COCKTAILS, vintage variety, burlesque and circus swing make for two alternative Valentine’s nights at the Plough. Delicious music, romance and a few surprises for adventurous adults are promised when the gorgeous Gabby Young offers a slew of stunningly beautiful, often haunting, songs that promise to be a genre-bending explosion of gypsy folk, pop, rock, jazz, cabaret and soul. Rosanna Rothery spoke to her.
SHE’S the modern-day Vaudeville singer, sporting flamboyant headdresses and red tresses. Gabby Young’s mix of vintage, burlesque and glamour adds a certain “je ne sais quoi” to her quirky circus-style fusion of music. It’s an image characterised by thrilling excess.
Her promotional shots strike me as more like Alphonse Mucha’s art nouveau paintings than photos.
“I have just always loved putting on outlandish costumes and prancing around with them,” admits the singer whose songs are inspired as much by her surreal imagination as by real events – most recently, her brush with throat cancer.
“For shows it’s my way to offer the audience a visual experience and it gives me more confidence, like an actress to help her get into the part. But to be honest, when I get on stage something comes over me, like an alter ego, that gives me that buzz and confidence, so I would happily still do the same show in my pyjamas!”
As a double page spread in edgy style bible Artrocker magazine, titled “How To Dress Like Gabby Young”, proves, there are plenty of women out there who find her quirky looks as inspiring as her music.
“I definitely think we need colour and that is something I am always trying to bring,” she says. “When I first died my hair bright red, which is eight years ago now, I loved how many people said it made them smile and brightened things up, so I guess I equate colour to happiness and I want to spread that everywhere I possibly can.”
At her two-night stop at the Plough, audience members will be encouraged to dress up – only if they fancy it – with a prize for the most beautiful vintage circus outfit.
“Vintage can be all types of things, definitely glamorous and romantic at times, but I love it because every piece is unique and has a story,” she says. “I like to guess or imagine who wore the piece before me and give it a little made up history. When I wear vintage on stage I do feel rather glamorous too.”
The Plough gigs promise to be passion-infused shows, a Valentine’s date with a difference.
“We have circus performers joining us and we are playing all the romantic songs especially for the event. People will still get the full circus swing experience to dance and sing along to, with just a few more ‘slow dances’ for couples too.”
She stresses, though, the intoxicating mix of swing, jazz and Eastern European folk will be fun for everyone.
“We want to give the singletons a brilliant Valentine’s experience too – it’s also been known for people to meet at our gigs so we hope to spark some of that in Devon.”
She, herself, admits to being something of a romantic.
“I’m very lucky to have an amazingly romantic boyfriend who always surprises me too,” she confesses. “One Valentine’s I got back from a show to our whole bedroom being full of hanging origami hearts and flowers. It was a stunning moment and I couldn’t help but cry with joy.”
Gabby and her eight piece band Other Animals have been playing together for just over a year, garnering a strong, loyal and extremely diverse fanbase. Their music, which invokes an old-fashioned circus act (dubbed “circus swing”), has seen them play major festivals including Glastonbury.
“Circus swing gives us free reign to do whatever we like and, as a writer, I’m very eclectic so that suits me very well. The essence is colourful, theatrical and music you can get involved with – dance and sing along with.”
Her music ranges from the hauntingly moving We’re All In This Together to the euphoric Snakebite.
VIDEO: Gabby Young And Other Animals- Snakebite:
She doesn’t particularly write music for people to like. She just sings what she feels passionate about.
“I feel like I have to do this and it’s my oxygen but the fact that people do listen, and like it, is huge to me. I am so honoured by people coming to see us and buying our CDs. That’s why I work hard at making it an experience that they won’t forget. I hope everyone can tell that whatever we do write and play is honest and straight from the heart.”
Oh and you can be pretty sure Gabby will always be dressed to the nines, ready to put on a show, too.
“I’m always a bit disappointed to see a band in just jeans and T-shirts these days as it just looks like they haven’t put any effort into it, which is fine but I love it when our fans get dressed up to one of our shows as they know we will have pulled out all the stops too.”
VIDEO: Gabby Young And Other Animals - All In This Together:
Gabby Young And Other Animals are at the Plough Arts Centre, Torrington on Thursday, February 14 and Friday, February 15, 7pm. Tickets: £30 (adult), £27 (concession), £25 (Plough supporter) includes a two-course meal served in the club.
Balcony seats at 8.30pm without food. Tickets: £15 (adult), £13 (concession). Box office: 01805 624624.