It's 100 degrees, and Gavin Turek is drinking iced coffee in a North Hollywood pie shop. All curly hair, brown eyes and toothy smiles, Turek has the poise of an industry vet but the unjaded enthusiasm of a music-scene newbie. The 26-year-old singer grew up out here in the Valley, a trained dancer, vocalist and actress who has had an agent since she was 6. “I was in, like, three Destiny's Childs as a kid,” she says, giggling.
If her recent release The Break-Up Tape is any indication, Turek may finally be on the verge of the fame. The three-track EP delivers electro-pop with a roller-disco sensibility. Turek wrote the songs after a bad breakup, but this music veils her heartbreak with shimmery layers of Moroder-inspired synth beats and smart, revealing lyrics.
The Break-Up Tape features a cameo from female rapper Rye Rye, and Turek has sung on tracks by beat-scene producer queen Tokimonsta. We spoke with her about her career.
How did you end up collaborating with Tokimonsta?
Four or five years ago, Toki reached out to me on MySpace after I had put some of my demos up there. When she first reached out, she wasn't superpopular yet; she was living at her mom's house in Torrance. I met her there, and her mom, this very traditional Korean woman, made me leave my shoes at the door.
Since then you've appeared on Toki's 2011 EP, Creature Dreams, and two tracks on her recent major-label release, Half Shadows.
Yeah, the fact that Toki wanted to continue collaborating with me now that she has access to pretty much anyone, I'm so flattered and grateful. She's so cool.
See also: Tokimonsta Leaves the Nest
What did the early days of your career look like?
Being an L.A. kid, taking dancing, singing and acting lessons kind of comes with the territory. I'm one of thousands that grew up with that experience. I started training to be a dancer when I was 6 and went to high school specifically for dance. I started taking myself more seriously as a singer when I was a teenager.
But then you lived in Ghana during college, right?
I lived there for five months in 2009 after spending half a year in India. I had a bit of background in West African dance and I knew Ghanaian dance was something I wanted to know more about. I studied with a local dance company there.
So you were an L.A. industry kid who took off to Africa.
If I had been working steadily as an actress, I wouldn't have taken that whole year off, but I wasn't. Everyone thought I was crazy, but it completely changed my perspective. Growing up in L.A. is such a bubble; even though there's diversity, you can still get stuck in the culture of façade and selfishness. It was important for me to remove myself.
How did you pick up with your career after being gone?
I was mentally rocked when I got back, but music is therapy so it definitely helped. When I got home I wasn't sure if singing was something I should pursue as a career, but my sister put some of my demos online, and through that Toki and my future manager reached out. It encouraged me to not try to get a good job after I graduated college but to just work at a coffee shop and try to do this.
Where did you work?
I was working at the coffee shop at Fred Segal on Melrose. It was miserable. And don't get it twisted; I just quit my most recent service-industry job last week.
Let's talk about The Break-Up Tape.
I went through a horrific breakup a while ago and started writing these songs. It was kind of ironic that they weren't depressing. They're totally dance songs.
Were you depressed when you were writing them?
Oh yeah. Rejection is so inspiring.
Do you feel like an industry kid made good?
When I was a kid, I thought, “If I'm going to do this, it's going to happen fast.” But I think I've made peace with the process. My parents are so proud of me; they come to all my shows and my mom is in the front and center doing all of the dance moves along with me.