Biography

Her voice is a flash to the heart. With her three albums, Still the Unknown (2008) , Illustrated Songs (2011), Postales (2012) and the EP, A Good Old Christmas (2010), we can give account of that, for the stunning, sweet and firm voice she possesses, with blues as a reference and soul-folk as a detail. Besides, Gaby Moreno slowly cooks the songs written by her, providing them with an endearing charm based on sober instrumentation, elegant harmonies and an unexpected timbre, so that in every performance she lights, without difficulty, a beautiful fire in the heart of the listener.

A Clear Destiny

Before she was born and from her mother’s womb, she was already sending signals that music belonged to her. At the age of 5 , she had etched in her mind the lyrics of songs from children’s tales or Spanish zarzuelas, and at the age of 7 she impressed her first singing teacher, Marina Prado Bolaños. At the age of 10, she stole unanimous ovations when she stepped on a stage and sang for the first time. Shortly after that, she showed an affinity for the saxophone-the guitar came incidentally. At the end, this last instrument became her faithful friend. But it wasn’t until she was 13 years old when she experienced one of the biggest shakes of her life. On a family vacation, walking down the streets of Times Square in New York, she stopped and her attention was taken away by the intense voice from an African-American woman in a rhythm and style that was completely new to her. She just waited for the break to ask the woman: What are you singing?  -“It’s the Blues, Honey”, she answered.

Since then, her footprint is undeniable. And so, Gaby bought compulsively whatever she could find of blues albums. It started with Koko Taylor and it hit rock bottom with Robert Johnson and Huddie Ledbetter. And, as one thing led to another, Jazz, Soul, sixties Rock, The Beatles, The Kinks and Harry Nilsson, among many others, ended up conforming the creative materials which served her to write her own songs and sing them.

 

Record Companies Offers

Thanks to the interest manifested by the record company Warner Bros. to sign her at 17 years old, Moreno moved to Los Angeles, California. In between the arrangements of her contract and the preparations of the record, the company was sold to AOL Time Warner, Inc. This action aborted all the projects and Moreno ended up without any recording. In order not to miss the opportunity of staying in this city, she began her studies at Musicians Institute.

In 2001, she regains interest from a major label, this time Sony Music. She was signed by Tommy Mottola, pop music industry’s mogul and mentor of Carly Simon, Diana Ross and Mariah Carey. In some sort of scandal fashion, Mottola abandoned Sony Music on August 2003. This departure injured the careers of various artists including Moreno´s. At that moment, she had a year and a half already in the project, had already written the songs and finished all the pre production.

A new Dawn

After participating in musicals like Hair and The Return; lending her voice to the soundtrack of the movie Fred Claus; and working for the publishing company “Famous Music”, where she devoted herself to writing songs, time ratified her musical vein as an accomplished songwriter. Proof of that was when the song Escondidos was selected by the jury as “Song of the Year” in the Latin category of the “John Lennon Songwriting Contest” (2006).  In 2008 she performs at the CES convention in Las Vegas for the inauguration of the “Educational Lennon Bus”, with Yoko Ono present.

The baggage of experiences both professional and personal and the uncanny desire to record her first album helped her make it real. In these circumstances, she recorded her first album “Still the Unknown”. This is how, for the first time, she leaves a mark of her artistic capacity, which brought in Tracy Chapman to invite her as supporting act for her North American tour. Same happened with Ani DiFranco.

Her success and achievements grew in 2010. After recording the song Smile, (original music by Charlie Chaplin) for the documentary film The Cove, which was awarded with an Oscar by the Academy that same year, the name Gaby Moreno reappears as a composer in the nomination of the “Outstanding Main Title Theme Music” category at the “Primetime Emmy Awards”, for her co-authoring in the main theme of the television series “Parks and Recreation”.

Also in 2010, she participated in one of the most prestigious and long time rock festivals in Denmark, “Roskilde”, where she emotively sang in front of 17,000 people accompanied by the Youth Radio Symphony of Denmark, directed by the legendary pianist, composer and producer, Van Dyke Parks. And as if nothing had ever happened, the next year without any push or support from a label, her independently released sophomore album “Illustrated Songs” reached #1 in sales on Latin Itunes and Amazon Latin. That led her to many concerts in the U.S. and Europe, in countries like France, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. She had already performed in some of these cities, but in August and September of 2011, she toured them including a performance in the “Harleem Jazz Festival” in the Netherlands and “Jazz A Vienne” in France.

International Push

In 2012, Gaby Moreno entered with strong pace to the Latin-American music scene, thanks to the invitation extended by her fellow countryman and one of the most successful Latin American artists of all time, Ricardo Arjona, to record the duet “Fuiste Tu”. The song garnered great acceptance among the audience as well as two Latin Grammy nominations for “Song of The Year” and “Recording Of The Year”.  A “Tour de Force” followed stopping in more than 20 countries and having over 1 million people in attendance in the American continent.

Gaby released her third album “Postales” (under Arjona’s label Metamorfosis). This album differs from her previous two in that it is completely in Spanish. Still keeping intact her influences of blues, soul and jazz.

In parallel, the singer continues to consolidate the English speaking market. She performed on Jay Leno’s show on NBC, right next to stars like Kris Kristofferson, Jonny Lang and Shawn Mullins. It was here where the new exclusively debuting song “Toast to Freedom” commemorating half a century of existence for Amnesty International was performed.  After that TV appearance, she headed to Dublin, Ireland to perform at the “Electric Burma” concert, in homage to the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi. On the Embassy of Conscience award ceremony, Moreno sang first Toast to Freedom, the commemorative song for Amnesty International, along with African born and Grammy award winner Angelique Kidjo and afterwards she sang “Get Up, Stand Up”, Bob Marley’s classic song, along Bono himself (U2), Angelique Kidjo, Bob Geldolf and the Irish folk pop singer Damien Rice. After that, she stopped in England, where she once again sang along legendary musician Van Dyke Parks, but this time adding Daniel Rossen (Grizzly Bear) and Robin Pecknold (Fleet Foxes) to the concert at the prestigious Barbican Theatre.

Those are the highlights shining in the already intense artistic life of Gaby Moreno, where she demonstrates that emotional fire in which she impregnates her songs. That’s the result of authenticity and clarity carried forward, and a conscientious, disciplinary work in pursue of forming a unique sound, touching, free and brave.

 

Jorge Sierra – Arts Critic