Interview: After an 11-year hiatus Gabrielle returns to support Nile Rodgers in Gloucester – “Yeah, I’m ready. I’m good to go”

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After releasing her latest album Under My Skin last year, British pop-soul star Gabrielle is ending her tour at Gloucester’s Kingsholm Stadium supporting Nile Rodgers & Chic – Sunday June 9.

You took a hiatus to focus on bringing up your two children, was that a big change and what has that journey been like?

It was a welcomed change at the time. Being a mother, what happens when you go away, even for the shortest amount of time, your children change and they do things and it’s like, “Where was I when they started doing these things?” That’s when they’re babies, and then as they start to grow older, and they get school plays and stuff like that, you realise, ‘Oh my god. I don’t want to be away from this.” The decision to not do as much wasn’t a hard one for me at the time, and now they’re 16 and 24! It’s my time; I think I can be selfish now. They’re good, my mum runs my household, and I can get back to doing my first love, after my kids – music is also very important, my sons both love music – it’ll always be music, so after my children, I have to say number two but when they’re not around, my number one is my music. It’s lovely to be back, having written this album, I’ve had a lot of fun doing it, I’ve not long come off touring this album and I’m having so much fun at the moment, that I’m going through the tour blues where I can’t wait for things to happen in the summer! It’s been such an amazing thing to do on the road, a live band, just having a lot fun and showcasing the new material as well as the old, so it’s a case of, “You know what? Yeah, I’m ready. I’m good to go,” and that’s what it’s all about. I’m just beaming and ready to keep making music, that’s what I love and going on the road and performing it, I’m loving it even more.

You released your latest album Under My Skin last year, 11 years after your previous album Always. How did that feel? And did you get the reaction you were hoping for?

Yes, I still do. The album went Top 10, the reviews about it have been amazing and you don’t know what to expect. Obviously there are all these amazing artists that have come after my time away, there’s been so many amazing artists come out, so you don’t know how you’re going to be received, and what happened with the new material is that everybody was just so amazing about it, and it just made me feel really glad to be back, that I’d done this album, that I had written and recorded it the way I wanted it and I feel like I’m in a great place because of it. As I said, I’ve come off tour after having so much fun promoting and showcasing this new album and that’s what it’s always about, so to be able to do that, and still feel so positive and have so much joy because I’m able to do this after so much time.

With a number of charting singles under your belt, your single Shine was the number 1 most played song on Radio 2; did you expect it considering you had a 11-year break from music?

I was so excited! It was surprising for the fact that, when you have new material, and in the past I had my hits back in the day, but you never know whether you have songs that people take to their hearts, and the good thing for me, was that people took to it. Radio 2 have been phenomenal and just the fact that I’ve had some great songs that they’ve been playing and I’m really chuffed that’s its all vindicated because put me on the A List and it’s the most played record. I’m like, “Honey, who wouldn’t like to that as part of their accolades?” I’m happy with that.

You’re renowned for your melodies and song writing, was it an odd sensation to be open to new approaches for the new album?

Because I’ve always been the writer, and I am always the hook queen, the hooks that came were when I worked with the Swedes, the only ones. They came with the concept for ‘Shine’, and when I say song, it was a little melody, I’ve got a recording of it and what they played me, just a bit of that song and what I ended up writing, and I always write my own stuff, melodies, hooks, that’s me, but when they came to me with the concept of ‘shine, shine forever’ I was like okay, but I’ve got to write the song because it’s got to be about something that I’ve lived and I’ve experienced. I’m not good at singing other people’s songs, hence why songs like ‘Dreams,’ ‘Out of Reach,’ all these songs, ‘Sunshine’, a song I wrote about my son, there’s so many songs that are all about me, and that’s what people know me for, writing songs that connect with people, so when they came in with Shine, I said “Okay, let me hear it” and what you hear and how it ends up is almost two completely different things, but it’s amazing the process. The hook of Shine, I can’t say that was mine. I am not a person that allows people to write for me or anything, but they came up with the hook and because they weren’t like “We’ve an idea of this song and we want you to sing it like this”, they recognised that I’m a singer-songwriter, I’m a melody queen and I was prepared, because I loved the concept of ’shine forever’, I said just let me write the song. So the chorus is ‘shine, shine forever,’ they came with that and the verse. ‘I don’t wanna waste it,’ that was me writing about my life and something that had happened to me, and being able to incorporate the hook, and melodically that was it. We were there, and the verses, when you hear that open melody, that’s not them, that’s me; My lyrics, and my melody. That’s how I’ve always been and I don’t think people were really aware of the fact that songs like ‘Dreams’ and ‘Out of Reach’ and ‘Sunshine’, a lot of my hits I wrote. I co-wrote ‘Rise’ which was written with my best friend and the head of my label at the time because I was going through such a shite time in my life, but because it’s a song about me and he was by my side when we were writing it when I was going through my experiences, it was easy for us to do, but generally when people listen to Gabrielle’s songs, what you hear is Gabrielle’s lyrics and Gabrielle’s melodies, and obviously I can’t play anything musically, I can melodically hum and we’ve used stuff like that before, genuinely I’m just inspired when a producer gives me a piece of music and you have to record it as soon as you play it to me because if I start jamming, I start freestyling. I come up with lyrics and melodies; if you say, “Gabs what was that?” it’s gone. It’s almost like memory loss, because I’m vibing so I’ve got great producers who are prepped in advance and play the music but also have it on record. If you like the melody that was five melodies ago and you want that one then no I’m not going to remember because it was spontaneous and that’s how I’ve always worked. I’m really chuffed that this album as my others have always been the same process but with different people; I’ve had amazing people this time round, I’ve had a blast. This album Under My Skin was brought out with the creativity of me working with new people, not being afraid to be myself with them.

