Gabbie Coffy is a senior at Wake Forest who is majoring in Music. On campus, she is involved in Momentum, Demon Divas, Chamber Choir and is a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. Outside of school, she is a recording artist; her stage name is gxbrielle, and her first single, “What You Are,” was recently released on July 16.
How did you first become interested in music?
I was a dancer — I began when I was six — so for 15 years now. I was always surrounded by music, and when I’m dancing, I’m literally interpreting the music with bodily form. Dancing is an interesting medium because it enables me to understand myself physically with sound waves and vibrations. I think in growing up and being a dancer, I automatically had this strong appreciation for the way different types of music could make my body move. It fostered an interest in music and prompted me to seek understanding it in a more complex way. I found myself considering questions such as ‘why does this beat make me want to move this way?’ But that was an implicit process, not something that I was consciously aware of at the time. Once I reached higher levels of education, I realized, ‘Wow, this is actually something I would want to do.’
Growing up, I was also in musicals, so I’ve been a singer for a very long time. After I started doing musicals and people were really enjoying my performances, I thought ‘Wow, I’m not just a dancer, I can do other things as well.’ I auditioned for Lion King on Broadway for Nala, and I actually got into the semifinal round for that role. The only reason I think I couldn’t make it to the finals was because I broke something in my foot.
So from that point onwards, I was faced with a choice about which passion I wanted to pursue: dance or song. At the same time, I knew I did not want to be just a singer-songwriter, I wanted to do more than interpret and regurgitate. It wasn’t until I found myself very hormonal and with a lot of emotions that needed to be released at age 15 that I knew I needed to start writing songs. I think at that point, that’s when I started to really see this as a viable career path.
What has your musical journey at Wake Forest been like?
In my freshman year, I think I had one music course with Professor [Joanne] Inkman. It was music 104: basic reading and sight-singing, the basics. I didn’t see myself as a musician or a singer or an artist. At that point I was thinking of business, I was thinking of biology, I was thinking of Spanish. I wasn’t thinking of music, and I was extremely unhappy. I was always somebody who loved school, loved every second of it, and all of a sudden I just found myself hating it. I realized I was not on the path right then, and I needed to figure out what that path was, so I kept taking music courses. One day it just hit me. I was following my intuition and following my heart and what felt best. I can’t really explain it.
I also auditioned for the Demon Divas acapella group, and through that, I realized that music is something I just love. I love singing in a group — harmonies make my heart skip a beat. They’re a true love of mine. I think that’s also what allowed me to carry my passion for music through. And everybody goes to release their demons somehow. For me, that passion used to be dance, but then it became the piano. I knew that I was moving in a direction where music was becoming more a part of my life, so I was never overly concerned.
Can you share a little bit more about your musical journey at Wake Forest beyond the classroom?
I’ve grown most as a musician when I’ve been in social settings. I think it’s so easy to grind at the piano, learn your scales, all that stuff. But when you’re with people and you are creating music — using each other’s understanding of music to enhance your own understanding — it all starts to click. I think Chamber Choir also has been really beneficial for me because I learned how to sight-read. That gave me an understanding of why the greats are the greats, why we sing Bach and why we appreciate what they bring to the table.
In Demon Divas, I started arranging songs. In our repertoire, we have “Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Rae. I arranged that in my sophomore year, and it allowed me to further my understanding of how harmony works: why I want Basses to sing this note; why I want the Altos to sing this note; why I want the Sopranos to sing this note; and how, by them singing these notes, we are creating a holistic sound. I think a big part of what you learn in music is that so much is dependent upon interpretation. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned by being in the Demon Divas.
What made you make the jump into the recording world?
It took a lot of courage. I remember my friends would recommend I just post covers, and I would be terrified of even posting covers. But I felt like I had something to say, like I wanted to share my work because it could be beneficial to humanity. I think so many people right now just want to be artists for fame and money, and even though that stuff is great, the factor that most motivated me was this belief that what I’ve written will have some effect on humanity or will touch somebody’s life.
I had come up with a melody from a music history course of mine. I had heard this harmonic progression and I thought it was beautiful. It stuck in my mind, and then I just had to keep playing it. I was at the piano. I was just trying to replicate what I’d heard. And then, on top of that, once I figured it out, I just started singing on top of it. That’s how we started, and that’s how the song developed. The lyrics came to me, the ideas came to me. Then I reached out to a producer who I’d gone to high school with, and he ended up producing my song. I also got an outside guitarist on that song — he provided the jazzy, funky guitar. I think it really is the meat and bones of my song, I think is what gives my song its umph. I think collaboration in music is so important.
And then after that, the song was produced and released, and I’m so happy to see it out. So often, I get people who say they love it and they really enjoy it, and I feel like my work is doing what I intended it to do.
So what’s next for you?
Right now, I’m drowning in work and figuring my life out, but I am still working toward creating an EP, which I hope to release in 2022 or early 2023. I think the EP will probably consist of a song I released — and another single I hope to release soon — and then maybe three or four more songs.
For the moment, though, I’m a student. I’m the music director of Demon Divas, I’m head choreographer of Momentum and I’m in the sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma. I think my next steps are cultivating and creating the music that I want to share, but for right now, I’m focusing on being here.
What’s your message to other aspiring artists and musicians?
I would say that sometimes it’s super hard to follow your instincts. It’s super hard to follow that intuition, and so much easier to follow the crowd and be like everybody else. But, I think the reason why I recorded my song in the first place was because it was an act of authenticity.
Especially in the Wake Forest community – where there are so many sororities and fraternities, and you feel so much pressure to conform — I think it’s so important at the end of the day to reel it back and remember what is at the heart of why we’re here, what we’re doing on this planet and how we can move society forward.
Editor’s Note: This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.