Peek inside musician Sunny Gable’s house and you may find the multi-instrumentalist and songwriter wandering around from room to room with various instruments. She could be singing in the kitchen or playing guitar in the living room or hallway. Music fans who follow Durango’s music scene may know Gable as the leader of “Sunny and the Whiskey Machine,” a local act that does the roots-music thing with Gables’ hearty vocals at the helm.
This mobile musical experimentation throughout her house is all an effort to discover what instruments sound best where, as she turns various rooms within her house into a makeshift, do-it-yourself studio where she’s recording her solo debut.
“I am keeping it minimalist; I’ve been doing a lot of the recording myself, and I’ve been spending the last several months figuring out little tricks to getting good recordings at home,” she said. “I move around a lot. The guitar I do in a big open room; my voice I do in the closet with as many clothes hanging as possible, that kind of thing; and there’s a small room downstairs that I use for fiddle and mandolin.”
She’s currently charging through a Kickstarter campaign that will fund the eventual mixing and mastering of her record; her fundraising goal is a modest $2,000.
Gable’s interest in music dates back to when she was in single digits. She learned to read music at age 5, while also using the Suzuki Method to learn violin; her love of songwriting came at a young age as well.
“I remember being interested in songwriting when I was in elementary school and my father getting me my first album, ‘Jim Croce’s Greatest Hits,’ so that, and I quote, I wouldn’t ‘make crappy music,’” she said. “I learned guitar in early high school and dabbled in songwriting, although there was a learning curve. I played a lot of cover tunes, from The Beatles to The Cure, to try to decipher the secret songwriting code and really only got good enough to want to share them in my late 30s. Now, the bug has bitten, and I’m usually working on at least a dozen songs, all in different phases of construction. Maybe one-eighth of them make the cut.”
A mother of four, parenting and the highs and lows that come with raising kids is subject matter that finds its way into a handful of Gable’s songs. Write what you know is advice that gets tossed around the art world, whether it be writing songs or short stories, so her kids will make it into some songs whether they like it or not.
“I’ve been a mother for such a long time, since my early 20s. My oldest is 19, my youngest 11 months, so I think that being a mother has played into my songwriting from the get-go, pretty much,” she said. “I’ve learned so much from having children and raising children, and they’re my biggest inspiration and obviously my number one priority, music being probably number two.”
One thing many musicians go through is the ambiguous and loosely defined idea of “making it.” Gable often faces the unsolicited criticism of music being a “young person’s” business and some ridiculous claim that musical success has to come by your mid-20s. It’s criticism she can do without.
“I don’t buy it. I like to say that in my 20s and early 30s, I was collecting material, and now I’ve got all this great songwriting material,” Gable said. “For me, making it would mean to be able to play to audiences that would pay a decent amount of money, maybe $15 or $20 to come see me play to a small, intimate crowd. To me, that would be making it. I’m not The Rolling Stones, and I’m not trying to be. In a way, I’m already making it – I’m playing gigs, writing music and I’m making albums, and that’s what I wanted to do.”
Gable’s Kickstarter campaign will wrap up Sept. 29.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.