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HAWLEY, PA — Some lyrics are so good you feel sucker-punched when you hear them.
“She is the horse and I am the buggy, and this is why people stare,” 20-year-old Gabby Borges sings irreverently in her song “Seltzer Salsa,” continuing, “because without me she’s got no purpose, and without her, I go nowhere.”
Borges’s new album is full of one liners that demand attention.
Borges usually comes up with a lyric first and then writes the rest of the song around it, she tells me, over lunch at Cora’s Bistro in Hawley. “Diet?” the waitress asks knowingly as Borges sits down, which makes her shake her head in shame, “Oh, God, now it seems like I come here all the time.”
We met there to talk about her new album, “If My Eyes Could Talk,” which is now streaming on all platforms. The nine songs vary in style, but all manage to pull together a quirky slew of word-smithing backed by funky guitar riffs.
“I like to call my music ‘Folk-Funk-Jazz-Jam-Rock-Your-Socks-Off," —Gabby Borges
The Tafton native and Wallenpaupack grad is not flashy—it’s all about the lyrics. Her musical inspirations include Amy Winehouse, Bob Dylan, Kimya Dawson and the folk-punk band The Front Bottoms, all of whom knit a kind of poetry into their music to varying degrees. There’s a rawness to the lyrics—they’re “interestingly quirky,” according to her bassist, John Kresse. I want to know if everything she writes is true to her life.
“They’re all real, I don’t, like, make things up,” she says. “I don’t write something just to be catchy… Otherwise what’s the point, if it’s not honest?”
“Sometimes things may seem randomly juxtaposed, when in reality the meaning is just being overlooked,” Kresse added. Take, for instance, “You are the killer hiding under the mattress, and I am Kevin Bacon making out with an actress,” on the closing song, “Undergrad.” Or, “Ugly scars are growing from the corners of your smile / Should’ve known by all the mirrors covered you’d be in such denial,” from the standout track “Lizard Shoes.”
“It’s therapeutic,” she says, rather than scary, to be reading a metaphoric diary to a group of people. “You can listen to a song and think it’s about one thing, but it’s a lot of different experiences in a song.”
Along with Kresse, Borges is backed by Isaac Decker on drums and newcomer Evan Kleinert on lead guitar. The album features former lead guitarist Jason Merrill.
Borges is still young enough that she wouldn’t be able to hang out in some of the venues she plays, and can’t play in some places at all. Still, she has had a regular schedule of gigs in the area, from close by—where people are mostly looking for cover bands—to Scranton and even Brooklyn. For someone who’s not boastful by nature, she’s had to learn to sell herself.
“I like to call my music ‘Folk-Funk-Jazz-Jam-Rock-Your-Socks-Off,’” in an email she keeps drafted to send to venues who may host her. “I also tell them very confidently that I know my music would fit well in their venue and with their clientele.”
She’s having a good month. Along with dropping the new album, the follow up to her 2017 release “Linoleum Complex,” Borges opened up for the husband-wife indie folk duo Flora Cash at Stage West in Scranton. “It was amazing,” she says afterwards. “By far the most people I’ve played in front of, and I felt right at home.”
Borges is eating a Caesar salad and can’t pick her own favorite song. “They’re all true to my heart,” she says, borrowing my words. But she remembers some of the early lines that came to her, including, “I want your honesty, more than I want your body,” the opening line of “Honesty” from her last album.
“That’s good,” she’d said, when she thought of it. And it is. It really is.
You can keep up with Borges on Facebook at Gabby Borges Music, and find “If My Eyes Could Talk,” on iTunes, Apple Music and Spotify.