Cuntry's debut EP Country Music (The EP) is a foot stomping, knee scraping, hell-bent, guar-an-teed good time. Their song “Why Do You Stand In The Doorway” is a three-part punk opera about faith, purpose and the meaning of life. The song swells with cataracts of a bowed upright bass amidst the funerary pulse of a floor tom. The music halts as lead singer Gabbie Watts pleads “please don’t tell me why you stand in the door way” alongside a fragile guitar line before the song charges ahead into oblique madness as it resonates with her shattered cry “how did I get this way / this is more than heartbreak”. Gabbie joined me for a discussion about art, writing, and the chaos of sarcasm.
Buy a copy of Country Music (The EP) here.
SC: Can you tell me about how you view the relationship between art and personal exploration?
GW: Well, my opinion on this vacillates all the time, but today, I think art is a completely personal exploration. Like, I don’t really think fiction exists. Everything comes from a personal viewpoint or experience. That’s even if an artist is creating something about climate change or a random historical event or one of the -isms—they’re still interested in that subject because of their personal view on and investment in the world.
In terms of my own songwriting, it is totally unadulterated feelings. Or, it’s totally unadulterated feelings passing through the chasm of sarcasm.
SC: This song has three movements and each seems to speak to a different issue with the speaker’s doubt. How do you see the themes in the songs flowing together between sections?
The middle quieter part with the harmonics in background is a moment of self-awareness, like, why are you so damn sad?
SC: What was your writing process like for “Why Do You Stand In The Doorway”?
GW: I started writing this song after I graduated college, was hardly employed, recently dumped and living with my mom (who is very nice but you know). Referencing the sadness in the previous question, I was VERY SAD. And to channel the VERY SAD, I started writing songs.
For the music part, I had only recently started playing guitar again after a 15 year or so hiatus, so I stole a simple chord progression from a VERY SAD song by Waxahatchee, capo’d it down, and combined all these random phrases I had jotted down on a large sketch pad. (I don’t draw, but I stole it from my sister.)
I thought the song was dumb so forgot about it for about a year, jammed on it with one of my friends for a hot minute, forgot it again, changed the first two lines, introduced it to my friend and Cuntry violinist Noelle Albano who liked it, and now it is what it is. The arrangement we do now is much different than the recording. Noelle makes it even spookier and heartbreaking.
SC: Tell me about your normal writing practice. Do you write every day? Do you write on a schedule?
GW: I’m very words first and usually struggle with the music side of things. So I’m a two-, three-, or sometimes even FOUR-chord songwriter. I even have a song that’s one chord, a D, because that’s the best key in my mind.
I don’t intentionally write every day but end up scribbling things down on random sheets of paper, in my notes app on my phone, or I email ideas to myself. The main time I write is while I’m driving. My Voice Memos app is filled to the brim with my ramblings and tunes, edits of old songs, whole songs or just like two lines of lyrics.
With all these different places to store song ideas, I’ve lost track of a lot of things. And I wonder what would happen if I didn’t have a car. Maybe no more songs!
SC: How does your community of songwriters influence your work?
GW: I don’t know if I’m a part of a community of songwriters. Certainly, you’re influenced by everything you listen to, and I keep up with a fair amount of local bands, so maybe in that way I’ve been inspired and influenced. For now, I just write alone and am pretty bad at taking criticism or changing my songs based on other people’s input. So sensitive!
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