Meet Gabriel Garzón-Montano, Your New R&B Fave


Gabriel Garzón-Montano may be the first non-rapper to experience the ‘Drake Effect’. After Drake sampled the Brooklyn artist’s “6 8” on the platinum-selling If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, Garzón-Montano gained a new flock of listeners.

But the 25-year-old singer-songwriter has been making his own waves since his acclaimed 2014 debut Bishouné: Alma Del Huilahe became a Red Bull Sound Select artist, toured with Lenny Kravitz, and performed at South by Southwest 2015.

Rooted in neo-soul and R&B, Garzón-Montano’s songs thump hard enough to please hip-hop fans, while staying smooth enough to land on a coffeehouse playlist. Think Prince making bedroom-pop on a rainy day, or D’Angelo on muscle relaxers.

I phoned Garzón-Montano to talk about building his sound, having self-doubt in the studio, and what it’s like being co-signed by the 6 God.

Your debut’s production is very restrained. Did you aim for a minimalist sound?
I think the sound comes out of a couple things; I've never really been a synthesizer guy or much of an automator, so whatever ingredients I have just remain throughout. The individual layers only change so much.

Do you collaborate with others outside the studio? Like, do you try to get input from outsiders—
No, I found that to be one of the worst things to do. People love giving advice, people love having an opinion. Just see any comment section ever — everybody’s an expert five minutes at a time. So when you put something that’s unfinished and in the vulnerable state, people sometimes jump on a certain aspect and then it gets in your mind. It can kind of derail [the process].

Your drums share similarities to J Dilla’s beats. Is he an influence?
He’s just one of the most important dudes to me. There’s been periods in my life where all I do is I listen to [Dilla] and just meditate. [Dilla] permeated everyone’s sound and I’m no exception. I read a review of [my track] “Everything Is Everything” and they said the drums have the “drunken Questlove flow”. I can’t even hear that — they sound down the middle to me. But that made me step back and realize how much I’ve been steeping in [those sounds].

I know you’re currently working on your next album. How’s that coming along?
It’s going great. I've had periods where I start wondering if I suck or not [laughs]. But I've been trying to quiet that voice. You have to work so hard to get minimal amounts of recognition, let alone money. But sometimes you wonder if it’s even good, you wonder if you can even measure up to your previous measures. In between that I've been creating music that I think is beautiful. I’m trying not to repeat myself.

Tons of people are seeking you out because of Drake’s “Jungle”. Is it weird to be discovered through another artist’s music?
Very little has changed in my day-to-day. [Though I have gained] a new community of people who normally wouldn’t be checking someone like me out. People who are much more consumers of Top 40. It’s been really moving to see how many people choose “Jungle” as their favorite track on his tape, and how many people love the original. And I’ve never had people before going like, “Bro, this shit is so fire!” with all the flame emojis.

Garzón-Montano and Drake, 2014 / Photo: Tumblr

Is there a negative aspect to the hype?
Not at all. I just find myself having conversations about him a lot. A lot of people need a taste-maker to validate something before they delve in, they need to know beforehand that it’s something that’s been pre-approved. I think the co-sign is definitely providing me with that luxury of people saying, “Oh, this must be good. This must be world-class because Aubrey listens to it”.

Were you a Drake fan before this all went down?
Yeah — I mean, I wouldn't say as hard as other people. I haven’t listened to the new tape just because I've been trying to quiet my mind, ‘cause he looms large in the subconscious because of how much I’m having to speak about him. So I’m just trying to have my own head-space because, at the end of the day, I’m not that type of artist. I’m not gonna turn around and give you stuff like what he’s doing. So I’m just trying to get back into my zone.

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