Gabriela Gunčíková singing Audioslave’s Show Me How to Live
Hailing from the Czech Republic, Gabriela Gunčíková, also known as Gabriela Gun, is one of the most talented vocalists of her generation. At just 28 years old, she already has been in the music business for more than a decade, first gaining attention at 17 with the Czech and Slovak Superstar show and then making a name for herself with the Ken Tamplin Vocal Academy and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, plus a couple of solo albums in the early 2010s.
Gabriela’s journey so far is not only an example of tenacity and hard work, but also an interesting case of a vocalist’s evolution and understanding what makes a singer tick, which is one of the many topics we covered in this interview. She was a total sweetheart and an absolute delight to talk to and was polite enough to answer all my questions, so I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did when doing it.
First and foremost, thank you for taking the time to do this interview, Gabriela. I appreciate it. How were things going for you during this almost two years of pandemic?
It’s my pleasure, Kevin. Thank you for taking your time! Well, I dare to say that it wasn’t two easy years for any of us. I was planning to be a part of a few projects but unfortunately they never got on the road because of the pandemic. Hopefully in 2022.
How much of a toll did the pandemic have on your projects?
Quite a lot. As I mentioned before, the tours were stopped for a long time. Musicians mainly live from live concerts and touring but that was not happening. I myself am hungry to see some concerts as a fan and just have fun and enjoy the music. The United States seems to be getting better but Europe keeps struggling and moving dates constantly.
What are you working on these days?
I am working on a few projects which hopefully will be finished soon. I am also working with Ken Tamplin Vocal Academy and his YouTube channel. I was very honored to release some cool stuff with incredible musicians like Rudy Sarzo, Joel Hoekstra, Alex Skolnick, Ken Mary or Scott Van Zen this summer. I don’t have to mention how amazing all of these guys are and it was truly an incredible experience for me. Right now there are some projects in preparation for Czech Republic as well. Hopefully the first tour of 2022 will be with Rock meets Classic and Mat Sinner’s band in Germany!
I would like to start from the beginning: How did you get into music when you were younger?
My dad is a guitar player so I have been listening to music since infancy. I started to play a classical guitar when I was 9 years old. That organically somehow led to singing. I won my first singing competition when I was 13 years old and right after that we started a local band with my guitar teacher and a few other students. We performed in local bars and pubs on the weekends and by getting more and more experience I was slowly getting better as a performer and singer.
What was your motivation to start playing music? Because you’re not only a singer, but you can also play guitar.
I just felt madly in love with music. I was very passionate and didn’t want to talk about anything else but music. My mom thought there was something wrong with me when I was a teenager because I was not interested in boys at all. All I wanted to do was to perform, record in a studio and sing.
I know you’re a fairly eclectic musician in terms of genres, but I’m curious to know who were the musicians and bands that influenced you the most.
Thanks to my dad I was listening to a ton of Rock and Metal music. When I was 8 years old, me and my 4 year old brother (who is also a drummer now) were madly in love with Kiss. I remember the constant fight about who was going to sleep with the album that night! (laughs)
In my puberty I loved to listen to all kinds of genres from pop, R&B, Punk to modern jazz but what changed my life and the reason why I became a musician was discovering the Powerslave album from Iron Maiden. I think I was about 13 years old and back then I knew that I was going to become a singer because of them.
Any particular favorite albums that were key in your development?
I am listening to a ton of music and all kinds of genres but the most influential from Rock and Metal would probably be these.
Kiss – Love Gun
Whitesnake – Whitesnake
Iron Maiden – Powerslave
Bruce Dickinson – Accident of Birth
Megadeth – Youthanasia
Gabriela Gunčíková singing Alice in Chains’s Love Hate Love.
You’re obviously from the Czech Republic. What can you tell us about your early days as a musician in your hometown of Kroměříž?
I was growing up in an area where Rock was quite a popular genre so even as a child I couldn’t escape it. Most of the adults around me loved the older stuff. I loved music and thanks to my dad I was talented to play the guitar well even without practicing that much (laughs). Without the guitar I would never discover singing. So I am very grateful for that now.
