Listening to Gabriel Black's music is like catching a glimpse of someone's diary entries—deeply personal, unfiltered, and full of emotion. "Music is my way of coping," he explains over the phone from Los Angeles. "I haven't done it to help others to be honest, it's been to help myself and it just so happened that it's also helping others, which has been awesome."
Gabriel has just three songs to his name, but the connection with fans is real, so real, in fact, that he put his phone number online so people could reach out after seeing the impact his music was having. "If you scroll the comments of the 'Pine Trees' lyric video, it's tons of people saying they feel the same way, they've been locked in their head, that they've been drinking for the last three years," he says. "One kid hit me up and told that 'Pine Trees' stopped him from killing himself, which is pretty heavy. I didn't expect that, but it gave a reason to keep doing it and that's been so fulfilling."
On their own, each of his songs are impressive, but the world he's creating around his music with illustrations, animated videos, and heartfelt vlogs adds additional layers to explore. "Sad Boy," Gabriel Black's first real release, is the perfect entry point.
"When I first made the song I remember calling my mom telling her that this song is going to do something for me, this song means something, it’s gonna have some type of impact." Gabriel says. "Other people gave me the validation that it was something, but I knew from the moment I made it that song was gonna be the start."
Born in Jersey and calling Bethlehem, Pennsylvania his hometown, Gabriel has moved around a lot already, living as far afield as New York, Mexico, Philadelphia, and Boston before settling in Los Angeles. His experiences, the ups and downs that come with trying to find your place in the world and dealing with the shit that life throws at you, provide the inspiration for his songs. From tougher times in New York to finding a more positive mind state in L.A., art has always been an outlet, and now his drawings have become an integral part of what he shares with the world.
"I’ve been drawing my whole life," Gabriel explains. "My dad was an artist, he taught me how to draw when I was a little kid. The stuff I’m doing now is not what he taught me. He taught me more of the correct way to draw, you know, Fine Arts. When I was making these songs, I just started doodling and I came up with this guy who looks like me."
But is the figure in the songs, videos, and original drawings Gabriel made us for this piece different to Gabriel himself in any way? He tells me, "That's an exact representation of me, from what it represents to how it looks. It's kind of a mask I get to wear. Someday, I'll definitely reveal myself but this was a way to put out music and still kind of guard myself."
So far, Gabriel's songs have each had a unique sound and incorporated stylistically diverse elements, from the crisp, programmed drums on "Freedom" to the distorted guitar solo on "Pine Trees." Music fans in 2017 can jump from old school hip-hop to folk music at the click of a button, and Gabriel's musical taste is similarly diverse, with Red-Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day, and Blink 182 named as inspirations alongside Kid Cudi and Kanye West.
As he sees more success and gains more attention, Gabriel has access to bigger studios and artists who want to collaborate with him. He appreciates it all, of course, but in his room in the dark is still where his best writing happens. "I don't work well in sessions," he says. "One, I don't open up in front of other people and two, I just can't call upon creative juices on command. So I end up just turning off the lights in my room, at like two in the morning, lighting prayer candles that I have all over my room and just trying to come up with shit whenever I feel it."
Gabriel Black's most recent release is "Freedom," a bold song that is punctuated by moments of silence, pauses that draw the listener in and focus the attention on the lyrics. "I made the majority of that beat and the hook while I was in New York, during that depressed time in my life," Gabriel says. "I had been sitting on it for a minute, did the verse later on when I was in Philly, and then I finished it up with some people out here [in L.A.]."
"That song to me is about being a creative and feeling like no one believes in you. Everyone shits on you and you just want to free yourself from that and be able to do what you do. That's my song for the creatives out there that feel like nothing's going right in their lives. Never give up. Those are the best words to live by."