After years of making heartfelt songs about love and loss, Bathurst musician Gabbi Bolt is now best known for her songs about ABC political editor Andrew Probyn and rats. The latter, an original show tune sung from the perspective of the father rat in the Pixar film Ratatouille, is heading to Broadway.
It’s been a strange year.
“It’s stupid, it’s so weird,” she laughs. “I think it’s perfectly on-brand with how random this year has been.”
Bolt began gaining attention on TikTok at the start of the pandemic, right after the now-iconic Scott Morrison press conference where he told Probyn he “did not run the press conference”.
The young musician created an R&B jam using the pair’s dialogue, even writing a verse for Guardian Australia’s own Katharine Murphy, who had not “had a question”.
“I turned Scomo into this kind of love song for Andrew, and that’s the first thing that really got me noticed by anybody,” says Bolt.
After the song blew up in popularity, Bolt made more Australian political content, even scoring a duet with Kevin Rudd after she sang about the former prime minister’s proposed royal commission into the Murdoch media.
Her political songs built a dedicated following, but Bolt’s popularity really exploded when, bored one evening, she decided to jump on the internet trend of writing songs for an unauthorised Ratatouille musical.
“Ratatouille was very much a throwaway video that I had no intention of keeping up with,” she says. “I just did it because it was fun.”
But instead, her tune “Good in the Garbage” gained more than a million views and has become one of the most widely recognised songs from the fake musical, more than doubling her following in the process.
“It’s now very confusing because I have an audience of half Americans who expect rat songs and half Aussie who just want me to get back to politics.”
Then in late December, she received an email from Seaview Productions asking to collaborate with her – and a dozen or so other TikTok creators – to make a live-streamed charity concert of the Ratatouille musical using talent from Broadway.
“It doesn’t feel real,” she says. “Knowing that my song has got in front of industry heads, I just can’t compute it. I’m just chilling out here in the central west, living my life very normally.
“I think I was emailed about it maybe three days before it was announced, so it’s all coming together very quickly … It’s going to be a 45-minute concert with all the songs fully realised. There is an orchestra involved. I think there might be a little bit of script to weave in between.”
‘When it kind of didn’t come together in the magical way that when I was younger I thought it was going, I felt a bit defeated.’ Photograph: Trent Cash
Bolt is a trained singer and composer and always imagined her big break would be in the traditional music scene, but as her comedic work has grown, she’s had to reassess how she views herself as an artist.
“I think before I was a bit expectant of like, ‘This is what I want my music career to be and this is what I want to do and this is how I’m going to do it,’ and then when it kind of didn’t come together in the magical way that when I was younger I thought it was going, I felt a bit defeated,” she says.
“For a while there, in my early 20s, there was that moment of like, ‘I just want people to take me seriously,’ and then I go and make love songs out of Australian politicians and wonder why people don’t take me seriously
“Creating something as bizarre and stupid as one-minute green screen videos on the internet has made me let go of the idea of what I ‘should be doing’. It’s taught me that I can just do stuff, I can just give stuff a go, and I’ve never had that thought before.”
“I don’t feel like I have to ‘be’ anything in particular anymore… I have an album in the works, a real album, like, a serious album, but I’ve also been looking into musical comedy because the more I keep doing this stuff the more I think I could give it a go.”
Bolt had tried to make a music career for herself in the big city once before, but nothing really stuck. Now with more followers than residents in her regional city and a broadway credit to her name, she is heading back to Sydney to make a go of it.
“I’m going to be working on my album next year and recording it, and I would love to give the Sydney comedy scene a bit of a crack,” she says.
“It is really helpful in the way that I can say that I have a following on this app, and that does give me some credibility, but in terms of how that audience would follow me to a real-world setting, I really don’t know how it’s gonna work. We might do a catch-up article in a year and I’ll be back in Bathurst.”
Despite the uncertainty and global hardship, Bolt says that on a personal level, 2020 has been good to her.
“I couldn’t have predicted any single part of 2020, from Kevin Rudd singing a duet with me to my rat song getting the Broadway treatment. It’s the dumbest, craziest, wildest year I have ever had.”