Local R&B artist Gabrielle B. leans on family for success 

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Music was inescapable in the Bruner house. Gabrielle Bruner, one of Oklahoma City’s most impressive young R&B and soul talents, said her mother, Ava, was always at the piano, often singing along to gospel hymns.

She was heavily involved at church and had a particular passion for the music.

Gabrielle’s father, Roderick, played in the ’80s for local Ice Band along with his brother years before she was even born.

“My dad played the bass, and as far as I know, they were a pretty big deal back then,” said Gabrielle Bruner, whose stage name is Gabrielle B. “I know they did a lot of shows; they had a lot of their own shows.”

The 24-year-old songstress released her self-titled debut EP in June. It’s a soft but spirited release highlighted by the song “Well Wishes,” for which the artist also shot a music video.

Bruner is planning to release a new single, “Hold onto Me,” in mid-October and wants to release another EP sometime this fall. She said her musical pursuit feels very natural, probably because it’s in her genetics.

“I saw the passion [my dad] had for his band, and even though he didn’t pursue it the way he wanted to, I know that I have that same passion,” she said. “I want to take it farther than both of my parents did and kind of carry on the legacy that they had.”

Getting started

Bruner was a nursing student at the University of Central Oklahoma when her sister asked her to move with her to Houston.

The artist had not yet begun to earnestly pursue music. She posted covers of songs she liked on Facebook, but nothing more than that. She wanted a change of scenery, so she agreed to the move.

She returned to school in Houston to continue her goal of becoming a labor delivery nurse, but steadily, she refocused her energy.

Bruner was surprised by the warm reception “Well Wishes,” her first song as Gabrielle B., received when she released it online. It encouraged her to leave school and take music seriously.

The Gabrielle B. EP was partially recorded in Houston with the help of various producers. Bruner eventually moved back home to Oklahoma City, where she finished the project.

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“It all just kind of spiraled, I guess, one [song] after the other,” she said. “That’s when I was like, ‘Now I have to for real keep going.’”

Bruner said she was surprised how organically everything came together.

“It was really easy — everything’s been really easy so far,” she said. “I think that’s how I know it was meant to happen.”

Breaking out

Bruner invited a friend over for her family’s Thanksgiving dinner in 2015. She remembers her mom started humming something in the kitchen around her aunt and uncles. Bruner knew what was next, but it took her friend by surprise.

“All of a sudden, it turns into this big chorus,” she said, “They all started singing and harmonizing.”

Bruner said the spontaneous outburst left an impression on her friend, but it was nothing out of the ordinary for the artist. It felt to her like to be a Bruner was to be, in some way, musical.

“I was always singing in the choirs at school and at church, but I never really thought of it as a potential career until later on,” she said.

Her first live performance in front of an unfamiliar crowd was at Bistro 46 Restaurant & Grille in northeast Oklahoma City. Bruner said as a child, she was known for being shy.

As she has aged, she has become more sociable, but she was nonetheless nervous ahead of her live debut.

She powered her way through the set, unsure how she did.

Tori Beechum, marketing manager at Bistro 46, was impressed enough to ask Bruner to sing at her small performance venue, Ordinary People Lounge.

In her second set, Bruner said she felt much more at ease. The artist has developed an appetite for performing.

“I wouldn’t say I’m nervous,” she said. “I’m just more eager, I guess, to do more.”

Taking steps

Though Bruner might not have always expected to work as a musician, her young career, so far, has felt like fulfilling a family destiny.

“It was kind of inevitable, me doing [music], in a way,” she said.

Bruner hopes to make a few more music videos in addition to the other new music she has planned for 2016. She named Lauryn Hill, Amy Winehouse and Jhené Aiko as some of her biggest musical influences.

She has big plans, an artistic vision she said might eventually take her back out of Oklahoma City.

Bruner said she is considering a move someday to Los Angeles, where she can hopefully link with some producers there. She said she’d also like to work with more live instrumentation in the future, maybe forming her own band.

“I want to stick with R&B and soul, but a new-aged version, but still keep it organic,” she said.

Each step Bruner takes in her musical journey, each milestone she passes, adds to her confidence as an artist.

“I never honestly thought that I would be doing this or that I could do this,” she said. “Even the fact that I am doing this surprises me. I really surprise myself more and more with the things that I’ve done. I did the video, I put out a project, I performed live. They’re small steps, but they’re steps I’ve been wanting to make for a really, really long time.”

Visit iamgabrielleb.com.

Print headline: Following footsteps, Oklahoma City soul and R&B artist Gabrielle B. carries on a family legacy in music.

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