Gabriel Royal is a singer/songwriter/cellist based in NYC. I haven't been able to find much information about his early career, but it seems that he first garnered attention after being featured on the BUSKRS Youtube channel in 2012, while busking in the NYC subways. Two years later, his song Remember Us was featured in an episode of the popular podcast Welcome to Night Vale, titled Condos, which where I first heard him. Royal currently divides his time between teaching, busking and more traditional gigs.
With a voice that evokes Sam Cooke and a playing style that relies heavily on pizzicato, with bowed interludes and even occasional strumming, Royal's music seamlessly merges R&B with classical, adding touches of jazz and even hip hop along the way. On his recently released, self-titled, debut album, he weaves his way through multiple genres, all while retaining his inimitable, signature sound. G Major Suite, Past the Flowers & Remember Us showcase Royal's unique brand of baroque pop that evokes Mozart and The Beatles just as much as it does classic soul. Say It's Right is a lush, R&B ballad that takes a steady rhythm and uses shifts in instrumentation to add variation and dynamics. Fall Apart adds an element of syncopation to his sound, giving the song an almost progressive feel, while So Lonely is straightforward hip hop, complete with an old school synthesizer hook in the chorus. All three of these songs add a new dimension to Royal's sound, but it's on the remaining two that he really transforms. Morning Baby sounds like a long-lost Burt Bacharach song, complete with all of the '60s pop flair that you would expect and on So Glad to See You, Royal harmonizes with guest vocalist Ashanti Chaplin, bringing to mind a gospel choir as the song's upbeat, two-line chorus weaves around verses that talk about a failed romance and it all results in a beautiful swell of mixed emotions. It's easily one of the most unique albums I've ever heard, from a truly original artist and those are an increasingly vanishing breed these days.
I'll leave you with the video for the album's first single, Say It's Right, the version of Remember Us that first hooked me on his music, a clip of Royal performing his song Past The Flowers in his natural environment, a crowded subway platform and a short interview. You can visit Gabriel Royal's official site or listen to and, if you're so inclined, buy his debit album on Bandcamp.
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