creative and follow our dreams. Now that I’m older, I realize how special it is to have such a supportive and loving family.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to country music?

When I was a teenager, I was in a southern rock band. We thought we were super cool ‘cuz we were “in a band.” Listening back, we were terrible. Just terrible. But it was so much fun. I always loved the emo rock type stuff because of the lyrics and emotion. I don’t think you truly realize how special the country is until you move to the city. I love country music because it paints this picture of how I grew up and the importance of family and Jesus. Writing country music now is like writing about my life. My unique experience of life in the middle of nowhere and how all I wanted when I was younger was to get out… but now, all I want is to be home.

What is the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Oh goodness there are a lot of those. Haha! One of them is probably writing with Shay and Jeffrey Steele. I’m such a huge fan of his, so the whole entire write I just sat there, barely any input, in awe. I literally was so star struck I couldn’t function as a writer. I still think about it to this day.

What is one of the funniest mistake(s) you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Mistakes? I was perfect. JUST KIDDING. Honestly it was more of when SHAY started getting famous. Me and my sister are so protective and we would see mean comments on Twitter or other places and be keyboard warriors defending him. Shay taught me that it doesn’t matter what people say, it matters that you continue being yourself and loving on people no matter what. People can think whatever they want about you, but you can choose to ignore and rise above it.

You just released your debut single, “Come On In.” What are some exciting projects you are working on now?

We just wrapped the music video with Running Bear Films. I’m SO EXCITED about how it went. My family’s in it playing themselves, and it was filmed on the farm, so it’s the most special thing I’ve gotten to do to date. I just finished more songs with my producer Jamie Kenney, and we have more songs coming out. So that makes me super excited.

What are “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Share a story or example for each.

  1. Don’t expect it to be easy. So many people move to Nashville with dreams. Don’t go into this because you want to be a famous singer/songwriter. Do it because you love music. Truly LOVE it. If you do that, then you’ll never be disappointed because you’re doing it for the love of the craft, not for fame.
  2. Stay true to yourself. People will give you so much advice. Some good, some bad. Take it all in and choose for yourself what path you want for your career.
  3. Never burn bridges. Be so careful about how you handle your emotions. Don’t get offended if someone doesn’t dig your music. Take in that criticism and learn from it.
  4. Drop the pride. It doesn’t do you any favors to think you know it all. You don’t. People that care about you will give it to you straight and those are who you need around you. Even when it’s hard to hear.
  5. Be grateful for every opportunity. It’s easy to get caught up in the next thing. But take in the moments as they come. Be thankful for the here and now.

Which tips would you recommend to aspiring artists to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

If you don’t love music and what you’re doing then this industry isn’t for you. It’s brutal. Some days you just want to give up. But if you don’t care that you’re broke, live in a crappy apartment, and have a ton of cringe writes, then you’ll be fine. Burning out is easy, persevering is hard. But if you’re willing to put in the long hours without accolades or success, learn from your mistakes, and listen to people that have been there done that, then you have a shot.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

My heart is towards young foster kids. I had a friend that was taken from his birth father because of abuse. I saw how overwhelmed the foster care system is. It’s harder to place older kids and they end up just getting crowded into rooms together. After these kids turn 18, there’s nobody to look out for them. I think bringing awareness to this and people coming together to find solutions for this would make a huge impact.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Deb Henson. She started managing me 5 years ago and NEVER GAVE UP. She has been with me through the thick and thin and has become my family. Deb and her sister, Carmen, have taken a beating through the years but never wavered. I’m eternally grateful for her encouragement and love. You don’t find it often and when you do, cherish it. Then, there’s my sister, Erica. Y’all know how important Shay is to me, but let me just tell you about Erica. She has been at every single show since my rock band days with my merch on dragging along her friends in the front row. She’s the sweetest, most loyal person I know — I don’t deserve her. She’s encouraged me to never give up and she will be in every single music video I ever do, haha! I’m her biggest fan.

Can you share your favorite life lesson or a favorite quote? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Love people, not things. I said this when I was probably 7. My mom put it on the fridge. My Grandpa Reed said that you can’t take anything with you when you go, and the only thing lasting that you’ll leave behind is your character and the memory of how you treated people. So no matter how someone may treat me, I want to respond in love. Money doesn’t matter. Love matters.

If you could have a meal with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?

My family. There’s nobody in the world more important.

How can our readers follow you online?

Most of my socials are @gabriellemooneymusic, but I have to say that I’m an instagram junkie! I’m on there way too much to respond to fans and see what everybody is up to. So if you wanna say what’s up, that’s where you’ll find me!

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