What’s the response like from your hardcore fanbase when you put yourself out there and do something different? Are they happy with that?

This album they love. Everyone’s been saying, “Gabs I couldn’t wait for you to bring music out like this, this is you” and over time I have gone into different music lanes and done something that I wouldn’t usually do. I just love music, I grew up listening to pop and all kinds of music; I never liked to pigeonhole myself so when people say “oh Gabrielle’s a soul singer” I never associate myself as that. Obviously this album is soulful and I’ve come back to one of the things I love doing but this time round the response has been phenomenal so my audience have loved this album a bit more than when I did country, etc.

You’re a massive pop fan, is there anyone who you love at the minute, or reminds you of yourself?

There’s so much music out there and for me you’ve got legends like Adele, she’s phenomenal. I hear stuff and I think “I wish I wrote this” but I never listen to music and think that’s a bit of me, I’m not that kind of person. Music has changed and there are so many different things out there, you’ve got the classic artists, and the younger generation, you’ve got the older generation like The Rolling Stones, Elton John, and all the current people like Ed Sheeran. All these different people, and you’ve got P!nk who has smashed it and has been around for ages, and Beyonce. The type of music that comes out always amazes me.

You’re supporting an absolute legend that has hundreds of credits to his name

He’s an icon. Growing up I didn’t even know some of the songs that he had done. You know when you’re familiar with some of the songs, like David Bowie songs,and so many others, I didn’t know that was him. You’re so unaware when you’re younger and you just realise this man is a legend and he’s iconic and he’s still going strong. He’s a phenomenal singer-songwriter that’s given us so many different genres of music that is still very much his kind of vibe but you just wouldn’t have known. I wouldn’t have associated him with David Bowie. I love the fact that I will be supporting him before he does his amazing show. I did Pride last year and he was the finale, he was phenomenal, I was bopping away with friends. He’s got songs for decades, you realise you didn’t know he did this one or this one and it was a blast. I’m really looking forward to witness him again.

When you perform live, is there a song from your back catalogue that you know will slay the audience?

‘Out of Reach’, ‘Dream’, ‘Sunshine’, it’s not just one I’ve got a few. What’s amazing is that it’s the new stuff, I’ve just come off tour and people have taken to ‘Shine’ so I’ve had so much fun. I’ve got my old back catalogue, people come because they want to see the old stuff, they’re not interested if you’re just going to give them new stuff, being able to mix that and get a good response is great. ‘Shine’ is a new song so having people sing that back to me, just bopping away, I’ve been taken back.

Your tour finished in April, what have you got planned for Gloucester?

I’m terrible, you get people that are into the concert side of things, for me it’s quite raw, I go on stage with my band and just think hopefully the lighting will be right so people can see me. But it’s always about coming out with a live show, giving people live, fun music, and just having a ball. In terms of all the technical stuff I don’t do that, you get all these artists that do big costume changes and lighting, and stages, and coming up some platforms. I wish I was someone like P!nk who can do all those mad things that she does, it’s phenomenal. If you want one of those shows you won’t find that at a Gabrielle show but you will have a good time, there’ll be lots of singing and dancing. Anything elaborate will maybe be in my next life but for now we have P!nk, and Beyonce- I watched ‘The Homecoming’ on Netflix and was like “wow, I’ll just stay in my lane”. I just want people to come down and have a good time.

Have you ever been to Gloucester?

I’m a British girl, I go around and have been around, but I can’t tell you when I was there. Just being in England and performing in my country, everywhere is pretty.

Gabrielle will be supporting Nile Rodgers & Chic at Kingsholm Stadium, Gloucester, Saturday June 9.

For further information and tickets visit: www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk

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