Gabrielle opens up about her new album Under My Skin, her first new LP in more than a decade...
From the moment her single ‘Dreams’ crashed into the UK Top 40 at Number Two back in the summer of 1993, the voice of Louise Gabrielle Bobb, better known simply as Gabrielle, seemed to be everywhere.
During the period from then until the early 2000s, it was hit after hit for the singer, including monsters like ‘Rise’, ‘Give Me A Little More Time’ and ‘Out Of Reach’. She scored 10 Top 10 hits, including two Number Ones and would sell over five million albums in the UK alone.
But, after the release of her 2007 LP Always, she slowed things down and, aside from occasional tours and one ‘Greatest Hits’ collection, hasn’t released a thing. That changes together with the release of Under My Skin, a brand new studio album.
We spoke to the singer about why she decided to come back, her new album and heading out on tour with 80s icon Rick Astley…
We don’t expect you to be able to tell us everything you’ve been up to since you last had an album out, but can you give us a brief summary of what’s kept you busy?
“Motherhood, mostly, I feel like I’ve spent the last 11 years doing the school run! It’s nice to have a distraction. I have toured on and off and I have been writing, but I needed to have something that felt right. I’ve been working with new people, the vibe is different, the songs connected and I feel like the stars aligned. I’m loving being back.”
Were you missing playing live?
“I did the Michael Bolton tour a couple of years ago and if somebody had said to me 10 years ago that I would miss touring I would have been prepared to bet them an awful lot of money that I wouldn’t. But I’d have ended up losing, I finished that tour and I was upset to not be playing, it was time for me to come back. I wanted to be back with new material.”
Have your label and management been understanding about the need to take things slow?
“Everyone who works with me knows the situation, I’m not Rihanna, I can’t make a record a year, I need time and to be able to go away for a while, I didn’t give my label a choice. If I’m not feeling it, then it can’t happen. Nothing happens until it’s time.”
Have you been collecting songs for a while now? Did you have a big pile to pick through?
“When you first start writing for an album, you feel so strongly about the material you come out with, but over time, you can go off those songs. I left off quite a few songs that I was gutted about losing because I’d worked hard on them, but I loved the newer ones more. I’ve learned not to be too precious about your songs, you need to have a feeling. Sometimes you can go back to older songs, but I’m constantly writing, you need to be passionate about every song you release.”
Can you talk us through some of the collaborators you’ve worked with? You’ve been working with some new people…
“They’re all new this time. Steve Chrisanthou, who made ‘Put Your Records On’ with Corinne Bailey Rae, he was amazing. I spent a lot of time with him in Yorkshire, he’d play me music and I’d see what vibe I could pick up. I need to record quickly, I can’t really repeat what I’ve done and he really understood that.”
“I also worked with a guy called Ian Barter, he’d worked with Paloma Faith and Amy Winehouse. He played me some music and I loved it, when we got in the studio together we had such a great flow. I take a while to warm up to new people, but he brought so much to the table. I also went over to Sweden to record with The Collab and loved it, the Swedes have such a big production sound and I’m so happy that I’ve got some on my record. There’s also a track with a new writer called Sam Burgess.”
Did you enjoy the experience of working with new people?
“It was great to work with different people and be taken out of my comfort zone, but at the same time feeling comfortable about doing it. I’ve worked with people in the past who’ve had very definite ideas about what I should be doing and I don’t like that. I write my own songs, those hooks, those top lines, that’s my job, no one imposes their ideas on me. I love challenges and this album was a wonderful challenge, I’m so proud of it.”
In the years in between albums, have you been hearing songs on the radio and thinking ‘That sound could work for me’...
“I never think in that way, it’s more ‘I love that! I wish I’d written it!’. I remember hearing Amy Winehouse for the first time and wishing I had a voice like that. I love Adele, I love Paloma Faith, I’ve never wanted to sound like any of them, I just do what I do, I’m not a fashion, I’ve never tried to follow a trend.”
What kind of album is it lyrically?
“There’s always a theme, it’s me. There are a couple of songs about friends of mine, giving advice. My lyrics are very simple, I’ve never tried to be clever and arty. It’s called Under My Skin because when people hear it, that’s where I want them to go, I want them to get a glimpse of what I’m going through. There’s love, there’s life, taking control of yourself and being the best you can be. Bouncing back from being hurt and keeping moving.”
When did you decide on Under My Skin for the title?
“I’ve been doing this for a long time and I know when something feels right. It’s about connecting people to what I’m thinking and feeling. I’ve always been open about what I’m thinking and feeling and this is another example of that.”
You’re about to head out on tour with Rick Astley across the UK, you’ll be playing some big arenas…
“Huge places! It’s great, I was a big fan of Rick Astley when I was a kid and now I’m opening for him. It’s going to be scary, but I’m looking forward to it. We’re going to have a lot of fun together.”
What about your own shows? What kind of set are you planning?
“It’ll be a real mix. My audience want the hits, but they want the new stuff too. I feel like the newer songs are really going to bring things to life, they feel fresh and lively. But I’ll never drop the hits! I still love them.”