First Look Friday: Gavin Turek Interview
First Look Friday: Gavin Turek Interview
Photo of Gavin Turek taken by James Malone of Tunnel Vision Fotos for Okayplayer.

First Look Friday: Get A Good Look At Singer-Songwriter Gavin Turek

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Photo Credit: James Malone of Tunnel Vision Fotos for Okayplayer.

Upon first hearing this week's First Look Friday subject, Gavin Turek, your ears might have told your brain, "Hey, she sounds familiar!" And trust us, you wouldn't be wrong, as the talented Los Angeles native has worked with Tuxedo (Mayer Hawthorne Jake One) and TOKiMONSTA in previous years with much success. It was when we heard her Surrender remixes project from last year that prompted us to reach out with an interview request. So, imagine our surprise when the plug made it possible to not only speak with the curly coiffured cutie, but confirmed that she would enter into the hallowed halls of OKP HQ.

Arriving early and armed to the brim with positivity, Gavin was a bright ray of sunshine on what was a cold, muggy morning photoshoot in Brooklyn. Immediately, what impacted our photographer, James Malone, was her toned legs — the mark of a trained dancer. Singing riffs in-between snaps, Gavin quietly flexed her vocal skills and rapped with us about her time spent in Harlem, showcasing her acting charisma that will surely take her from the studio to the soundstage. If you were snoozing on this artist, please pop in The Break-Up Tape and get familiar quickly. Gavin is equally skilled at writing songs as she is singing them, so listening to songs like "Good Look For You," "On The Line" and "Hemisphere" are peeks into her diary so to speak.

With that said, Gavin Turek is smart, revealing and funny in this First Look Friday interview where she talks about her influences, how music helped with the traumas of last year and shares what she's learned about herself since entering the music biz. Below, we have a premiere track called "The Distance," where you can see just where 2017 is going to take her. Enjoy!

Okayplayer: To music snobs the world over, you are making an impact. What is it that those in Los Angeles are seeing and hearing that the rest of the world has yet to discover?

Gavin Turek: That is quite a claim! I feel like I am just beginning to find my stride, so that is encouraging to hear. I love making music and making people happy when I perform. I give each show everything I got! My shows are never perfect, but they are unapologetic, energetic and from my heart. I have had some (sur)real moments with people in Los Angeles while being on stage. We have developed a special relationship that I hope to bring to the rest of the world.

OKP: For those who have a passion for music, they honed their skills and practiced their craft. Who are your most cherished influences in music and why?

GT: I am truly influenced by artists whose work ethic, character and willingness to take risks are evident in their art, their shows and their lives. Michael JacksonDonna Summer, Diana Ross and Prince all really impacted me at a young age and I look to all of them for inspiration in my performance and persona. Their musicality, confidence, presence, skill and ability to connect with their audiences in a magical way is something I aspire to. I also think Nile Rodgers and James Murphy are simply geniuses and my musical godfathers (they just don't know it yet). FeistYukumi Nagano and Chaka Khan are my favorite vocalists.

OKP: Your song, “On The Line” is an extremely dope + creative cover and has heightened anticipation for new work from you by music snobs who have a heavy presence in the industry. Can you talk about how life was for you while developing as an artist? How did you react to your first bits of press?

GT: You know I would consider myself a confident woman in general, but being an artist is pretty much committing yourself to a constant state of uncertainty. Development has been extremely vulnerable, so much trial and error. I have made so many mistakes, but I believe anything worth pursuing requires you to fight and that's exactly what "On The Line" is about. I never know how people are going to respond to what I do. I was shocked when we went #1 on Hype Machine and literally screamed when I heard the song on the radio for the first time! No outcome or response is guaranteed, so every write up and ounce of love from the press and new fans is surprising and I'm so, so grateful for it.

OKP: With incidents involving people of color, police and racist occurring almost on a daily basis around the globe — how can your music (and/or others) help to relieve the trauma that is being experienced by the masses?

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Photo Credit: James Malone of Tunnel Vision Fotos for Okayplayer.

GT: This year has been so heavy. The sadness is palpable especially in communities that I circulate. I remember the week that Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were killed and those videos were being shared everywhere. I was on my way to perform at a show in L.A. and my mom, sisters and I were on the phone literally crying and praying together. I'm just devastated and scared for the black men in our family. I decided [at that moment] that more than anything that show had to be a love fest. I was determined that in spite of the pain and sadness the audience was feeling, we would dance and laugh together.

At one point of the show, I made everyone take the hand of the person next to them and say, "I love you." It is funny because we had a lot of technical difficulties during that show, but it was the most loving and hopeful audience and show that I have had [so far]. I want all of my shows to be safe, loving spaces where people feel free and accepted. I think that is my job as a performer.

OKP: What have been the most definitive obstacles that you’ve overcome in your career thus far?

GT: I think that the toughest part of all of this is to keep moving forward despite the fear, rejection and uncertainty. Even if I win 10 Grammys and I have a massive world tour — those struggles don't just disappear. I felt like the better I get at handling it now, the healthier I will be when bigger opportunities come [my way].

OKP: Can you also talk about the importance of the music industry scene as how you’ve experienced it? How do you see it evolving in the next five years?

