Interview with VII
by Evan Miller
This is the first interview in a series of interviews with local artists. Gabriel Townsell, also known as VII, is a rapper, singer, writer, and wrestler from the west side of Chicago.
How long have you been writing/recording music?
I've been writing music at some capacity since I was about 8 years old. Not consistently, seriously, or well, but that was the start. I started composing on the piano when I was in 8th grade, but I didn't start taking songwriting seriously until about a year and a half ago. I've only been recording since this past summer.
What motivates you to do music?
The ability to explore my capabilities as an artist, to relay my experiences, to put my thoughts somewhere concrete... those are the reasons why I do what I do. It's an escape for me and a hobby in a way that few other things are. Also seeing people vibing to my music keeps me in it. I love that feeling.
Who are some of your biggest musical inspirations? Whose style do you draw from or do you feel like your sound is original?
I'd say the versatility of Andre 3000 is a big inspiration for me. And anybody I've listened to extensively can be heard in my music. I'd still say I'm original, but Kanye, Kendrick, Cole, Isaiah Rashad, Cudi, Drake, Big Sean, Joey Bada$$... stylistically, I draw inspiration from a lot of places.
Who would be your dream collaboration?
I can't be from Chicago and say I wouldn't wanna work with Ye, but if I had to pick anybody ever, it'd be Andre 3000.
Have your Stanford experiences thus far affected your music at all?
I think being at Stanford has given me more time and locations to develop my artistry. I also use writing as a stress release sometimes, and there's been plenty of opportunity for that here. I've written upwards of 30 songs since I've been on campus.
How do aspects of your identity affect your musical expression, if they do?
You get who I am in my music. You see what I'm thinking, things I might not tell you if you asked, anything. Music is my opportunity to be vulnerable, and one of the few times I feel legitimately comfortable doing so.
Is it difficult balancing your music with being an athlete?
It's getting to be, especially now with the potential of money involved. Being an athlete, I can't accept anything like that, but it'd be a lie to say it wouldn't be cool. But, money aside, I write when I want and record when I can, based on my wrestling schedule. My athletics comes before my artistry, and academics come before both, so finding time to work on my music is pretty rough.
Where do you hope to see your music career go? Future plans?
I hesitate to call it a career. It's a hobby, more than anything. Something I love, but not exactly what I'm staking my livelihood on. I don't have any expectations for it, except to keep seeing people knowing and reciting my words, keep reaching people in as many ways as I can, and keeping myself happy. If I get to see some places with it, keep rocking venues, and make some money after I'm done here, maybe I will. But for now, I'm just counting plays and pumping out music.