Pets hold a special place in our lives, not only as companions, but also as sources of inspiration and emotional support. To explore how these family members influence and intertwine with the personal and creative lives of our favorite artists, we created our ongoing series, Side by Side.
In this edition, we spoke with Gabby Smith, best known for her project Gabby’s World, about her longtime canine companion, Frankie. Fans of Gabby’s music may recognize Frankie, who has graced both album and single covers, appeared on her merchandise, and has been a constant touring companion with her band for the better part of a decade.
Ahead of the release of her latest album, Gabby Sword, we caught up with Gabby to explore her relationship with Frankie and understand the impact they have had on each other’s lives. Over the course of our conversation, we also explored Gabby Sword, discussing the themes of change and identity that appear throughout the album’s 13 tracks, and what the future holds for the project.
Read our conversation, take a trip back in time with some of Gabby and Frankie’s memories, and be sure to listen to and pick up a copy of Gabby’s Sword, out now.
Slumber: Can you take us back to the very beginning of how you and Frankie met? What was your first impression?
Gabby Smith: In 2012, on an early tour on a stop in Athens, OH for a house show, someone offered me a puppy. I guess I had been talking on stage about having had a hard time earlier that day walking away from a puppy for sale who was massively discounted for being too old.
After the show, someone came up to me telling me they had a puppy they were trying to find a home for. I laughed and said, “No, thank you,” but they insisted my band at least come over for breakfast and spend the morning playing with a puppy. It was an offer we could not refuse!
When we went over the next morning, we were greeted by a tiny, hyper little basketball of a puppy running around the room, giving us a million kisses. He was unbearably cute and snuggly. We ate breakfast with our new friend and they explained that he had been found in the woods and was named Frankenstein since it was close to Halloween. They were moving to LA and wouldn’t be able to keep him, so they were looking for someone to take him. They said that last night he was extra snuggly in bed with them and that maybe he knew it was his last night.
Suffice it to say, I calculated that I had 1000 dollars in my bank account, the most money I had ever had, which I thought surely would be enough to raise a dog with. Along with a collar, some dog food, and some wee wee pads, Frankie jumped into the minivan and went with us on the rest of the tour.
Touring with him was wonderful. His presence meant we went on a lot of fun hikes and long walks we would otherwise have skipped. He slept inside of my sleeping bag every night, which I loved. It was such a delight having him around; he kept everything light. He still does, which I majorly appreciate these days.
What is your favorite quality about Frankie – such as a unique quirk, habit, or characteristic?
Sometimes, Frankie seems to try to talk. His voice gets really grumbly and he sounds like he’s saying, “grummmmm brummmmm rooo rooo grummmmmm ahhhhhh.” I think it’s actually a bad behavior, related to demand barking. But it’s really, really cute.
What’s a moment in your daily life with Frankie that you cherish?
Mornings with Frankie are the best. He’s always in a really happy, snuggly mood in the morning. Every morning, we lift up the covers and say, “Good morning, Frankie!” He swims up from deep under the blankets and snuggles in our arms. It’s the best.
What was it like to have [Frankie] touring with you? Can you share any particularly memorable or funny stories from your time together?
As I mentioned, Frankie became part of the family in the middle of a tour. After that, we brought him on a few full US tours and to a lot of one-off shows. He is pretty well-behaved at shows. My favorite thing is having him on stage. We put these hunting dog ear protection ear muffs on him and he just curls up in a corner and goes to sleep. After the show is over, when the ear muffs come off, he gets really playful. It’s super fun to play with him while wrapping up cables.
Describe Frankie in 3 words?
Grumbling goblin goat
What is your favorite photo of Frankie that you have shared with us and can you tell us a little bit more about it?
My favorite photo is from the first day with him. We all got into the car together and he curled up and fell asleep in my lap while I drove to the next show. It’s such a time capsule, that picture. HE WAS SO LITTLE!!!
If you had to dedicate a song to Frankie, either yours or someone else’s, what would it be and why?