GT: The music industry is constantly evolving [and changing]. There is no longer [just] one way to gain a fan base and start making money as an artist. There is a billion! I think [that] the power dynamic will continue to shift towards artists and fans as opposed to major labels and execs. More and more artists are taking control of their careers, owning their own music and doing things their own way. It is inspiring and intimidating.

OKP: What are some things that you’ve learned about yourself that comes out in your music?

GT: I think any relationship can act as a mirror, reflecting flaws or beauty back to the other. Music is my mirror. It shows me aspects of my personality I try to ignore. My sensitivity, my pride, my insecurities, my sadness... it all comes out in the process and sometimes it comes out in my songs. I've also learned how resilient and perseverant I am! I have had plenty of opportunities and reasons to give up and I haven't. Both the art and the business are incredibly revealing.

OKP: What were some moments from your recent travels that will forever stick with you? Why?

GT: I think one of my favorite recent experiences was when I went to Japan for the first time with Tuxedo (the disco-funk band I'm in with Mayer Hawthorne and Jake One) to perform at one of Japan's largest music festivals. It was my first time in Japan and I had no idea what to expect from the audience. Our first show was a packed crowd right on the beach. I remember being so shocked that the audience mimicked almost every dance move I did! It felt like they were in the palm of our hands. They were so excited and engaged in a way that I had never experienced before, it blew my mind to witness a sea of people smiling and dancing to your music on the other side of the world.

OKP: What was the first song that you ever wrote entitled? Can you talk about what it has come to symbolize since you’ve entered into the professional life?

GT: Believe it or not I started writing songs when I was five-or-six-years-old. I remember sitting in the kitchen while my mom cooked, just coming up with melodies and lyrics constantly. I think the first complete songs [that] I wrote were with my sister Hana called "Superman" and "Heart 2 Heart". They are definitely on a tape deck somewhere. Although I got serious about writing when I was a teenager, writing those songs as a little girl with my sister means so much to me because we still collaborate and create together today. She is truly my greatest asset and supporter. I wouldn't be pursuing music if it wasn't for her encouragement.

OKP: How can your music speak truth to power in an age where people are so quickly digesting sounds and disposing of artists in a nanosecond?

First Look Friday: Gavin Turek Interview Photo Credit: James Malone of Tunnel Vision Fotos for Okayplayer.

GT: I think being free and confident on stage is the best way I can empower people to also love themselves and feel good in their own skin. Self-love is contagious and that is what people need the most. I also hope my music serves as an escapism for people. It is nice to get lost in a good pop song and forget your troubles for four minutes.

OKP: Collaboration is uniquely a key to the success of certain creative individuals who wish to change the game. Who would you want to work with this year going into the next and why?

GT: I agree. I would love to collaborate with Nile Rodgers and Mark Ronson this year. They are both so in line with my own musical tastes and influences, I just think [that] it would be magic. Kaytranada and Blood Orange [Dev Hynes] are also at the top of my list. Their latest albums were instant classics and they are such powerful, beautiful individuals who are seemingly unafraid to be themselves. I want to work with people like that.

OKP: What is the overall message that Gavin Turek is trying to present in her music?

GT: Enjoy yourself, your life, your time, your body, your friends, your music, your family… to just protect your joy.

OKP: Can you break down the inspiration behind the “Good Look For You” song you created? Could you speak on the creation and production of that song for the masses?

GT: I met the producer for "Good Look For You," Tim K., last year working on a project for another artist and I just had a feeling that we were gonna work together more. After months and months of trying to schedule a session, we finally did and "Good Look" was the first song we wrote together. We both really love Chaka Khan and were listening to her before we started working, so it kind of set the tone for "Good Look". I finished writing the lyrics pretty quickly after he laid the drums and the bass. At first, I wrote, "Baby, you know that I'm good for you," and Tim was basically like, "You can do better." I changed it to "Baby, I'll be that good look for you," and [from then on] we knew it was fiyah [laughs]!

OKP: How do you see yourself changing the music industry for the better versus all of the bad stuff that goes on within it?

GT: I personally think [that] my role in the industry is fairly simple: to be myself. The more comfortable I get with myself, the more comfortable others will be in their own skin when they're around me. The more joy I have, the more joy I will have to give whether I am on stage or in a business meeting. The change starts in those moments and one-on-one interactions. When you're full of love, it is easy to give it to strangers, peers or fans. That is what this industry needs more than anything.

OKP:  How do you get over any anxiety before hitting the stage to perform live? What are some lessons or tips that you’ve learned from others about doing a stage show?

GT: [Laughs] I am still working on that! I do have a ritual though... I usually start by warming up my body. Lots of stretching and then I move on to this African dance-inspired workout video I found on YouTube. I look ridiculous, but I love it. It gets me really warm and then I pray with my mom or someone I love backstage. I also jump around a bit to shake out the nerves and then I go! I have learned that great performers usually take a time to meditate and pray alone before then I go on stage, refocusing the heart and mind on its purpose and to visualize the show.

OKP: If the reader’s learned one thing from this First Look Friday chat with Gavin Turek — what would it be?

GT: I am just like you. I have a dream and I am working hard towards accomplishing my dreams + goals every day. Also, I deeply care about who listens to my music.

Be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for more from Gavin Turek (and us!) by following her on Twitter @GavinTurek.