Anyone who has dabbled in dating knows that relationships are not all roses. When breakups come, that loss can be incredibly difficult to work through. There’s a reason why people have “mourning periods” post-breakup. It’s a real loss.
Gatlin captures those emotions perfectly in her new EP, I Sleep Fine Now. Exploring the seven stages of grief, Gatlin takes listeners with her on an emotional journey as she reconciles after getting her heart broken. Grief can be such an isolating emotion, Gatlin’s record helps you feel a little less alone.
In conversation with 1883, Gatlin discusses her songwriting process, when she realized that her EP was about grieving the loss of a relationship and her plans for her upcoming headlining tour.
I was listening to your EP for the second time yesterday as I was prepping for our interview, and I need to tell you how much I enjoyed it! It’s such a great exploration of all the emotions that you experience after a relationship ends, or just through life, no matter what, those emotions tend to come up. It really resonated. I loved it so much. So I’m excited to be speaking with you.
Yay. Thanks, Kendall.
One thing that stuck out to me because I’m a writer as well, obviously, is how when I look back at the things I’ve written, I notice a theme will come through, and not always intentionally either. When you were writing this EP, did you know and think to yourself, “Hey, I want to write about the stages of grief,” or was it more something that kind of came to you afterwards?
It definitely came after I had all the songs picked out and was like looking at them. I was in the production phase and looking at everything and I was like, “Oh, this is fully me grieving this person.” It was just very obvious. Each song really seemed to have its own identity and set of emotions. So yeah, I definitely noticed it afterwards.
When you’re writing the music, do you start with the music or the lyrics first normally?
It’s kind of different every time. I feel like the way I write mostly is I’ll just kind of wake up in the middle of the night or throughout my day, I’ll have these thoughts or have words pop up and I’ll just ramble, ramble, ramble in my notes app. Almost like a journal. And a lot of them are just straight up like lyrics or little ideas. Then I sit down with them later and work through it all. A lot of them will just start with my innermost thoughts and ideas and then I’ll sit down and actually work through them and turn them into verses or a chorus.
There’s a few of them that I actively collaborated with people on. People who I trust enough to bring into my ramblings and write with. Sometimes I just want to start fresh too and we’ll chat with one another about what’s going on and someone will be like, “What you just said was really interesting,” and we’ll go from there. Then we get the melodies. I think with the popular songs like When You’re Breaking my Heart, it starts with melodies, but that day I was also talking about this man and saying, “I just kind of liked it better when he was like, being kind of mean to me, you know?” And it just spurred this conversation before we got into writing the song.
What inspires you as you’re going into these sessions? Obviously heartbreak, but are you inspired by things that you’re experiencing when you look back on them later? What’s informing your songwriting process?
Sometimes it’s what is happening currently, unless I’ve been working on something by myself I have an idea that I’m really, really excited about. Sometimes when I have these ideas I’ll hit pause though because I know I’m working with so and so and they would kill this piece. So sometimes it’s like that. I really am an open book though. Before sessions, whoever I’m working with and I will just talk for like an hour about what’s happening. It’s almost like a mini therapy session. Then, we write about what we just talked about. I like the mixture of working by myself and also with others, you know.
Yeah, it keeps it fresh. I imagine songwriting can often be an insular process too.
Yeah, definitely. With some collaborators I know, I’m like, “Okay, you’re really really good at helping me finish an idea, and you’re really good at helping me get something that’s 50% of the way done and getting it over the finish line.” Then I have some people who are really good at coming up with ideas with me. It’s fun to have it be different every time.
What were some of your biggest musical influences as you were heading into the production of this EP?
I have a playlist. Whenever people ask me music questions, I’m like, “What do I listen to?” I have to check Spotify, otherwise I have no idea.
Your brain blanks out as soon as someone asks.
It really does. I’m literally like, I have to go to Spotify. I’m so sorry. I feel like it was a lot of Holly Humberstone. A lot of Queen. Queen and Fleetwood Mac and like, The Mamas and the Papas are just always in my rotation. And, you know, it was different for specific songs. Different references for each song. With How Do You Sleep at Night? I was like, “I’m ready to really push out of my boundaries and have it be really cinematic,” so it was you know, different and not necessarily influenced. Versus When You’re Breaking My Heart and Paris I was listening to a lot of like, HAIM and Taylor Swift but then there’s still a lot of Queen influences as well.
When you’re taking these influences, what about them speaks to you? Are you thinking, “I love the drama of a Queen song I want to insert that in,” or is it something else?
