Welcome to Gabby's world of inspirational circus swing
You feel upbeat about life after talking to Gabby Young. She has that effect on people. An exotic creature who casts a unique spell on stage, she is equally charming and charismatic when not garbed in her signature vintage circus gladrags.
"On stage an alter ego takes over and I'm larger than life but in real life I'm more of a recluse," admits the 28-year-old singer songwriter, who brings her band – Gabby Young and Other Animals – to the Plough Arts Centre at Torrington in Devon on February 14 and 15.
"It's easy to become Gabby Young when you step into the clothes and put on the wigs and make up. It is an escape – a bit like a fairytale."
Her inspiring aura shines even more brightly when you learn that at 22 she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and underwent "horrible" radiation treatment.
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Having got the all clear, Gabby feels blessed because her story has helped other people. Ironically it also proved a positive watershed in her own life.
"I can't help feeling thankful for it which is a weird thing to say about cancer.
"But I was living in Wiltshire with my parents and this was a proper kick up the butt to make me do what I wanted to do," she says. "I was the big fish in the tiny pond and I needed to swim out to the deep bit."
So she went to London, got a job managing a clothes shop – and met her partner, Stephen, who now collaborates on the songwriting and produces her records.
"I believe in everything happening for a reason. Maybe my illness needed to happen to get me where I am, certainly everything that has happened has been really positive."
Gabby started the band a year ago as a singer songwriter, bringing friends together to make music.
"It has a real family dynamic. There are no egos. If the band needs a new member top priority is their personality – then we ask what instrument they play!"
She mulled over various band titles before seeing a copy of Gerald Durrell's book My Family and Other Animals.
"It was like my family – we are a crazy family. It seemed the perfect title for the band."
Gabby Young and Other Animals have quickly won many admirers for their fluent mix of jazz, folk, world and gypsy sounds.
"We call our music circus swing because we want to invent a new genre as we don't fit into any.
Circus swing is about being colourful and exciting!" she says. "I'm very eclectic in my own taste so everything I write is a different genre. There are upbeat songs and ballads, and darker pieces – you cannot have a rainbow without rain."
Gabby loved dressing up as a child and couldn't be more delighted that it has evolved into an intrinsic part of her stage persona in her band Gabby Young And Other Animals.
"I like helping up-and-coming fashion designers. I have been wearing Inbar Spector's clothes for a while. She also creates clothes for Rihanna, Florence and the Machine and Paloma Faith," she says.
Seeing Gabby and her eight-piece band, all dressed in a style of elegant eccentricity, is a bonus to the music.
"I have always liked vintage circus style because it is individual and exciting. It has been described as burlesque but I'm not raunchy," she adds.
"People have said they were expecting a burlesque show – but our show is all about escapism."
Gabby loves it when people say it takes them away from what is going on in their life.
"I'm an optimist and also a realist, but I do have a fairytale side to me. There is a dream world and I have always had an active imagination. As a child I had Gabbyland."