Gabe Roland talks with HipHopMyway
Originally from Kansas City, Gabe Roland is an up-and-coming hip-hop artist based in Los Angeles who is determined to make a name for himself in the industry. To an extent, he already has: he’s worked on musical projects with the likes of Queen Latifah, toured with Justin Timberlake, and even been nominated for a Grammy for his work. HipHopMyWay got the chance to speak with Roland and discuss his come-up as well as what he plans to do in the future. Here’s what he had to say in our exclusive interview!
Roland’s Musical Journey
HipHopMyWay: I want to know all about your musical journey. How did you know that this is what you wanted to do?
Gabe: I have been obsessed with music my entire life. I love it. I love the way it makes me feel, I love what I’ve seen it do for others. Like many, many of us, the first time I saw Michael Jackson, I was like, “that’s the coolest thing ever, and I want to do that.” I’ve always kind of had a knack for playing instruments, I play piano, I play drums, I play guitar. You can always find me off somewhere, doing one of those things.
It was funny, you know, I would do it and my mom would say, “Gabe I got a call from a teacher today in school, they told me you were moonwalking on the lunchroom tables at lunch!” And you were like, “Yeah, I was.” You know? Just little stuff like that was always unavoidable.
I just had to give it a shot; I had to know. I’m from Kansas, and a lot of people don’t really go for it where I’m from, and I just had to know for myself. So I was like, “Alright, this is it, to getting a shot.”
So, what helped out was, I had got robbed. I was like, “Okay, I would definitely would hate to meet my aunt before I see what this is all about, so let’s do this,” and I’ve been pushing ever since.
HHMW: So that’s when you moved to L.A. — when was that?
Gabe: That was… 2012? 2013?
HHMW: Have you seen it make a positive difference in your career so far?
Gabe: Yeah, it has. What I love about L.A. is that there’s nothing you really can’t do out here if you push and work for it. I really get inspired from just looking around my surroundings, and seeing things like small businesses. I’m like, yo, if you want, a coffee shop that serves waffles, you can open that up in L.A., and people will buy it, you know?
Say it’s a vegan coffee shop, and I bet you everybody would go there. It’s just so much opportunity out here, and the vibe is so creative. You see a lot of your friends are working just as hard as you are, if they’re actors, or they’re singers, or they’re in one form of entertainment business or another. It definitely makes a positive impact in your life, because you just know that you can do it.
I’ve been fortunate to have some great opportunities so far since I’ve been out here: touring opportunities, music opportunities, movie opportunities that my music’s been featured in, and some cool things like that. It’s been pretty rad. My music has been featured in a couple of reality shows. I’ve had one of my songs that I produced was actually featured in Best Man Holiday which came out in 2013. It got nominated for a Grammy.
The artist was Marsha Ambrosius, she got nominated for a Grammy for her performance on the record that I produced with my friend Harmony. So that was amazing. And I’ve had music featured in short films.
The Grammy Nomination
HHMW: Why don’t you tell me about being Grammy nominated? It’s a huge honor. I would love to know how you found out, the emotions that you had surrounding it… What did that feel like?
Gabe: I was in Miami at Art Basel, and I was out there with my girlfriend at the time, and we were getting some food. When I went down there, a friend of mine had a local exhibit, so she was like, “Will you perform this?” Like, of course I will. So, I was down there just trying to perform, getting my name out, and things like that.
Then my phone started blowing up: “Congratulations, Congratulations, you produced this record right?”
“Yes, yes, yes.” So I finally went to the page, and I called my boy, and I was like, “Ay man, what’s going on?”
He was like, “Yo, we got nominated for a Grammy.” And I was like, “You serious?” He’s like, “Yeah.” So was like, “Alright.”
Hung up the phone, looked at my girlfriend, and I was like “I got nominated for a Grammy.” Then I closed my eyes, I thanked God, and I shed a couple tears. I was very overcome with emotion. And then I call my mom, and my family, like “Yo, guess what y’all? Got nominated for a Grammy.” Best feeling the world.
It pushed me, it’s a feeling of validation, like, “Yo, I’m legit, and I belong here.” I belong to the level, I belong in this arena, and this proves it. It’s just up to me to keep pushing, and keep fighting for it. So since then, I’ve worked on music. I’ve done music with Queen Latifah, I’ve done music with Estelle, I’ve done music with Marsha Ambrosius, I’ve done music with Janelle Monae. We opened for Justin Timberlake all through Australia and New Zealand. I’ve collabed with Michael Jackson’s estate last year, making this incredible music. I’ve done a lot of amazing things since then because that fuel was all I needed to get to ball rolling. I’ve worked with multiple artists out of Australia that are very popular and have been featured on their music.
I’m really corny, so bear with me. You ever seen Forrest Gump? Remember that scene where they’re throwing rocks at him, he’s got those shackle-things on his legs, he’s trying to run and then they break off? And then he’s like, “Oh shit. I’m ’bout to really run now”? That’s how I felt about all of this. I was like “Okay, we’re strong now. We can we can do this.”
I released a project called “City Angel.” I wrote every record on the album, I produced every record on the album, I recorded myself on every record on the album… It’s a labor of love, but I didn’t think there were any limits because I was able to do it all. I didn’t have to wait on anybody or get anybody cleared. We could just do it ourselves. I put it out on my own, and just went running full steam ahead after. The results have been pretty good.
HHMW: So, that was your turning point right there?
Roland Tours with Justin Timberlake
HHMW: You talked a bit about this, that you went on tour with Justin Timberlake. Can you tell me how that opportunity came to be?
Gabe: Yes. We got our shot because we were in Orlando and his people caught our show, and they pick us up for the Australia/New Zealand leg of the tour. When I was there I had a lot of conversations with Justin. I mean, I had always been a fan, he’s a hero of mine. He’s incredible. But he was so approachable, he was so personable, and he would come up and just talk. He would sit with you when you’re having lunch. I’m like, “Oh my god, that’s Justin Timberlake, I don’t want to say anything,” you know?
But he would [start] the conversation all the time. If I felt like I was talking too much, I’d be like, “Oh, I’m sorry Justin, I don’t mean to take up your time,” and he’s like “Nah man, it’s okay. I’ll talk about this all day.” He shared with me some things like, his song, “Mirrors.” He’s like, “I wrote that song six years ago. Sometimes it’s just all about timing.” Just little things like that. It was like a Master Class over lunch.
HHMW: Right, like little pieces that stuck out to you, little bits of advice that maybe he didn’t even know that he was giving.
Gabe: Yeah, and he told me some things about how he constructs his shows, things that he does, the people that he has in mind when he’s making a project. He gave me some jewels and pearls of wisdom, and it was probably one of the coolest things that you never thought would’ve happened, but it happened.
HHMW: You mentioned earlier about music being an inspirational experience, it’s very emotional… What type of message is it that you want your music to give to people who listen to it?
Gabe: I really hope that the overall is something that makes people feel good, smile. If you’re having a bad day, my music’s the remedy for that. If you’re going out tonight, you want to have a good time, my music enhances that.
If you want to focus, you can find something in the music. I really hope that it’s suited for all occasions. I’m very passionate; I write about goofy things, I write about my experiences or the experiences of others. So, from talking about love, or dance, or some hot girl I saw, or the right to love who you want, it’s definitely a narration through somebody’s eyes in one way or another.