Her Instagram bio declares her an “emo alphabet girl,” but Gayle grew up making country music. Or at least, that’s where she started. At 17 years old, the Nashville-based artist still has many years of growing up ahead of her. But you wouldn’t necessarily know it from the cheekily titled “ABCDEFU,” her power chord-aided single that’s currently sitting at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The electric guitars that mark “ABCDEFU” help accentuate the kiss-off the chorus revels in — hint: focus on the final two letters in the title — and the raw emotion in the song likely helped its rise up the chart. That was bound to happen for Gayle, who kicked off her career in music at age 10 growing up in Dallas before relocating to Nashville and playing every kind of non-glamorous music spot in between.
“Farmers markets, rodeos, cheap-seller conventions, a lot of parking lots,” Gayle, the MTV Push artist for February, says. “When I started going to Nashville, I started getting exposed to different genres. I found myself going for more alternative, pop-leaning things.”
With her spiked top and dark eyes, Gayle now boasts an aesthetic that complements her jagged rock songs that smolder with some residually punky energy. It’s not just “ABCDEFU,” either; “Ur Just Horny” allows her to keep the middle fingers up while telling off a former friend whom she says she “crossed the line with.” “You don’t wanna be friends,” she sings, “You’re just horny.” The emotion comes right from reality.
“A lot of it was, in growing up and just living life and getting older, differentiating romantic, sexual, and platonic feelings is so difficult because the lines can get blurred so fast,” she says.
That ability to translate her experience into song is a valuable one. It began with Gayle starting to sing at a young age, surprising her mother with an unexpected bout of scatting that led her mother to show her Aretha Franklin. “It was a feeling that I could sit in, genuinely, for hours,” she says. “I just remember in that moment completely dedicating my life to music, making the decision that this is exactly what I want to do with me life.”
This led her on a path of soulful covers of songs by Franklin, Nina Simone, and Joss Stone. From there, she further honed her craft by adding songwriting to the mix. Now, she keeps her process open to conversations, influences from real life, and where the entire journey of penning a tune takes her. “I like having a concept of what emotion I’m trying to capture before I do melodies,” she says.
The result is often very potent. And Gayle’s words of encouragement for anyone who wants to achieve the same? “As long as you try your best, that’s literally all that matters. You like it, and what you want matters.”
Get to know Gayle further in the interview and watch her perform above.