Thanks to the Linda Perry and Alisha Ballard’s EqualizeHer efforts, two rising musical stars get the chance to experience the national stage at SXSW.
By Cy White, Photos courtesy of Notes for Notes
SXSW has long been renowned as an event for rising stars in various media to get their chance in the spotlight. For 18-year-olds Ella Rose and Gabreaunna Nash, SXSW became a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform in front of industry veterans and producers. Most notably, they were invited to showcase their talents by world-renowned singer, songwriter, producer and entrepreneur Linda Perry. After their debut performances at Perry and Alisha Ballard’s EqualizeHer stage, Rose and Nash answered a few questions about their experience.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
GN: My name is Gabreaunna. I’m an 18-year-old singer, songwriter. But before me basically my whole life. I, the goal in life is to be a well known entertainer.
ER: My name is Ella rose. I’m 18 years old. I have been writing songs my entire life, but I just recently started performing. I’m so very excited to be here. This has been just an amazing opportunity. I have the EqualizeHer to thank for that.
How did you get involved with EqualizeHer?
GN: Notes for Notes was the main point of contact on that. I’v been at Notes for Notes since I was like a freshman in high school, and then basically got to college. So [I was] really busy, but I made sure to stay in contact with Ray Price, the area manager there, and he told me about how EqualizeHer was looking for another female participant. I honestly got really lucky, been in some performances, some music, and they liked what they saw. So here we are today.
ER: For me, I met Ray Price about a year and a half ago, actually two years ago. We actually met at a movie we filmed together. He ended up producing the first song I ever released to the public, and it was amazing. Ever since then, he and I have been in contact, playing music together, doing all kinds of collaborations. Recently, he came to me with this opportunity and said, ‘Hey, you know, I think you’d be wonderful for this.’ I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe the opportunity. I couldn’t believe that I got in there.
Can you talk about your experience preparing to perform for EqualizeHer at SXSW?
ER: I have been working all week, rehearsing. I actually wrote the song that I performed the night before. I started rehearsing about six days ago. A lot of preparation, but it has been so exciting and so very fun. I can’t wait to keep performing and keep showing people my music and what makes me happy.
GN: I was at school in a practice room. I’m not usually an acoustic performer, so this was very new for me. But I just used all the skills that I’ve learned from school and my Notes for Notes performance background, and I was able to gear up for this. It felt really good.
What does the EqualizeHer movement mean to you?
GN: The organization means honestly a lot because I think there’s just so many things to talk about. So many things that need to happen. My own thing is, being a female performer, I’ve been told my whole life that I had to look a certain way or present a certain way. That I wasn’t gonna make it if you’re this and that. It was really great to just these really powerful women talking about [how]it almost doesn’t matter. Like fuck all that! You’ll be great. It’s really cool that they put on something like this and that they actually want to hear people in the community perform and give feedback, because it is a really great thing. I’ve been performing for most of my life, and I don’t get feedback like all the time. So it was really great. I’m happy to be part of it.
ER: I absolutely concur. It was such a great opportunity for not only us, but other young women to be able to perform and get feedback from not just amazing people, but professionals that know about the industry and what they’re doing and what kind of struggles us women can face when we get into our passion and what we enjoy doing.
Talk a little bit about your journey to becoming a performer. Was this always your path?
GN: I always wanted to be a performer. I started in the church, and I just kind of knew early on that singing was my passion. I’ve always felt the most comfortable there, I’ve always heard a lot of people say that it truly was when I was in my element. So I’ve always wanted to do that, and I want to keep adding things on top of that, like entertainer and all of it.
ER: It’s very similar for me, but I never quite thought about that far. I thought about I want to sing, I want to have a voice, I want to play music, I want to be able to put my soul on a paper and put it out there. But recently, I’ve come to find how much I enjoy seeing the way that my music touches people and the way that a crowd reacts to the music that’s playing. It’s really a beautiful thing. So, you know, I would definitely say I’ve wanted to be a musician my whole life.
What has been the most important thing you’ve learned about the process of performing on the EqualizeHer stage?
GN: First, well, honestly, a piece of feedback that they gave Ella that stuck with me was about finding your identity and just being able to verbally say who you are. I have a lot of confidence in myself, but I still don’t think I’d be able to answer that question. I have a lot of things that I want to be, want to be versatile and stuff. But, I don’t know, I just feel like there’s just a lot that goes into it. And I want to really solidify who I am and what I want to tell people and when I want to show people who I am.
ER: For me, a really good piece of advice they gave me was that I have a very good vocal range, but I did not show them that. I tried to sing songs that were very easy for me. So even if I was nervous, or I thought I would mess up, there was no way I could. It was a really good piece of advice to hear from the pros themselves. That I have a voice and I should use it to my full potential. It was really inspiring for me to hear, and it’ll help me with any show I do in the future.
What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced as up-and-coming aritsts?
GN: Right now, I guess the big challenge is learning to kind of do it all and just know a lot of in the industry. There’s just so much that goes behind that [releasing an EP]. Now that COVID kind of died down, getting back into performances and getting in a place that I feel like I felt before, confident in myself. It’s a challenge. But we’re getting there. We’re putting in the work, and it’s good.
ER: For me, one of the major challenges I face is to be able to bare myself and my emotions fully. I’ve had a lot of trauma in my life and a lot of hard things that have happened, and it’s been hard for me to express that. I’m a very dark person, and my emotions run very deep. I found it a bit of a struggle to put all of that in my music and know that I’ll be accepted for that. So [the EqualizeHer stage]was a really great experience to be able to show myself and put myself out there and know that it’ll be good when I do that.
What has been the most exciting (maybe even frightening/surprising) part of performing at SXSW for EqualizeHer?
GN: Definitely the most exciting was being able to say that I performed at South by. I’ve lived in Austin my whole life, and I’ve never been to South by Southwest or ACL. I always had this joke that I’m never going to go until I perform there, and it actually came true. So that was really incredible. And honestly, the most frightening thing was playing the piano and singing together in front of people. But it was good. It was a really great experience, and I’m really happy I got to do it.
ER: For me, it’s kind of all tangled into one thing. I haven’t performed in front of an audience since I was 13 years old. So it was a very terrifying, exciting, fun, surprising experience to go up in front of people and show them what I got. It was so very fun, and I can’t wait to do it more often.
What does the future hold for you?
GN: So right now I’m in school, and I’m studying for a classical degree. I honestly just want to learn as much as I can, soak up as much as I can, network. Honestly, my future plan is to be a well-known entertainer, So trying to do that and go to school at the same time. And, you know, whatever happens, happens.
ER: I graduated high school at 16 and decided to let my soul be my drive, my everything. So my plan is to take what I have and run with it. Perform as much as I can, write music as much as I can. Paint, sing, you name it. Anything artistic, I just want to do that as much as I can, and that’s it.
These young ladies have it all in front of them. Their futures are incredibly bright, and Austin should be on the lookout for more of their music and future performances.