Gayle on her breakthrough debut single abcdefu and defying pop star expectations: "I like it when people underestimate me"
There are subtle break up songs, and then there is the line "f*ck you and your mom, and your sister and your job. Everybody but your dog, you can all f*ck off."
So goes the anthemic chorus of Gayle's abcdefu, the major label debut single by the 17 year old Texas-born pop prodigy currently sitting at Number 2 on the Official Singles Chart. You'll find it nestled between Adele's Easy On Me and Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You. Festive, right?
It's been a very busy three weeks in that sense for Gayle - who only earned her first UK Top 40 chart entry with abcdefu, which has blown up massively on TikTok. Indebted to pop-rock innovators of the past like Avril Lavigne and Paramore, whilst also joining a new class of female singer-songwriters turning their angst into chart-topping tunes (Julia Michaels, Olivia Rodrigo) Gayle seems both of the past, but of the right here, right now.
We hopped on the phone with Gayle, currently on her first-ever tour in the US - to get to the heart of her incredible breakout year...and to also find out what's next.
Hi Gayle! First of all, congratulations. As we speak, you're Number 2 on the Official Singles Chart. How are you feeling?
It's absolutely mind-blowing, you know? When you release something, you don't know if it's good or if people will like it and I thought with [the hook] "a, b, c, d, e, forget you" I felt like people would either like it or think it was stupid. I'm very happy that some people didn't.
Was this song always going to be the song to launch you after signing your deal, or did you have several other options we're yet to hear?
I've been writing specifically for this project for three years. I've been really focused. There were definitely a few other songs that came around [that tempted me] but for abcdefu, we had to find the right production. It took a little bit to find it. [As we were doing that] I was thinking about this one other song, but then we finished the production. I was like yes, we have to do it.
It's funny you say that because with a song like this - it could so easily tip into a parody, or be too mean.
That's even what lead to the song having several other versions [these include mixes titled Angry, Chill and the demo recording]. The Angry version has more electric guitars and crowd noises. I think [the song itself] has so many emotional lanes, so I just chose them all. Let's do it. All of it.
The single has only been charting in the UK for three weeks at this point, so its growth is really explosive. What do you think people are connecting to?
I think everyone has that one person in their life they want to tell to f*ck off. Everyone has that experience where they wish they'd said something different, or at least I have. It's the closest I'm gonna get. I tried to suppress my emotions, I wanted to be a nice person because I thought that's what's better in the long run. But not processing those emotions made me really angry, because I didn't let myself get angry. It came out in this really extreme way. You need to feel your emotions because they're going to catch up with you at some point.
We also heard for the music video, you mocked up a house to look as close to your ex's as possible...
We really went for the attention detail. This is a fun fact, I actually had a pair of his underwear and I put it in the video.
Fun chart fact for you here, Gayle: there are 14 Christmas songs inside the UK Top 40 this week, and then you at Number 2.
Telling someone to f*ck off? It's in the Christmas holiday spirit!
What most people won't know is that this isn't some instant success for you or the track - abcdefu originally dropped in August, so it's taken a little while to climb. How has that felt for you?
Even when it wasn't doing well on TikTok or even on the radio, I was happy with how it was doing. It posted a video of abc before it came out and it did decently on TikTok. It hit, like, a million streams in a month, that was my highest-streamed song ever. It could have stopped there and I would have been like, this is amazing! But it kept doing its thing, it kept going, which is mind-blowing.
I'm sure you're aware that after the success of this song a lot of people will want to put you in a box and define what you do and who you are - when you're a singer-songwriter first and foremost. Like Olivia Rodrigo, Avril Lavinge...
I'm looking forward to people making assumptions about me and getting to prove them wrong. I'm looking forward to people not making assumptions. But I'm stubborn, if you tell me I can't do something, that's not going to work well for anybody. I like it when people underestimate me.
In all this chaos, have you found time to work on any other stuff?
There is a body of work coming...I'm excited to show people another side to me. Even with abcdefu, this song only happened because I loved this person so much. So there will be songs about loving someone to extremes. I'm excited to show people different perspectives. One emotion leads into another.
Can you give us three hints about your next single?
It has f*ck in the title. It's a love song. I talk about wanting to kill somebody.
We're sensing a theme here! One last question for you, Gayle, and one we're sure every listener of the song wants to know. What kind of dog did your ex have?
Oh my gosh. It was like a mutt. It was a Shiba Inu, combined with something else. It was the cutest little thing ever. I miss it! Everything else was terrible. But not the dog.
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