One of the UK’s most successful singer-songwriters, Gabrielle was due to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the smash hit ‘Rise’ album with a very special tour for 2020. Unfortunately, like many other shows across the country, her Bath Forum show has now been delayed until 2021. However, we spoke to Gabrielle before lockdown to get her memories or recording the album, How she dealt with fame, as well as how much she is looking forward to the tour.
It’s lovely to speak to you and thank you for taking the time to speak to me. You are coming to the Bath Forum this December with your ‘Rise Again’ tour, celebrating 20 years since the release of the No 1 album ‘Rise’. First of all, how is that 20 years ago?
I know! It’s crazy, it’s gone so quickly and I’m so grateful to still be making music, still playing festivals and touring all these years later. I can’t wait to celebrate 20 years of the “Rise” album, people are always sharing with me what those songs mean to them so to sing them on this tour will be extra special. My band is amazing and we just can’t wait to get on the road.
I remember buying the album myself and listening to it non-stop for months, it became my album of the summer. How vivid are the memories of making the album and did you know that you had recorded something special?
I was going through some difficult times when I wrote the Rise album which I of course remember very vividly, singing the songs used to make me sad but now I sing them with the complete spirit of making it through the dark times and being able to Rise again. I never know if I’ve written something special, I just write from my heart and I think that’s what people connect with. In fact someone from my old management company told me ‘Rise’ would never be a hit, millions of copies later I think it’s safe to say they were wrong.
The songs on the album still sound as fresh and as relevant as they did 20 years ago. Along with the die-hards that have been with you since the start, are there lots of new fans discovering your music for the first time?
I find that I get a lot of younger people coming to my shows because they grew up in a house where older family members played my songs, I get told that frequently which is just lovely. You probably wouldn’t expect it at a Gabrielle concert but I’ve had young guys on each other’s shoulders singing ‘Out Of Reach’ at the top of their voices and with the album “Under My Skin’ being released in 2018 and going top ten which was phenomenal I’m really chuffed to have picked up some new listeners too.
I found the CD the other week, unaware of having this opportunity to talk to you and played it to my 11 and 12-year-old daughters - who loved it! They commented on your voice and how unique it is. When did you realise that you had a voice with such a beautiful tone?
Ahh that’s lovely! It took me quite a while to be honest, I always admired big soulful voices and wished I had one of those but my manager started telling me to not wish away what I’m not prepared to lose and she is right, it’s my voice on those songs people still listen to and still come to hear live and so I appreciate it a lot more now.
How were you discovered and who gave you your big break?
Dreams was released on a white label on vinyl and the A&R of Go Beat records Ferdy Unger Hamilton heard it and came to find me basically, at that time I was performing in night clubs. He signed to me to the label and we released ‘Dreams’ which went into the charts at number 2 and rose to the number 1 position which put me in the Guinness World Records for the highest charting single by a debut female artist.
What did you listen to growing up and how has that influenced your music?
I grew up listening to a lot of Tina Turner, Womack and Womack, I was also a massive pop kid in the 80s, I loved Haircut 100, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Spandau Ballet, I love a lot of different genres of music. Some people describe my music as Soul or RnB but I’d say I also mainly make pop and I suppose that’s partly because of what I grew up with.
Your first single release was ‘Dreams’, which was an instant hit entering the charts at No2 and spending 3 weeks at Number 1. As a 23-year-old, new to the business at the time, how did you cope with the immediate success?
My label actually shipped me off to a spa for a few days to hide from the madness when Dreams went to number 1, I literally went from no one knowing who I was to my face on billboards and the sides of busses, It was a lot to take in but was just amazing! I didn’t have that long to take it all in because I then had to get straight in the studio to make an album to follow up with.
In today's world of aiming for perfection, filters and social media, what advice would you give a young boy or girl who may have issues over their appearance?
It’s so hard to not get drawn into the pressures of social media but we have to remember it’s not real and we have to remind each other it’s not real, we all have moments of self-doubt for one reason or another so I think it’s important to try and surround yourself with people who will be there to help pick you up when you are down and to also be that person when someone else needs it.
Was music, therefore, a release for you and did it empower you at all?
When I was younger, I never wanted to be famous, I just wanted to sing so being able to do that for a living was more than I could ever dream of, especially as I didn’t look like your typical ‘pop star’. Image back then was so important too, me being able to come out with my eye patch and own the fact I have a lazy eye lid was empowering.
You have dedicated the past couple of decades on being the best mum you can be. Now that the children are grown up, is it great to be able to be back out on the road?
I always made sure I wasn’t away from home for too long when my kids were younger but now they are that bit older I actually love that I can tour without that guilt or worry and they love it when I’m away too so everyone is a winner. I still don’t go for too long and sometimes they come to shows with me with which is amazing, my son especially loves to make a night of it and brings ‘the boys’ out with him.
As a massive fan of yours, will you be working on any new music soon?
Absolutely, I’m recording at the moment, it was 11 years between my last album and Under My Skin which was way too long. I’ve got the bug now for new music and for doing live shows, after we do the Rise Again Tour, I’m sure I’ll be back with some new music, I’ve got lots more to say yet.
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