The SongBirds: ‘Our sound came as such a unique surprise. We looked at each other and went, wow’

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The SongBirds: ‘Our sound came as such a unique surprise. We looked at each other and went, wow’

The SongBirds
Photo by Matt Sayles © 2020
Words by Coco Veldkamp

The SongBirds are three very different women – Gaby Moreno, Erica Canales, and Dannielle DeAndrea - who have charmed audiences with their vintage-inspired blend of folk, soul, jazz, Americana, and blues.

Ahead of their highly anticipated performance at the Port Fairy Folk Festival 2024, Canales shares how she fell in love with music, how the women came together, and why they love to sing. Canales was drawn to music at a young age and recalls a nostalgic memory that would set the tone for her musical career.

“I’d say the most pivotal moment was when I was 9 years old, on a road trip with my Mum and older sister. We were leaving Philadelphia and heading back to our hometown in Texas. She only had one tape for the trip – Linda Ronstadt’s Canciones De Mi Padre. I remember learning and listening to the songs and singing along with all of them,” Canales recollected.

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“My obsession with music started with Linda Ronstadt, and of course, the big three divas – Mariah, Celine and Barbra. I drove my Mom crazy listening to their songs over and over again, teaching myself all the runs, singing in the car, in the shower, anywhere really. What all of those women taught me was vocal power, vocal agility and how to tell a story with my voice.”

Moreno, Canales, and DeAndrea formed the SongBirds in 2009, having met in Los Angeles in a fortunate stroke of serendipity.

“Gaby and I met at our music college and we met Danni while being members of an LA corporate band company. Danni and Gaby were members of one band, and I was the female vocalist in the other. We all left around the same time and when we caught up, Gaby asked Danni and me to learn and sing this wild song from The Boswell Sisters – Shout Sister Shout, for her upcoming show and we did! It went so well that we all thought, hey, we’ve got something here and we loved singing with each other, we should keep doing this! The rest, as they say, is history,” she explained.

Their union would see them embark on a life-changing adventure. From performing at pre-Oscar events alongside music and film legends to singing with Meghan Trainor – their sound has taken them around the world. A sound, which Erica recalls, was a mystical discovery.

“Gaby is the one who brought those first few songs our way, she has such an ear for the vintage and obscure. Also, harmony is such an electric thing – it needs to light you up when you hear it. Many tunes from those eras had tight harmonies and would lift you or would put you in a place or time that only you knew, they connected. So, we knew that anything we brought to the table, be it existing songs or our original songs, it needed to have that spirit, that sound, that feeling, that magic,” Canales explained.

According to Canales, The SongBirds are comprised of three very distinctive women, who live differently, work differently, and sing differently, but connect through their music.

“We come together and it all just fits. A great example of how we made something The SongBirds style, I would say, is our cover of Olivia Newton-John’s Physical. That song is so recognisable, and we knew it would be a challenge to make it ours. Danni brought us the track to add to our Aussie catalogue, Gaby had the idea of going more acoustic and played with the way the verses were sung.

“We knew slowing it down was going to make it more sultry sounding, and when we thought it needed more of a twist, we thought – WWTBSD (What Would the Boswell Sisters Do?) They would take it home in the end and make it wacky. So, we did just that”, she said.

The SongBirds have big plans for the future – and they’re coming back to Australia. Catch them playing at Port Fairy Folk Festival 2024 which will run from 8 – 11 March.

“Expect to have your socks knocked off with new and familiar tunes from our debut album ‘Dreamers Dream On’, lots of smiles and laughter and most of all – vocal magic.”

Get tickets for the Port Fairy Folk Festival 2024 here and listen to The SongBirds on Spotify here.