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GABBY BARRETT: THE FACE OF GEN-Z COUNTRY

By Holly Gleason

Like Carrie Underwood, Gabby Barrett is a power vocalist who launched her career on American Idol. But while Underwood went on to crush Country radio, Barrett has become a streaming tsunami—the first female country artist to exceed 10 million streams in a single week.

Her breakthrough smash “I Hope” has not only hit #1 at Country radio, it’s spent seven consecutive weeks at #1 on the country streaming charts, making Barrett the second-most-streamed country artist of 2020. A new version of the track remixed by and featuring Charlie Puth should keep the momentum going well into the summer.

Goldmine (Warner Nashville), which racked up the most first-week streams for a country debut album in history with 16.1m+, reveals an artist intent on being a role model and holding onto her church roots. With all that going on, it’s little wonder the 20-year-old from Munhall, Pa., is fired up about what the future holds.

What a difference a year makes.
A lot happened after Idol. A lot happened after I signed with Warner. And a lot just keeps happening. I feel very blessed and grateful. I’d always heard Nashville is a 10-year town, but Country radio and the country community have been really great to me. Even the single; I was told it takes 52 weeks for a new artist’s record [to peak], and “I Hope” was only 40. I am so thankful.

What is it about that song?
I believe it’s the relatability. Every single person—whether it’s personal, family, work—has been in that situation. And the way it’s built too. The chorus just swells up from the eeriness of the music, which draws you in. Then the words are so positive, so when the chorus takes that turn, it takes people by surprise.

There’s a real tension and urgency to the vocal.
We wrote it on Halloween of 2018. I was running out the door, and [co-writer] Jon Nite was like, “I wanna get a vocal on this.” So we did. It ended up being the vocal. Jon, who’s written so many hits, was so enthused when we wrote it. I never know, but he said, “This might be the biggest song of my career.”

Charlie Puth sure seemed to respond.
Apparently, he screenshot it on his Instagram and tagged me. Then he hit me up through DMs, saying “OMG! This song is killer.” I was like, “Thank you.” My sister and I were such fan girls of his in high school. When he asked, “Is there any way I can remix this?” I said, “Of course.” I had no idea he was such a producer and creative mind. When I heard what he did, heard his voice on my song, I was definitely freaking out inside. Like, “OMG, is this really real?”

And you have Shane & Shane on “Got Me.”
They’re worship singers. My husband and I were fans for years. I listened to them throughout Idol. Shane Bernard actually wrote with me; the other Shane wasn’t in Nashville. But to sing with them was amazing.

Church is a really big thing for you, isn’t it?
I was very young when I went to sing before the pastor of the [Lamb of God Church]. He took me to the ladies in their choir, who took me right in. They’d give me songs that were challenging to sing, and I enjoyed it so much. Those songs make you feel something, make you wanna get up and dance. I love gospel and Christian music. The more I grew, the more things I came in contact with, but this is absolutely a big part of who I am.

How would you describe Goldmine?
It’s all the pieces of who I am. There are times people are looking for something unshakable, and that’s definitely a big piece. All these songs were written over two years, because I really wanted to establish who I am for people. Your first album, that introduction, you can’t do again.

As a songwriter who’s a vocalist, are you creating for your range?
Melodies are my sweet spot. I know where I can take it and we go. There’s a larger range to pick from, and it’s fun to create those leaps and drops.

Is that why you called it Goldmine?
In a broader way, people who worked in gold mines say it was notoriously hard work. I feel like I really dug down to write these songs, to make this record be something that pulls people in. We live in a world where genres are bleeding into each other. What I do is country with a lot of R&B, and I wouldn’t wanna lose where I come from.

Some artists talk about those kinds of pressures.
I’m fortunate to have such a wonderful team. My management, the label, they’re absolutely 100% about me being me. It’s never, “Don’t sing about this topic,” or “Don’t say that.” They really take into consideration who I am as a person. They understand my faith and where I come from.

And now there’s the follow-up single, “The Good Ones.”
That’s something that kept happening on Idol, inspired by my sweet husband. People would ask about my boyfriend, and I’d say, “Oh, he’s a good one. He’s a keeper.” I’d heard people say that too, so I knew I wasn’t the only one.

You know, I didn’t want people to think all relationships are horrible, or like that guy in “I Hope,” because that’s not true or real. It’s kind of the other side. It’s what happened for me. I always believed there was a good one out there. So both songs are true.

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