We had the good fortune of connecting with Gabbi Coenen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gabbi, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
The work/life balance has been a huge challenge for me to figure out recently, especially since my work and life are so blurred together as a freelance musician and artist. Sometimes my “work” doesn’t feel like work at all! Other times, especially with teaching private lessons, it can quickly become exhausting both mentally and vocally. Having had so much time off last year from my usual gig schedule, when things started to open up again, I struggled at first with overloading my plate with music teaching jobs to make up for lost time and all the income I’d missed out on when the gig industry shut down last year. I ended up working 7 days a week and got completely overwhelmed and burnt out, with no time to focus on my own songwriting and artistic goals. Since that realization, I’ve made it a point to schedule days off. I need breaks away from “work” to recharge and become reinspired, and to have something to write about.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m a vocalist, songwriter, bassist, pianist and music teacher originally from Perth, Australia, who moved to LA last year after 9 years in NYC. Music has been a part of my life since I was 4 years old when I started taking piano lessons, along the way picking up bass and singing in various choirs and musicals. By the time I was thinking about going to university, it just made sense for me to pursue music since it was the thing I’d been doing for the longest and knew I was best at. So I studied jazz voice in college, first in Perth, then transferring to a college in NYC. I started releasing music independently as RVBY MY DEAR in 2014, and I released my debut album Waiting on vinyl and digital in 2019, which ended up on Trip-Hop Nation’s Best of 2019 list. Aside from that project, I teach private voice and piano lessons, sing in professional church and choral ensembles, topline for other producers, and since moving to LA have started co-writing with other songwriters, which I absolutely love. I’ll sing anything really! Being an independent artist and a freelancer comes with many challenges – income is always fluctuating, and I don’t have a manager to take care of the business side of being an artist – but I’ve learned how to embrace the challenges, become my own advocate, and diversify my musical skillset so I can work and perform in many different kinds of settings.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The great thing about LA is that there’s something for everyone – whether you’re into outdoorsy stuff or just chilling at a bar, there’s so many options. As cheesy as it is, I would probably start with one of those Hollywood Star bus tours – I did one on my first visit to LA and it was a super-efficient way to see all the touristy parts of the city in one go. For coffee there’s no place better than Little Ripper, an Aussie-owned café in Glassell Park (they have jaffles too!). If my friend wanted to go hiking I would take them to either the Brush Canyon trail in Griffith Park or Zuma Canyon, after which we could hit the beach. For shopping I’d take them to the Grove, where we could get lunch at the farmer’s market. For books we’d go to Skylight Books in Los Feliz and Secret Headquarters in Silverlake, after which we could eat at Pine & Crane. For live music (whenever that becomes a thing again!), I’d take them to The Satellite, The Echoplex, Zebulon or The Hotel Café. And of course, no trip to LA is complete without a stop at Amoeba Music, and walking around the Griffith Observatory at sunset.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to dedicate my shoutout to my small but mighty community of female musicians and artists here in LA. Having other women in the industry to reach out to when I need advice or just someone to hang out with has been invaluable since moving here.
Main photo: Larufoto Photo 1: Breakthru Radio Photo 2: Michelle Rose Photo 3 & 4: Ebru Yildiz