In our house, we make up songs for Frankie all the time. The most recent one that’s been on repeat is to the tune of “Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me,” and goes, “He is Frankie / He’s a baby / He is not a worm / Paws like Frito’s / Kiss on the nose / He is not a worm.”
“Touring with [Frankie] was wonderful...he kept everything light. He still does, which I majorly appreciate these days”
So I want to talk a little bit about you and your new album, Gabby Sword.
You recently moved from Brooklyn to France with your wife and collaborator Barrie Lindsay. Compared to your previous work, Gabby Sword as a work feels distinctly embracing of change–I feel like the songs show a movement forward and optimism as a person and as a musician.
What does this new chapter mean to you creatively and personally?
I think that’s a great reading of it! Looking back, my older songs kind of, look at whatever situation they’re describing and ask, what do I do now? They’re a bit frustrated and stuck. These newer songs are much more focused on building a happy, creative life. I feel like I’ve recently moved into a new phase of my life and I wanted the album to reflect that.
I also wanted to focus some on the album cover – because a majority of your work from O.K. to Beast on Beast to Year of the Rabbit has been more-so illustrative, but this is the first album where you alone are very clearly represented in the piece. What was the creative and thought process behind choosing that cover?
I grew up with an extremely talented friend, Kirini O.K. She is able to create super photorealistic paintings, among billions of other talents. I knew I wanted this album cover to be different because I wanted the whole project to feel like a departure from previous works. When I approached her about doing the album cover, I asked for “photorealistic but surreal” and this is what she came up with. I’m thrilled with the result!
Slumber: Gabby Sword explores self-discovery, processing queerness, loss, and relationships. Can you tell us a little bit more about how the album came about – what was the starting point for this record, and the first song you put down on paper?
This collection of songs spans from 2017 to now. The oldest song of the bunch is either “Open the Door” or “Just for You to Hear,” I’m not sure which. I wrote “Open the Door” in 2017 for a personal song-a-day project. Many of the songs from that batch were what made up the tracklist of Beast On Beast. I think I must have written “Just for You to Hear” before then because we were playing it on tour in early 2017, but I honestly don’t remember writing it!
I chose to include them on the album, despite their age, because they’re still relevant to me. One of the most poignant parts of reworking the older songs for the record was noticing a queer voice that I wasn’t able to recognize at the time when I wrote them.
And what was the last song? What was the journey from the first song to the last one?
The last song I wrote for the album was “Corrina.” I had come up with the music for it around the same time as writing “33” and “Closing Door,” all of which have alternate guitar tunings. I was scared, however, to write the lyrics, partly because I had written the song backwards from my normal approach (I usually write lyrics first, then music), and partly because I felt that the music was so good that I was afraid to ruin it. I am really proud of how that song came out and glad I took as long as I did to finish it, but it was just barely finished right up against the deadline for the single release date I had chosen.
Which is your favorite song on the album and can you tell us a little bit more about why? Which track do you think is Frankie’s?
Frankie and I chatted and we agreed that it’s the final song, “Theme from Gabby’s World.” It was the hardest song to get right; Barrie and I made three completely different versions together before landing on the final one. I’m really happy with it.
The first time I saw you live was back in 2015 for your album O.K. – looking back at Gabby then, what advice about music, life, creativity, or anything, would you give to your younger self?
Hey! You’re gay!
For those who plan to listen to Gabby Sword after reading this: what are your parting words? Anything you’d like them to know or impart to them?
Enjoy it! I really enjoyed making this album and I hope that comes through in the listening experience. And if you get a chance, check out the music videos because they’re really fun.
What’s next for you and Frankie? Can you give us any insight into your future plans?
Frankie, Barrie, and I are going to spend a quiet, cold winter in Maine this year, writing music, working on a live show, and playing Stardew Valley.
Pick up a copy of ‘Gabby Sword’ out now here. And listen to Frankie’s favorite song “Theme from Gabby’s World” below.