Interview with Declan McKenna drummer Gabi King

Our drums alumna tells us what it takes to survive and thrive while living life on the road with Declan McKenna…


Our drums alumna Gabi King is one of the hardest working young musicians in the business.

She’s spent much of the last year living life out of a suitcase as the rhythmic engine powering the sprightly guitar pop of rapidly rising star Declan McKenna. It's a gig that's taken Gabi all over the world over the past 12 months and was job sourced through our careers team The Hub after Declan's management team hosted a series of auditions for his band. 

In some downtime between gigs and festivals, we caught up with Gabi to find out how her experiences at ICMP helped shape her as a musician as well as her top tips on surviving life on the road... 

How did you begin your musical journey? 

I’ve played guitar since I was 10 and always had a love for playing music. But the actual journey didn’t start until I was about 14, when a band at my school needed a drummer. I'd always wanted to play drums so I jumped onboard and started teaching myself/playing local shows. I was instantly way better at drums than I’d ever been a guitar so I knew I’d found my thing.

What drew you to the drums? 

Mick Fleetwood. My dad used to always put on Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Dance’ VCR when I was about four and I was always obsessed with the drum solo in ‘Tusk’. It got me fascinated with drums and rhythm.

How did you find your time at ICMP? And how did it help advance your career? 

My time at ICMP were some of the best years. I made friends for life and got to learn from some of the best tutors around. It really helped me develop my playing and musicality." 

My time on the Higher Diploma was especially brilliant, the fast paced nature of the course really keeps you on your toes. 

Can you remember how you felt before you started - what would you advise our students to do to get the most out of their time with us? 

It was a balance of nerves and excitement. I had already made a couple of friends via the house hunting forum (fully recommend) so I wasn’t completely on my own. 

My best advice to make the most of your time there would be to get out and do things. Go to jams, parties, events, socials, gigs, it’s the best was to get fully immersed. Oh and go to your lessons too!

How did you get the gig with Declan McKenna? 

I got the Declan gig through ICMP. Dec was holding band auditions around the London music schools so I put myself forward. 

You've been on the road a lot over the past year - how can new musicians survive a lengthy stint on tour? 

Yeah the last year has been the busiest yet.  I had never toured properly before I got this gig so it was all very new to me, but you quickly learn the way of the road. We recently got back from our biggest tour yet: 53 shows in 2.5 months around America. When doing a tour that big you definitely have to put things into practice to keep yourself maintained. Everyone’s got different things they like to do, a few things I like to do for ‘tour survival’ are:

- eat healthy 

- exercise 

- tour hobby (I like to make tour videos)

- pack light

- explore the city 

What’s your top piece of advice for emerging musicians?

Play as much as possible. Say yes to everything and anything!"

What’s next for you and your music?

I’ve got a bit of time off after the summer so I’m planning to start doing some teaching, and anything else that’s thrown my way, while awaiting the next album cycle to start again next year.  

Watch Gabi play with Declan on Conan O'Brien's TBS TV show. 

Photo credit: Kane Stewart

Drum Courses at ICMP Music School

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by Jim Ottewill
July 26, 2018
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