“I Hope” was just the beginning.
Meaning, it may have been Gabby Barrett’s history-making No. 1 debut single after climbing to the top of the ranks on American Idol, but it’s just a tiny sliver of the kind of country music she has up her sleeve.
When Barrett gave CMT.com the chance to talk about her upcoming album Goldmine, it was obvious that she is eager to share more than just her voice with the world. She wants to share her stories.
In a phone call from Nashville, where Barrett was getting ready for the album’s release on Friday (June 19), the conversation started with her honest approach to songwriting and ended with how she feels about her Lord.
CMT.com: After watching you on American Idol, and seeing you everywhere ever since, it’s obvious that you’ve been singing forever. But the songwriting part of the equation seems like it’s new for you? What’s that been like?
Barrett: There’s a lot to learn in Nashville. This town is just filled with amazing, talented, smart people, so it’s been an honor to be part of that community and to have everyone open their arms wide to me. I’ve been told that it’s a ten-year process, but I’ve only lived her for seven months so it’s nice to shorten that time.
Was this album the first time you sat down to write a song? Actually, make that 12 songs?
I used to dabble in songwriting, but I wasn’t very good. When I was about 11 years old, I wrote a song with my dad. Then in high school I started more writing. One song — “Young Blood” — was even played on the radio station in Pittsburgh. But now, being brought into these songwriting sessions, has shown me how to formulate a song. And I’ve learned that the songs that are most genuine to you are the ones that end up lasting the longest.
One of your co-writers, Jon Nite, told me that when you were writing “I Hope,” you stopped him and Zach Kale and said, “You guys. It’s too nice. Girls I know aren’t that nice.” He seemed to really appreciate your perspective and your honesty. He called the song “the nicest brutal song ever.”
I remember that day. I was very shy, because I knew Jon Nite was a big deal. He and Zach (Kale) first had the idea of writing about a relationship that goes bad, but the girl still wishes him well. So I channeled a situation I was in in high school, and told them how it really felt when I was the one who was done wrong. Getting to be in the room with these songwriters was the best part, because I don’t like writing by myself. I like to bounce ideas of other people.
Was it hard to speak up and share ideas when you were the new girl in the room?
It was, because I’m an introvert. I’m not the kind of person who walks in a room and is just like, “Hi everybody!” I’m more somebody who is quiet and who isn’t good at starting conversations.
If you’re an introvert, auditioning on American Idol at 17 must’ve taken all kinds of courage. And then Luke Bryan told you, “When you try to sound country, you don’t sound country.” How did that feel?
I didn’t really understand what he meant, because I like country music and it’s what I’ve been singing for the last six years. I figured out how I wanted to sound, even though I grew up in the city, and may not have all the southern attributes that county music has had, I just liked to sing it. So when he said that after I’d done Carrie Underwood’s “Good Girl,” I was just like, “Oh. Well, okay.” But his comment didn’t stop me from performing what I wanted to perform on the show. And he ended up liking it.
(So much so, Bryan even brought Barrett onstage during one of his shows in her hometown of Pittsburgh, and together they did his, “Most People Are Good.”)
When you were growing up, and kind of discovered that you’d been blessed with a voice, when did you realize country was the place for you? Which songs were the pivotal ones?
It wasn’t so much that it was a specific song, but more just the songs and stories of country music. And I listened to all of the classics, like George Strait, Marty Robbins, Glen Campbell, Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn.
I feel like all of those voices come through in your voice. But with “I Hope,” that’s a very modern kind of country story, which clearly stood out for country listeners. Knowing how well you did with your first song right out of the gate, how are you feeling about your follow-up, “The Good Ones”?
I don’t know if I’ll ever have another song like “I Hope.” But I’m completely fine with that. I’m just excited to release “The Good Ones” because it’s a cool look into my life. If “I Hope” was a taste of my past, then “The Good Ones” is a look at my present. It has a message for the people who liked “I Hope”: not all men are bad ones. There are good ones out there.
Barrett wrote this one with Kale, Emily Landis and Jim McCormick:
Even though you change it from time to time, your bio on social media always starts with something about being a follower of Christ. Recently you had Philippians 3:8-10 in your bio. What is it about that part of the bible that defines you?
It’s because I find the Lord very, very centered and important in my life. And that is something that is important over anything, over all, and over music. The Lord always comes first in our lives, and then everything else comes second. And so with my music and with my platform, I have places to talk about the Lord and His goodness. That’s what I post about all the time. Your bio explains who you are, and I would count everything as knowing Him. The Lord is just so good that He allows this to happen, and He has given me so many blessings with this music. I just love Him the most and glorify Him the most.
Goldmine Track Listing:
1. “I Hope” (Gabby Barrett, Zach Kale, Jon Nite)
2. “Thank God” (Barrett, Nicolle Galyon, Nite, Jimmy Robbins)
3. “Write It on My Heart” (Barrett, Ross Copperman, Josh Osborne)
4. “Footprints on the Moon” (Barrett, Kale, Nite)
5. “You’re the Only Reason” (Barrett, Copperman, Josh Kear)
6. “Goldmine” (Galyon, Caitlyn Smith, Liz Rose)
7. “The Good Ones” (Barrett, Kale, Emily Landis, Jim McCormick)
8. “Jesus & My Mama” (Barrett, Kale, Cliff Downs, Marti Dodson)
9. “Hall of Fame” (Barrett, Adam Doleac, Trannie Anderson, Kale)
10. “Got Me” feat. Shane & Shane (Barrett, Kale, Shane Barnard, Cade Foehner, Bryan Fowler)
11. “Rose Needs a Jack” (Barrett, Kale, Joe Clemmons)
12. “Strong” (Barrett, Emily Weisband, Copperman)
13. “I Hope” feat. Charlie Puth (Barrett, Kale, Nite, Charlie Puth)