When you sing about God, that should be a reward in itself–but it doesn’t hurt to take home some major hardware, too. With eight nominations in last year’s Caribbean Gospel Music Marlin Awards (CGMA) and a win for Inspirational Recording of the Year, BVI native Gabrielle Hoyte, who records under the name Gabrielle Denae, is finding out that it’s good to be the queen–the BVI gospel queen, that is. When she took home the prize at the 20th anniversary of the awards last February in Nassau, Bahamas–at which she also performed her hits “Never Fail” and “Grain of Sand–” she became the first BVIslander to ever snag that honour.
You’re about to see a lot more of her as she shows the rest of the region that the tiny territory of the BVI is a true musical powerhouse. The child of two pastors at the First Assembly of God in Lower Estate and the sister of music producer Brent Hoyte, she learned early on about the power of rhythm and words, having written her first song at the age of 17. But she also felt drawn in different directions, eventually earning a degree in nutrition so she could help others make healthful food choices. She now works full-time as a dietician at Peebles Hospital alongside her music career. In other words, she already had lot on her plate–literally.
Then September 2017 rolled around. When she released her first album, Through the Storm, in 2015, she couldn’t have known how stunningly appropriate it would prove in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Of course, for the BVI’s reigning gospel queen, each day is a balancing act. We managed to catch up with her to find out what her next one will be.
Tell me about your Hurricane Irma experience, both during the storm itself and the recovery since then. How has your outlook on life changed since then? How do you think the BVI has changed?
I rode out Irma with my family. It was hours I could have never mentally prepared for.
The days and months after proved to be great family bonding time in the midst of a confusing and difficult time. The passage of Irma reminded me of how temporal everything on this earth is, all we really have are our souls! Structurally, the BVI has been damaged and the people have been wounded, but we have found our resilience and determination that we probably never knew that we had.
In addition to music, you also have a degree in nutrition. What was it like to be pulled in two seemingly different directions, food and music?
When I was younger, I thought that you had to aspire to do one thing with your life, one career and that’s it. Now, I realize that is not true. I can love nutrition and music and do them both at the same time. I feel that they are both a part of the future God is leading me to. No pulling in two different directions.
Are you working full-time in addition to music? If so how do you balance your work, music, family and other aspects of your life?
Currently, yes I am working full time. Balancing all the components of my life continue to be a learning experience. I can’t say that I’ve mastered it just yet.
You’ve been performing music since the age of 9. Tell me about the early days of your career and how you felt when called to perform music.
The first time I sang a solo, was around age nine, but I started ministering in music a lot later, in my early 20’s. I had been writing songs since I was seventeen. I knew that I had a gift just by the sheer number of songs that I was writing. My songbook of over 50 songs was proof to me that God was calling me to spread his messages through song.
I know that your parents are pastors who work together. What did you learn from them about family, work, God, and/or life in general?
I learned that living for God was not a religious thing but a relationship thing. I learned that after God, family is next on the list of life priorities. I saw how hard work can challenge you but it’s worth it every time. A life as unto God is one of the most beautiful pursuit any man can make.
In 2017, you became the first artist from the BVI to win at the Caribbean Gospel Music Marlin Awards (CGMA) for Inspirational Recording of the Year. What did that mean both to the country and to you?
I think every country appreciates good press. It was yet another opportunity for the BVI to smile as one of their very own was making a mark on the Caribbean music scene. The win was very encouraging to me. It helped me to hold on to the promises of God, that he would indeed take me around the world for his glory.
Is there a musical artist who particularly inspires you?
Samuel Medas out of Guyana. I respect the anointing of God on his life, his work ethic, his sound and the way he presents Jesus in a very relatable way.
What’s next for you? Do you have another album in the works?
My most recent project was actually an EP entitled Jesus Everyday and it was released June 2017. Through the Storm was back in 2015. For this year I’ll be focusing on singles and music videos. The first one was just released Feb 23, “Safe” a post Irma tribute song. I will also be releasing my first live video recording next month, “Kingdom Come”. I will also be launching my YouTube page this year.
Your mother has been a big proponent of female empowerment in the church and life. Do you share that view and what do you think can be done to empower more women?
I do agree. Women are very dear to my mom. I think when it comes to empowering; it begins with the fact that we were all created with purpose. We must create avenues for that truth to be spread.
What are your favorite places in the BVI? Where do you go in your spare time?
The docks behind the Ritter House on Tortola! Spare time, I’m not quite sure what that is these days. There’s always something to do.
What is your ultimate dream?
Making it to heaven and hearing God say, “Well Done!”
By Heather Skarda