For people that are not familiar with it, how was the music scene in the Czech Republic when you were starting out?
Czech Republic is quite specific when it comes to music. It has its own kind of signature. I dare to say that people here love simple songs with great lyrics that are clever and have some twists. We are a nation that loves to sing so the easier the song to sing, the better. We hold a beer, sing and have some fun. I am not sure if people from different countries would love this style but it’s very original. I myself was always obsessed with music from abroad but when I hear a great song, it’s a great song no matter what it is 🙂
Gabriela in the Czech and Slovak Superstar show back in 2011.
You started to make a name for yourself in the Czech and Slovak Superstar show back in the early 2010s. Why did you decide to participate in that show?
I was born in a very small village in Moravia in Czech Republic. When I hit 17 I became hungry for some opportunity to learn more about music and the music business in general. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. It threw me straight into the real world and I started to learn all the lessons very early on. Thanks to the Czech and Slovak Superstar show, the people in my country gave me the opportunity to pay my bills with what I love and I was just 17 years old. And thanks to that I then could travel to the United States and develop my talent and start to work with incredible bands like Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
Of course, a lot of people know you from your time with the Ken Tamplin Vocal Academy. I know you did a whole video on your YouTube channel explaining how that collaboration started, but something that got my attention was that you mentioned that there were some issues with your voice. What were those problems?
I was a self-taught singer and that means that you may sound good but you don’t know anything about your voice and how it works. Any instrument has a technique on how to play it and train it professionally and vocal cords are no different. I was constantly losing my voice after the show and I had no idea how to prevent it. I couldn’t have much fun singing because I was constantly looking in if my vocal cords are alright. It was not cool at all.
In which aspects do you think you have improved as a vocalist throughout the years?
I would say overall control of my pitch, strength in my core which makes the voice sound bigger. Also vibrato and breathe. I learnt to conserve air properly which gives me an ability to hold some pretty long notes and also durability during shows.
There are a lot of discussions, myths and whatnot when it comes to singing. What do you think are the most important aspects that a vocalist starting out should learn?
I think you have to find a great teacher for your kind of voice. I had many opera and classical vocal teachers over the years but I am not an opera singer. So when they taught me something an opera singer would do I couldn’t apply it to Rock and Metal singing. I was very frustrated and I thought it was my entire fault because I am not a great singer. Then I discovered Ken Tamplin and it changed my life forever.
About your time working with Ken, what are the things that make him such a good teacher?
He is an incredibly knowledgeable guy. He studied himself for almost 30 years under vocal teachers from all around the world. He is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to singing. I couldn’t believe the magic and miracles while working with him. I felt like my potential as a singer and what I am capable of was unlimited. So many years of working together and I still feel like I have so many treasures in my voice I haven’t discovered yet.
This question has nothing to do with music, but you mentioned in your video that you had a hard time with Ken at first because you didn’t know any English. I wanted to learn how you learned the language throughout the years?
Even back then in 2014 on my first tour with TSO, I barely spoke English. I honestly have no idea what I was thinking! (laughs) I guess the opportunity comes and you take it (laughs).
I learnt mainly by experience and being completely surrounded by Americans. Also by watching films with subtitles and reading simple books in English. My brother lived in England and for him it was the same process. The difference between us is though that he has a British accent and I have a typical American accent. We always laugh at each other and make constant jokes about it.
Gabriela singing Night Conceives with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
Now that you mentioned the group, during the mid-2010s you also worked with Trans-Siberian Orchestra. How did that opportunity come to be?
It was in 2014 when I got an email from a talent director, Danielle Sample, to come to Florida for an audition for a new lead part. I was beyond excited, sat on the plane and ended up in a studio in Tampa singing my part for Al Pitrelli and Paul O’Neill. They loved my performance and welcomed me to TSO. It was truly an incredible moment and I started my first winter American tour with them that year.
