As a little kid, Gayle had a vision of who she wanted to be when she grew up: a “prim and proper” country singer, a “‘yes ma’am, no sir’ kind of girl” with no piercings, no tattoos, and especially no cursing. “I think I just wanted to really fit in,” she tells Rolling Stone. “I didn’t want to be this thing that could be looked at and not accepted.” But then, she learned to not give a fuck.
At 17, Gayle is on top of the world — and its charts, for that matter — thanks to a song that’s the polar opposite of what she envisioned for herself as a kid: the pop-punk, middle-fingers-up banger “Abcdefu.” The track — and its spelled-out fuck you’s to her ex, his mom, and his shitty Craigslist couch — is set to be a part of her teenage-growing-pains-capturing debut EP, A Study of the Human Experience Volume One, out March 18.
The EP, as a whole, is a summation of Gayle’s experiences as a teen, filled with lessons learned and failed friendships. And though they’re all specific to her own life, ultimately, they capture how “life is fucking weird,” she says. “And life is so hard, but it’s so lovely at the same time. And that’s really confusing. Especially when you’re growing up.”
Gayle’s project has been years in the making. (Yes, years. Even if she’s just 17.) “Sometimes people think I hadn’t done music until ‘Abc,’ which I get because I didn’t exist in people’s minds until this song, but, like, I existed before that,” she says with a chuckle. “I was doing music before that.”
As a tween, Gayle and her family uprooted their Texas-living comfort to move to Nashville so she could pursue a career in music. She’d sit at bars with her mom, waiting through lengthy singer-songwriter performances to see if maybe, just maybe, she’d get a chance to perform.
“I’d ask if I could sing a couple of songs so they could take a bathroom break or eat a burger,” she says. “The biggest thing I learned is that when people are going to a bar, they’re not going to pay attention to you. Trying to figure out what to say and how to sing to make people pay attention was a big lesson for me.”
It was those Nashville teachings about standing out in her songwriting that brought her to the shocking, straight-up, relatable lyrics about sex, friends, and love featured on the EP. The first half — including “Luv Starved,” “Sleeping With My Friends,” and the second single, “Ur Just Horny” — is about a friendship that turned sexual and how she blamed herself for its demise.
“I thought I was the one at fault. Like, ‘Fuck, I really fucked up our friendship,'” she says. “But then I realized, ‘No. They were trying to get into my pants the whole entire time: That was their goal. They never cared in the first place.’ Maybe I’m not completely the problem.”
With her debut project days away, and as she inches toward adulthood, Gayle — with her half-dyed hair, piercings, and nonchalant attitude — is still figuring out who she is. And she’s cool with that. “I’m not necessarily set on ‘This is who I am,'” she says. “I’ve gotten really comfortable with who I am as a person and what I want. But I know I’m going to change. I know that the things I want are going to change. And that’s OK.”