Gabbie Watts is a champion of the Atlanta music scene. When she’s not busy riffing and writing, she’s recording her super talented friends. Highlights include the Cuntry tune “Fast and Furious” which features a charming blend of condemnation and clear-eyed wit, or Kristen Englenz yearning ballad “Winning Hand”, and Total Babe’s vivid confessional “Most of the Time”. But that’s not all. The collection is a vibrant menagerie of voices; Adelaide Tai, Amy G Dala, Casey Hood, and HAINT. It’s a great soundtrack for challenging the patriarchal status quo or for just having a night in. Gabbie joined me for a chat about Smile Girls, the sexual politics of recording studios, and tour plans.
SC: Can you tell me about the inspiration behind this project?
GR: I've been recording myself and my band, but I wanted to expand my skills and record other people. So, some of my friends graciously agreed to letting me record them. Each recording was very much a collaborative process, and by the end of each session, I hoped that the musicians felt empowered and like they had total control over their product.
Through these compilations, I want to get hella good at engineering so that I can teach other women how to engineer. I'm super inspired by organizations like Girls Rock Camp and re:imagine/ATL, which use empowerment to teach kids how to creative, awesome things that make them feel better about themselves. I want to do something similar but with recording.
Also, being a woman is stupid hard for a variety of reasons, and women's voices have often been shut out in primarily male spaces . . . like a music studio. So, hopefully, one day, we can have a big ol' community in Atlanta and beyond that is equal, has all the representation, and is open to everyone's voice, talent, and ideas. And that starts by infiltrating all parts of the music industry.
SC: Tell me an anecdote about the making of this compilation.
GR: I loved how experimental people were with the very weird instruments I have lying around my house. Stone Irvin a.k.a. Haint plugged in this horrible sounding theremin that I have, and after she played with it a bit, we blended several takes together. It sounds like Mordor and the Upside Down had a baby. I love it.
SC: Why are you interested in building community?
GR: There was this article the New York Times wrote about the "Shalane Flanagan Effect," which is "You serve as a rocket booster for the careers of the women who work alongside you, while catapulting forward yourself." That's basically it. We can make ourselves great while making everyone great.
SC: Can you tell me a little bit about inspiration behind the title?
GR: Smile Girls was a joke with my bandmates taking condescending language from men and then using it ourselves. I think we said it a couple times while playing live in a terrible singsong voice, "smile, girls!" It's similar to Cuntry, taking offensive language about women and owning it.
SC: What’s happening with Cuntry?
GR: Cuntry is the twin sister to Gabbie Rotts, and she is taking a break to explore herself. Gabbie Rotts plays some of the same songs but is much louder and obnoxious and sarcastic and less flirty. What’s next for Gabbie Rotts? We're recording an album in April. That will probably come out in the summer . . . but you know how these things go. We also are going on a tour de east coast in May and June, and I AM SO EXCITED!
The Sound Connector is an online magazine for songwriters. We feature songwriting challenges, monthly interviews, and the opportunity to discover new songwriters. We are interested in all things related to the craft of songwriting.
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