Six-time San Diego Music Award nominee Gayle Skidmore has written over 2000 songs since she began songwriting at the age of 8. A born songwriter, Gayle Skidmore’s natural ability and innate passion for music made her music career unavoidable. Gayle Skidmore won Best Pop Album for her album "Sleeping Bear" in the 2014 San Diego Music Awards and Best Singer-Songwriter in the 2013 San Diego Music Awards. Her song "Paper Box" was featured recently featured on HBO's new show "Looking."
Classically trained on the piano from the age of 4, Gayle Skidmore also plays at least 20 other instruments, including the mountain dulcimer, banjo, folk harp and balalaika. Her attention to detail and involvement in every step of the creative process, from producing her records to doing the artwork for her albums, show that she is completely dedicated to her craft. In August 2013, Gayle released her second full-length album and coloring book, "Sleeping Bear," on Raincoat Records through fan support from her 5th successful crowdfunding project, and it was nominated for "Best Pop Album" in the 2014 San Diego Music Awards, her 6th SDMA nomination. This followed her first 7” vinyl release, “Zombie Heart,” put out by Ninkasi Brewing Co. In 2014 her cover of “Lola” by The Kinks, a collaboration with Brandon O’Connell of Singing Serpent, was placed on a national commercial. Gayle was also recently on Entertainment Tonight on their segment covering the 2014 Sunset Sessions.
Gayle Skidmore’s love of whimsy, poetry and magic are evidenced by the sets she creates for her stages, which have included a curtain of origami cranes and a giant octopus holding a teacup. She has opened for the likes of Jason Mraz, Lisa Loeb, Sean and Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek, Sam Phillips, Grant-Lee Phillips, Coeur d’Pirate, and many others. She has collaborated with such artists as The Softlightes, Bushwalla, and Sean Watkins, and branched out into several genres including electronic swing, indie rock, and classical music. Germany’s most prominent newspaper, the Seuddeutsche Zeitung, named her “Die Schutzpatronin der Gartenzwerge,” the Patron Saint of Garden Dwarves, in an interview promoting her tour, which Skidmore found delightful. She has been nominated for five San Diego Music Awards, and was named one of the San Diego Union Tribune's three Faces to Watch in 2014.She has also toured nationwide in the US, and in the UK, Asia and Europe, and was a Sunset Sessions artist in 2012.
Gayle Skidmore finds endless inspiration in the whirlwind of life. She has never experienced writer’s block, and she is always experimenting with new formats. When she isn’t busy learning a new instrument, singing, painting, or writing lyrics and melodies, she composes parts for her cellist and violinist. She enjoys baking cookies and making origami for her fans.
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ARTIST INTERVIEW — The Banjo Reserve interviewed Gayle Skidmore, here's what she had to say.
Q. How did you learn the Banjo, and what method of learning do you feel is most effective?
A. When a good friend of mine moved to Australia, she lent me her banjo for a few months, and I taught myself to play. I enjoy teaching myself, though I wouldn't be opposed to lessons. I think that both have their place, but if you have initiative, you can do quite a bit on your own.
Q. During the early stages of learning to play the Banjo, what did you find most challenging?
A. As many do, I had a difficult time adjusting to the 5th string and found it difficult to avoid plucking loudly on accident.
Q. What challenges do you still hope to master today?
A. I would love to learn to play in more of a bluegrass style and feel like there are many areas where I can still improve. I have developed my own style of playing, but I know that there are a lot of directions that I could pursue with the banjo.
Q. You are an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and a prolific songwriter. What percentage of your musical career revolves around the banjo, and why have you been so drawn to it?
A. I don't know that I could accurately divide my career into percentages, but I do spend a good portion of my time with the banjo. There is something about it that I find conduscive to songwriting, and I just enjoy the tone and character of the instrument so much that I often prefer it to my other instruments. I find it to be a very expressive instrument that adds a mood to whatever I'm writing.
