Please introduce yourself, what you do, why you do it, and what you want people to know about you.
Hi! I’m Abby Walker, and I’m an Arizona-based singer/songwriter. I perform at restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries, private parties—you name it. I play a few different instruments, but the ukulele is by far my favorite because it makes even my sad songs sound happy. I hope with each song and every performance, I can reach at least one person who needs it and help them see they’re not alone. I want to create a community out of my music and bring people together through shared experiences.
Maybe I can’t talk to every person who will listen to my music, but I want them to find support and community through it and be able to talk with each other. I want my music to bring people together to heal like it has helped me heal.
On a side note, I just released a new song! “Arizona Christmas” came out last Friday and is now available to stream on all platforms. It’s a funny song about 68-degree Decembers and snowless Christmases.
Anyone who’s been in Arizona for the holidays can relate, and I hope anyone who hasn’t can still laugh along. Plus, there are plenty of references to other Christmas songs and characters to keep you on your toes!
What qualities make you different and unique from everyone else in the industry?
I write songs to help people. Through the words I write, I want to make people feel less alone in what they’re going through. I also want to create a community around my music. I’ve been through a plethora of adverse events and mental health issues, and I have learned as a result the empathy it takes to see people for who they are and try to be there for what they need.
The gift I’ve been given, and the way I can do that, is (by) song. I’ve written songs about the ailing mother who lost her child, the way police brutality affects black children, and my most successful of the social impact songs: a song that brought my community together after a friend’s suicide.
THAT’s the kind of impact I want to have. I want to bring people together to support each other in times of need. I want to always be that artist who, even if I can’t be there for a person directly, has created a community of people that will be there for each other because of their shared experiences.
Describe THAT moment when you realized you wanted to do what you do now. Who did you tell first? What has it been like since that moment?
There have been a lot of those little moments leading up to the big one. I’m Christian, so I believe that God gave me my musical talent as a gift to share. I spent my childhood singing on my church’s worship team, performing locally where I could find gigs, and learning a variety of instruments to try to make myself stand out. By the time I got to college, I’d been told by several people (some who even worked professionally in music) that I didn’t have a chance at a successful music career because I’d either a) started taking it seriously too late in my life (at 18?!) or b) didn’t practice enough and just wasn’t at the level I needed to be at.
And more importantly, I’d told myself I wasn’t good enough and that I’d never find success. It took me a while to prove us all wrong. I went to college for a biology degree, a Spanish minor, and a cross-sector leadership certificate in hopes of somehow using a combination of those to become a veterinarian, a diplomat, an entrepreneur—anything and everything.
Two years in, I got a concussion playing underwater hockey (yes, it’s real!) that left me with memory problems, and let me tell you: having memory problems while trying to learn organic chemistry is NOT a recipe for success. School (and memorization in particular), which I am fortunate to say had come easy to me my whole life prior, became incredibly difficult. I did a lot of praying and a lot of soul-searching and realized that maybe the silver lining was I had to re-calibrate the direction of my life.
So in my final two years of college, I realized what was missing (and why I couldn’t make my mind up between all of my career options): I was supposed to be doing music. That was what I’d always known I was supposed to do, and it was time to stop avoiding it. I picked up my instruments again, started playing at open mics to gain confidence, vigorously began writing song after song, and finally was able to book gigs around the Phoenix area. I added a music entrepreneurship certificate to my degree (which I did decide to finish).
The certificate taught me invaluable skills and helped me land an internship at a recording studio, where my connections continued to grow. Now, I play gigs all over Arizona, record my original songs (though I am still working on gaining the confidence and the courage to release most of them), and most importantly, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’ve finally found what I’m supposed to be doing.
And honestly, I have that epiphany every day. Sometimes I tell my parents. Sometimes my best friend. Sometimes I tell God. And usually it involves a lot of tears. But it is so exciting and brings me so much pure joy to know my purpose, know that I’m doing what I love, a know that I can support myself doing it.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?
I’ve faced a lot of challenges that have been nearly debilitating to my career progress, some of which I’m still working through (shoutout to my therapist!), but the biggest obstacle I’ve faced over the years has been myself. When I had the concussion, I was angry. I wanted to give up—on school, on my career, on hope.
It triggered a landslide of mental health issues I thought I’d already resolved. I was depressed, anxious, and felt alone. It made me think I wasn’t worth anything because I’d always put so much of my value into what I could do academically. It made me think I didn’t have a future.
At the end of the day, I had to realize that none of this was true, and that I was letting my mentality stand in my own way.
It’s been several years of the hard work: looking at myself and my past, exploring where my core beliefs about myself came from, and working through trauma, to get to the point I’m at now. I still struggle, but I also value myself enough to keep working on both my mental health and my career. I realized I have so much ahead of me, and I wasn’t going to accomplish any of it by not believing in myself.
Recently, someone came to one of my shows and said something that will always stick with me: in seven years, will you be happy with yourself if you’ve put out one perfect song, or will you be happier if you’ve put out a lot of songs that were 80% there, but you touched people? And that one question gets to the heart of the challenge I set up for myself. If I let low self-esteem and a lack of confidence (unfortunately paired with crippling perfectionism) control my life, I won’t do what I feel so deeply I need to do.
Ever since this woman said that to me, I’ve had a fire lit under me, finally understanding that I can’t let myself stand in my own way, and especially not in the way of the people I could help with my music. Writing helps me get through my toughest days, so why should I be the one to keep my writing from a place where it could potentially help another person?
If you had to pick the TOP 3 people you’d want to meet that could take your career (or business) to the next level…who would those 3 people be?
Ok, the first one’s big, but for sure Finneas. Before hearing his music, I thought there wasn’t a place in mainstream music for my songwriting style. But Finneas makes the kind of heartfelt, not overly pop-y music I write (especially in terms of artistic freedom and not sticking to the accepted conventions of songwriting), but makes it more mainstream. I’d love to talk production and songwriting choices with him, or even someday work with him on one of my songs.
Second, Salem Ilese. She writes some great songs with killer hooks and funny lines thrown in. And a lot of double entendres, which I love adding to my music, along with the occasional Kacey-Musgraves’-Follow-Your-Arrow flair of innuendos that are placed strategically in the lyrics. Plus, she writes for a lot of other people, which is one of my major career goals.
Third, Benee. Benee exudes the confidence that has inspired me to work on my own stage presence and confidence performing. Plus, she started a record label in New Zealand, which is a pretty big power move. I’d love to talk with her and learn how she’s been able to be so successful.