I think it happens very naturally, like whatever I’m listening to a lot at the time. With Paris, for example, I was listening to so much HAIM at the time so I feel like naturally, like I didn’t even necessarily consciously do it, but it just came out like [breaks into song] go on, go on, go, like I just feel like the background vocals and the ideas that I would have were super HAIM with the vocal call and answer kind of thing. So I feel like it just naturally starts coming out. I love like, yeah, the dramatic production elements of Queen. If I want to write a song that’s really up-tempo and something that people feel like they can sing along to, what do I think of when I think of that? I think of a Queen song. So, we’ll listen to a Queen song once through to get it in our heads and then go off and work on our own idea. ,
To me, as a listener, these songs feel so emotional and close to home. Does that grief ever come back to when you’re performing or does it feel a little bit more removed now?
There’s certain songs that do. I really liked doing the upbeat sad songs. I think I first did that in like 2019 when I wrote this song talking to myself, and it was really sad, but I put it behind this indie pop production and made it into something that everyone could jump around to, and I was like, “Oh, there’s something really cool about that.” I could kind of detach from it. Especially when I’m playing live, it kind of just feels more like a shared, fun experience. And then if you want to dive deeper in and feel that you can, but you also don’t have to as a listener. But there are some songs like I Think About You All The Time. Sometimes. I feel heavily and like, there’s certain songs I won’t play live. Because I’m like, “I don’t really need to touch that and that’s fine.” You know? I think it’s song by song.
So what do you hope audiences take away from this EP as a whole?
I think it’s very cathartic. I hope it is cathartic for people. It’s very emotional. It’s, about walking through the grief process. So I think I want people to be able to feel very openly and have it help them move through their feelings..
You’re going on tour soon, which is super exciting. Is there anything that you’re most excited about heading into tour?
I’m really excited. The headline aspect of it is really fun and different for me. I feel like I’ve done a good amount of touring, but I’m always opening and that’s kind of like a different headspace. When you open it’s like, “Okay, so the people here do not know me, I’ve got to fight for their attention.” You’re fighting to get them to listen and like your music afterwards. I’m excited for the fact that this time everyone’s already on my team and is already rooting for me and wants to be there and hopefully won’t be talking and like me. It’s just a different mindset. I’m excited to see how that is different and how that makes me feel. I’ve only done a few headline shows ever in my life and they’ve all been hometown headlines and it’s been so cool. So a whole tour of that just seems really exciting.
Are there any cities that you’re most looking forward to visiting?
Not really, I think I’ve played most of them. There’s not a new one. Maybe, Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s the only new city I haven’t played before. But, you know, I’m excited for all of them. I’m excited to see a lot of the people who have been coming to shows and see them again. I just think it’ll be great. I’m gonna do a little invite for people to dress up if they want. There’s seven songs on the EP and there’s a theme for each song. I really wanted each song to have its own identity, even visually, the singles all have their own look. So if your favorite song off the EP is Lonely Life, you can dress up like a cat lady. I have themes for each one and I want to make it a really fun, free place for people to feel deeply and dance around.
It sounds like you’re creating a safe place for everyone to actually feel all their feelings in an authentic way and have fun while they’re doing it too. I think that’s one thing that really resonated for me with your music is that you’re talking about such heavy things. Paris is not a happy song necessarily. But I’m sitting here singing and dancing along to this bummer of a song if you go by lyrics alone. But the music is still so fun! That’s something that’s really valuable in music where it’s like the emotions that you’re feeling are so real and so raw and authentic – you have to feel them, but it doesn’t have to be the be all and end all. You can be sad and still have a good day. And I think that really shines through in your music to me.
Thank you. I think emotions are also very complex. Like I think I’ve sung that song and I’ve been really, really mad. And then I sing that song and I’ve been feeling it and I’m like, “Oh this is sad. I was rejected.” And then there have been times I’ve sung it where I’ve felt really empowered. It’s really exciting for me to see people experiencing those emotions in different ways because a lot of them are very complex. When I was writing the songs, I was holding several emotions in each of them. So I think they could cater to different people at different phases and make them feel different things which is fun. I can’t wait to hear how people accept them.
So what can audiences expect when they come out to see you on tour?
We’re gonna have fun, we’re gonna feel things. I go through life with lots of highs and lows. So the set is going to be a bit of a roller coaster. One moment, I feel like we’re gonna be having a party and then the next is going to be really dark and sad. And that’s what you’re coming for. A part of being an artist that I really love is the fashion aspect of it and the visual aspect of it. I just want everyone to feel as free as they can to wear whatever the heck they want and to be as over the top as they want. I’m a very over the top person. I was buying a dress the other day and someone was like, “Oh, what occasion?” and I was like, “Thursday!” So I think feeling free to be as over the top as you want to be, feel as much as you want to feel. I have a Discord and there are people who are making friendships and getting excited to meet each other for the first time at the shows and I just really like the idea of building a community of big feelers, people with big feelings.
What do you hope comes next for you?
I’m starting to work on writing an album right now. So hopefully that
I Sleep Fine Now is out now.