In 2018, Arthouse Music Publishing CEO Kara DioGuardi pulled GAYLE’s name out of a hat at a songwriting pop-up event in Nashville and heard the rising star perform for the premiere. time. “She had that presence and that composure that I’ve never seen in a 14-year-old,” DioGuardi recalls. “I was struck by everything. [And when] the event ended, it imprinted itself on me.
Almost a decade before GAYLE escalated the Billboard hit parade with her hit “abcdefu,” the Plano, Texas native attended her first concert – an Aretha Franklin show when she was just nine years old – which cemented her own desire to ‘a similar future. “The passion for singing and performance is rooted in the work of Aretha Franklin. [music]”, says GAYLE Billboard, also citing Nina Simone and Julia Michaels as her first musical influences. A year later, she switched to home schooling to focus on music, and at the same time, began making trips to Nashville to network – which ultimately led to her meeting with DioGuardi, who, at the end of 2018, signed GAYLE for recording and publication. dealing with Essay.
GAYLE built a modest following with a handful of independently released singles over the next few years including “Dumbass” and “Orange Peel,” but it was her creepy indie-pop track “Z” that put her on the radar. international. The visual was uploaded by a Korean YouTube account in May 2020, translated with captions, and has racked up over 700,000 views. “I was 15, so I was like, ‘This is great!
The pull caught the attention of the Korean team at Warner Music, then Atlantic Records in the US, who were already helping DioGuardi with the distribution of GAYLE. In January 2021, Atlantic, A&R president Pete Ganbarg (who first met DioGuardi 20 years previously and is also president of ATCO Records) signed with GAYLE a recording contract with the label which signed Aretha Franklin almost 60 years ago.
“I really like the development of Atlantic,” says GAYLE. “When they sign an artist, they don’t say to themselves, ‘Let’s get out of the music now. They look at someone’s potential and say, “We want to nurture and build this, and once you’re ready let’s start releasing the music.”
In the summer, GAYLE felt ready. She started teasing a first single on TikTok that summer called “abcdefu” which shamelessly gives an ex a middle finger. “We knew she came up with a song that had a real and relevant concept, so we wanted to make sure people heard it organically first,” Ganbarg said. “[From there], he started to react.
In August, the swaggering pop-punk breakout track was officially released, garnering 88,000 streams in the United States in its first week, according to Ganbarg – although it initially released more mind-blowing numbers to the world, Ganbarg claiming that it had first taken off in South Korea and China, followed by Taiwan and Malaysia and finally from Europe and the United States
The following month, in September, GAYLE released three more versions of “abcdefu”, including renditions named after a different vibe (“anger” and “cold”) as well as its original demo. The maneuver extended the life of the song among listeners – a familiar move used by chart-topping artists such as Taylor Swift (“All Too Well”) and BTS (“Butter”). “The strategy behind releasing multiple versions of the song came from GAYLE itself,” said Ganbarg. “It’s amazing to see such a young artist who really understands her audience and what they want, sometimes way before us.”
“Each version brought something different,” adds GAYLE. “I came to Atlantic to do [multiple releases]. They did not question it. It’s something that I really enjoyed working with Atlantic: they don’t tell me what to do. I’m too control freak, I’m too stubborn. They’re like, ‘Tell us what you want to do, and we’ll help you do it.
In December, GAYLE marked their first entry on the Billboard Hot 100 when “abcdefu” debuted at No.51, simultaneously leading Billboardranking of emerging artists. During the week of Dec. 16, the track collected 78.5 million on-demand streams in the United States and 312 million on-demand streams globally, according to MRC Data. The success has since reached 15th place on the Hot 100, as well as a peak of 2nd place on the Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart as of January 1.
“I feel immense gratitude for the people [relating to] the story of when I was really hurt and angry, [but] I didn’t even know I had the right to be angry, ”she says. “[I’m] trying to give people a safe space to be angry and deal with their own emotions – i want to create a culture that is more tolerant and more receptive to your feelings.
Fueled by its exponential year-end rise, GAYLE is now focusing on the year to come: it will perform on Tonight’s Show with Jimmy Fallon on January 5th, and working on finishing their next releases, including the cheeky next track “ur just horny” with an EP due out in the spring. As DioGuardi says: “If you think she’s just ‘abcdefu’ you’re going to be very surprised. It’s much bigger than a single song.
A version of this story will appear in the January 15, 2022 issue of Billboard.