by Chandler Christopher
In this post, we’ll be taking a look at the modern-pop and folk singer-songwriter ‘Gatlin’ Thornton. The Orlando, Florida native is currently based in Nashville, Tennessee. Her current collection of songs, consisting of her latest EP Sugarcoated (2020), is a very vulnerable and personal expression conveyed by Gatlin.
“It covers 3 different relationships. I called it ‘Sugar Coated,’ because I was trying to kind of put a cherry on top of all of my big emotions, but as I was continuing to write it, I kind of got a lot more open and more vulnerable.”
Gatlin also released a collection of singles in 2019 and most recently put out her latest single, ‘What If I Love You,’ the first of a new EP that is set to release in mid 2021. Gatlin is someone who has a very real and visible passion for her music and is an extremely talented songwriter. Gatlin is someone who certainly follows her inner compass and that really excites me to see her music and artistry blossom.
Q: How old are you, where are you from, and where are you based out of?
Gatlin: I’m 22, I’m from Orlando, FL and I am based in Nashville, TN.
Q: So, you’re from Orlando – that’s surprising.
Gatlin: It’s surprising to everyone. I think Florida is just a really weird place, like, all the rumors are true – it’s weird. I feel like everyone expects weirdos to come from Florida… I don’t know… I’m pretty weird though.
Q: When did you start playing music?
Gatlin: I guess I was in choirs and musical theater and all of that… I started playing piano when I was about 8 and I picked up guitar when I was 12. I don’t think it was until high school that I asked my parents if I could leave the prep school I was going to because it was pretty heavily focused on academics, and so I asked them if I could leave that atmosphere and do online school instead. So, I ended up doing that and for 3 years in high school, I just learned everything I could about music. I took a bunch of lessons, I made an EP, I worked in the studio, I would travel on weekends and go to songwriter festivals to play in and all of that. So, I guess that was kind of like my guinea pig phase.
Q: So, you don’t have a ton of music on Spotify… Where is it?
Gatlin: Yeah, it’s buried pretty deep. No one can ever find it. Just kidding, but like, it’s all the music I wrote when I was like 15 and, like, you know, all the music I wrote when I was like 14 and 15, and it was released when I was 17 because it took forever and it’s all definitely different from the music I’m working on now.
Q: It seems like your song, “Talking To Myself,” has gotten pretty popular. It’s featured on a bunch of Spotify-created Indie Pop playlists.
Gatlin: Yeah, that one has gotten a lot of love. I’m also on some Apple Music playlists, and I think that a lot of the Apple Music playlists came from that because they know the playlisters. I’m not sure how that happened with Spotify. I played a show back in January and I opened for this amazing artist named Bre Kennedy which was a big deal in Nashville because she was kind of popping off in popularity. But basically all the Spotify people were there so I think they saw me open for her and that’s how it happened… but I’ll never know for sure. But it’s cool that they know who I am for sure because getting on those playlists made a HUGE difference.
Q: It’s honestly super interesting how much power Spotify has, of course in general, but also the curators of the playlists and stuff like that… they are kind of controlling what a lot of people are hearing and whose name gets out there.
Gatlin: Oh, for sure. So, for example, I was 2nd on the Indie Pop playlist versus being like 50th, you know, so their positioning of where I am on the playlist also makes that huge difference. It’s crazy how much power they have… luckily, they are really nice. I’ve only come across a handful of people in the industry who I believe to be bad people and absolutely none of them are any Spotify people or Apple Music or anything like that.
Q: So, “Sugar Coated,” it feels very personal… Was that song very hard to be vulnerable in writing that?
Gatlin: I mean, like, the beginning was hard… the first few songs I was writing was just kind of scratching the surface of the emotions I was feeling. It covers like 3 different relationships. I called it “Sugar Coated,” because I was trying to kind of put a cherry on top of all of my big emotions, but as I was continuing to write it, I kind of got a lot more open and more vulnerable. Then it ends with, “Grown,” which is all of my sad emotions and pretty stripped down… so yeah, I think it was a learning process of how I could be vulnerable and show my emotions in music without being…I don’t know because I feel like I’ve been so afraid of like getting the Taylor Swift peg, like all sad girl/only talks about boys in her songs and, you know, I didn’t want to do that for the longest time but this EP was my way of doing that… I don’t have to package it up nicely for other people.
Q: Do you compose all of the elements of your music?
Gatlin: No… Normally I’ll just get a producer involved, an engineer, and then we hire studio musicians… So I’m pretty involved in the parts that are played and the sounds that are being chosen and where they’re going… I’m not playing them but I will have ideas about certain things I want to change or add and I’ll suggest it… I definitely admire the people who play everything themselves in their music. I am not one of those people because I simply can’t so I’m going to delegate and just master songwriting and lyrics and melodies because that is what I’m naturally good at.
Q: Is it hard to delegate sometimes and really nail that sound that’s in your head?
Gatlin: I feel like I’ve surrounded myself with people who understand it and who know me very well and who I’ve invested in and they’ve invested in me and I trust them… they understand it and if I don’t like it, I feel comfortable enough to be like hey I don’t like this, let’s try this. Yeah like my band is pretty heavily involved in my sound so that’s pretty cool.
Q: How many people are in your band?
Gatlin: So, I have Shawn Mchugh on guitar and he’s also like my best friend and my brother. He’s like the Marshall to my Phoebe. My drummer is named Erin Crock… he’s awesome. And then for shows, we usually hire base players like I don’t have a solid base player yet. But the two guys are super involved in all my stuff like they play on all my stuff.
Q: What are you listening to nowadays?
Gatlin: Hyne, Julia Jacklyn, Bob Dylan, The Mamas & Papas, Stevie Bridgers, Gwenen Stella, and of course Fleetwood Mac.
Q: Are you working on new music and stuff right now or?
Gatlin: Yes, I’m working on another EP that will be released early this year. I think it’ll be a little more in the alternative world than Sugar Coated was but yeah I’m just finishing up the writing and starting production on it.
Q: Where are you hoping right now that your music career is going to take you? What would success look like for you?
Gatlin: I know I want to be in music for the rest of my life, I don’t have a Plan B. So, I think I just want to be like doing the cycle of writing the album, making the album, touring it, and doing it again. I want to be doing that until I’m done and maybe kids or something will get in the way of that and I’ll be fine with that. And then you know maybe dabbling more into the songwriting world or being a part of a record label and helping out other artists. I just feel like I have to be in music for the rest of my life. I am just hoping for steady growth and for it to be able to pay for everything fully on music and be able to provide for my family.