How was that experience? Touring and doing shows in such a big project?
It’s amazing! I love to tour with them. My favorite thing in the world is to come back to the tour bus after a great show, get some yummy pizza and sit down next to the bus driver in a front seat, put some headphones on and listen to some great music while watching the huge American highway traveling to a different country overnight. Magical!
What is a regular day for you in terms of warm-ups, practicing and so on?
If I want to stay in great shape I have to practice or perform at least 5 days a week. It’s completely mandatory for me to warm up before every show. My voice becomes more elastic and it’s way easier to control it. The warm up is around 40 minutes. They are not fun, if I’m honest with you, but a complete necessity.
You haven’t released new albums since the early 2010s, which were 2011’s Dvoji Tvar and 2013’s Celkem Jiná. Is there any possibility we might see you releasing new music in the near future, whether it’s as a solo artist or through collaborations?
Oh, absolutely. I am currently working on a few exciting collaborations but I am taking my time to get it right. Some are going to be great collaborations and with my own music I am still deciding if it will be better to release it as a band or solo. Probably a band with the right chemistry 🙂
Gabriela singing Whitesnake’s Still of the Night.
You have done multiple covers for Ken’s YouTube channel, but one that I personally loved was Whitesnake’s Still of the Night, which you did with musicians like Alex Skolnick, Rudy Sarzo and Ken Mary, who we had here in the past. What can you tell us about doing that cover?
It was an absolute blast and dream come true for me to work with them. Amazing musicians. I don’t think I have to mention their level of professionalism and skills. They are incredible and push me to always work on myself so I can keep up with them. Rudy Sarzo is a great friend of mine and so is Ken Tamplin, who is also an incredible mentor and without him I wouldn’t ever be able to perform the way I can now.
This isn’t a question, but I think you sang that song even better than Coverdale ever did. And trust me it takes a lot for me to say that!
I am so happy to hear that you loved my rendition and thank you for such a compliment. I humbly say that I would never dare to compare myself to David. He was my hero and always will be. The first band we started back in 2007 was a Whitesnake tribute band and I was 14 year old attempting to do David’s vocals. Some of it sounded good, some awful, but I am glad I never gave up (laughs).
How can a vocalist sing someone else’s song and still add his or her spin to it, like you usually do with your covers?
My singing consists of my influences of course. It’s the singers that you dig, the singers that when you hear their voice you just melt and you dream about sounding even a little bit like them. The way they phrase, their tone and the way they express their emotions. I always picked that one thing, let’s say a specific vibrato or tone I loved about that singer and then tried to mimic it but at the same time make it my own. I always wanted to keep my own foundation. I’ve met many vocal coaches that were trying to teach me to sound the same as other classically trained singers but I would always say that I want to keep my sound no matter what and no matter how weird it sounds. Your voice is like your character: it’s your signature.
You’re still a young woman and you already have a decade in the music business. What are your ambitions for the foreseeable future?
I have so many dreams I can’t even write that all down. Right now if we all just go back to touring that would be a miracle and none of us will probably ever take that for granted again. I would love to release some cool projects I am working on and definitely an album in the next two years.
Any advice for a young musician starting out who is reading this interview?
Nothing is impossible. Dream big and practice every day. Take every and each opportunity that gives you a chance to learn and grow. You never know where and when you meet somebody who will fit like a puzzle into your perfect vision. Don’t just wait for it to come, go and get it. There are no such things as failures, only lessons.
Gabriela singing We All Die Young from the movie Rock Star.
Thank you for taking the time to do this interview, Gabriela. Any last words for our readers? Where can we follow you on social media?
Thank you, Kevin, for having me here and for all your great work. Facebook just deleted my hacked official page so that doesn’t exist anymore. I guess I am too mad at them to start a new one (laughs). My Instagram account will be the best option to follow me. I started it a couple months ago as I am horrible to keep up with technology (laughs). It’s gabrielaguncikovaofficial. I will see you there!