Back in July, my friend and I went on our annual week trip to Montreal. Never mind the fact that we’d been two months prior, the excursion was needed and well deserved. It was our week of rest and relaxation, and we treated it as such. On the train ride to the city it suddenly dawned on me that our adventure required a centerpiece, a soundtrack of some sort. So, I proposed ggwendolyn’s EP, nancy and the crooked cowboy and, as expected, it stuck.
Two weeks later, after having internalized and re-internalized the project as much as one could ever - which isn’t nearly enough - I found myself sitting screen to screen with the one and only, ggwendolyn. That afternoon we spoke about a little bit of everything; her start in music, the making of the EP, and the all mighty power of songwriting.
ggwendolyn first made her interest in music known when she was about 12 years old. Her sister was dating a songwriter when she heard a young ggwendolyn singing Adele. As ggwendolyn recalls, the interaction went a little bit like this: “do you like doing that” her sister asked, “Yeah, I do.”
The following year her sister introduced her to a songwriter and as the story goes a star was born. As she took a stab at professional songwriting and even attended her first sessions, these days turned out to be incredibly informative to ggwendolyn’s future as a singer-songwriter. “...I was learning kind of what it meant to be a songwriter in LA” she explains, “ I cut my teeth just writing songs, like really really pop songs, and kind of learning how to craft a song. It wasn’t until the last few years, when I started to produce, that I really kind of came into my artistic sound. At first I just kind of approached music as a writer; writing the best story or feeling that I wanted to make [in] that moment.”
In her youth, ggwendolyn found herself to be quite shy and introverted. At a loss of ways to express her inner thoughts and feelings she eventually turned to songwriting. Storytelling became a safe haven for her younger self to be as expressive as she wanted. “I was, like, 12 years old writing about heartbreak” she explains. And although she admits that, at the time, she didn't know much about the sentiment, it didn’t stop her from building fantasies of her own. Today, while the inspiration behind her music seems to come to her incidentally, her pen has only grown sharper. “It comes from like this higher power,” she passionately concludes of her writing process, “sometimes I will write a song and I [won’t] even remember writing it (...) it’s so corny to say, but I feel like making music is like the closest thing to magic.”
While some might be quick to turn a cynical back to the previous statement, nancy & the crooked cowboy only goes to show the fruits of ggwendolyn’s musical mysticism. A five track EP, which includes a cover of Fugazi’s “I’m So Tired,” nancy and the crooked cowboy packages themes like desire, emotional ruts, and love into a short, and yet powerful project.
An undeniable source of praise, and more importantly pride ggwendolyn reflects on her feelings almost three months post release, “I feel really proud of it. Like genuinely, I just feel like it was the first thing of music that I’ve made where every single song just feels like the most accurate representation of where I was when I was making that music.” Beyond the crystal clear representation of ggwendolyn circa 2021 reflected throughout the EP, she also reveals that she still resonates with each song on the project, a feeling she recognizes “usually goes away pretty quickly.”
Created in partnership with Ryan Raines, for the most part, nancy and the crooked cowboy first saw the light of day in a cabin in Mammoth. Woven out of stillness and sporadic bouts of inspiration, ggwendolyn recalls their creation process being somewhat close to what I could only describe as a perpetual Big Bang. “There would be, like, hours where we would just be [apart] and we wouldn’t talk” she explains, “But then we would, like, come together and start making stuff. That was kind of where those songs first were made.” Amid the chaos and fun, songs like “orion,” which emerged from a play on Ryan’s name (oh Ryan), and “my year of rest and relaxation” were born, while “crooked cowboy” only came about on a separate trip. Conceived in a cabin, backdropped by Joshua Tree, “crooked cowboy” came to be in all its rustic-infused glory, and so did the name of the EP - Nancy being the owner of the cabin.
Much of the magic found in the project could be accredited to the settings in which each song was created. Away from peers expectations and unavoidable doubts, Ryan and ggwendolyn were able to plant the seeds for the project in fertile and boundless grounds.
“Honestly, in a perfect world, every time I make a project, I would like to go away for some time, and then start it. Once you get back to LA you can go and finish it,” says the singer as she reflects on the experience. “You get to not be caught up in what people think, and I think that was really evident in making nancy. Ryan and I were just making music without any thought of, ‘I wonder if anyone’s gonna like this’ (...) I think it just yields for the best.”
Now that nancy and the crooked cowboy is finished, polished, and available to stream, there are two things on ggwendolyn's mind; the next project and live music. “I’m getting a band together [at] the moment,” she admits when asked about the prospect of touring. As most artists would acknowledge, working on the studio version of a record and performing live are two different beasts, one ggwendolyn’ looking forward to facing in the near future. “It’s exciting, I found some really amazing players. And I kind of really want to treat it like we are a band, even though my music is me as a solo artist.”
As she continues to find ways to cultivate her thoughts into musical odysseys, ggwendolyn is hoping to do the same with her career and musical collaborators, “it’s the kind of things where I want, you know, my career to span the next decades, and I would like to grow with the people I start with.”