Q. Where do you see banjo music going and what is your role in that?
A. I think that banjo music has the potential to branch out into many different genres. We've seen a resurgence in popularity of the instrument in recent years, but I think that people can still discover a lot about the diversity of the instrument and learn how to incorporate it creatively into different styles. My role in that is to continue to use my banjo as a moody, reflective instrument, as isn't often done, and enourage people to stop thinking of it as just for bluegrass or Mumford and Sons. My single The Golden West, features reversed banjo in the intro, and I'd describe it as banjo pop.
Q. I have enjoyed watching your YouTube video performances, I notice that you play banjo using a 4-finger style, a form of Railing or Clawhammer as I understand it. What do you refer to it as, and how did you select your style?
A. I refer to my style as just finger-picking, and it's heavily influenced by Sufjan Stevens' style of playing. I'm not sure that I really refer to it as anything in particular. I really enjoy playing sans pick, as I am able to get a softer and warmer sound out of my banjo. When I painted my banjo head it made the tone much darker, and coupled with the lack of pick, I think this gives my banjo a unique sound.
Q. At the time of this interview you are working on a new 10 song album and cooking book titled The Golden West, a project that you describe on your GoFundMe campaign as a personal journey to move on from losses in your life. Does this project provide you with personal closure, or are you paying homage to already having accomplished closure? Do you see your music changing after this release? And if so, how?
A. I think it's a mix of both. Moving on from tragedy can be a long process, and I have had moments where I believed that I was totally past something, only to have it resurface. This has been a long journey for me and I am interested to see where I am when the project is finally finished. The GoFundMe campaign is still running, and I have just placed the order for the vinyl. I'm excited to release the record with Ninkasi Brewing, and it's been a stretching experience musically speaking. I have already seen a shift in my writing after this album, and have written several songs lately that are in a totally different style for me. I had a lot of realizations about myself and my music during this process and I'm excited to share the journey with my fans.
Q. How likely is it that we could see a future album dedicated to your banjo music?
A. It is very likely! I have been writing more and more banjo songs, and even recently started writing on my new Deering Banjolele, so I'm hoping to be able to record the new songs as soon as my next album comes out. My upcoming album has two banjo songs, and I'm really hoping to release several more next year.
Q. If there were such a project, and it was titled "Gayle Skidmore and Friends", who would you invite to accompany you? This is for fun, you can pick from the past or present.
A. I would love to create a super band with Clare Muldaur Manchon, Olivier Manchon, Lhasa De Sela, Jeff Buckley, Damien Rice, Andrew Bird, and Edith Piaf. I think it would be insanely hyper-emotional, intellectual and intense music.
Q. At this point in your banjo playing career what work, project or event are you most proud of?
A. I am so proud of my upcoming 20th indie release, "The Golden West." I have poured my best into it and can't wait to release it in March 2017. It will be released on vinyl thanks to Ninkasi Brewing, and will have an accompanying colouring book, which will be my third book. I have worked so hard to get this done, and it's the longest I've ever spent on a project. I worked with some incredibly talented people -- James Book of Ninkasi and formerly The Flys, Brandon O'Connell of Singing Serpent Studios helped to make this album my best yet.
Q. What other interests do you have?
A. I love crafts and will basically paint anything that sits near me long enough. I have been getting much more into my drawings this past year and have started a Patreon page to inspire me to create something each month.
There are several charities that are very important to me, but I find myself playing benefit shows most often for groups that rescue and support women who've been trafficked. My friend Elena runs a wonderful group out of Los Angeles called Two Wings.
Ultimately though, music isn't just my job and my hobby, it is a lifelong fascination. Music is an infinitely interesting pursuit - the depth of it never ends. There is always more to learn, and there is so much great music in the world to hear I can't possibly ever get to it all.
Q. Tell us something about yourself that you think our Community might enjoy.
A. I recently married a Dutch man and am adapting to Dutch culture, learning the language, and trying all kinds of crazy Dutch foods. I've been back and forth between Amsterdam and San Diego for the past two years and find that my life is very different in each city. For example, in San Diego I drive everywhere, and in Amsterdam, in true Dutch fashion, I don't have a car and sometimes bike several hours a day to get around.