Gwen Stefani on Recent Album, Songwriting and the Past Few Years

Gwen Stefani cover story quick factsMC: Is it a challenge to write songs that relate to fans who’ve been with you since ‘95 versus being accessible to today’s young listeners?
Stefani: Well, it’s not challenging when you’re not trying to, you know what I mean? I think in the last five years when I was trying to write music I wanted to be on the radio. I wanted to have a hit. Like, who doesn’t? But this record certainly wasn’t about trying to find a sound or please anybody or, “Oh, the kids are going to like this.” Do you know what I mean? And that’s because of what I was going through, just trying to save my life and get through something I never thought I’d have to get through.

MC: Do you feel like there’s a certain parallel between No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom and This Is What The Truth Feels Like, given the circumstances of romantic breakup that inspired each of them?
Stefani: I feel you, and it was like that. Because when I did Tragic Kingdom, you need to understand: I never wrote a song before I wrote those songs––nothing, never. The first song I ever wrote was “Different People,” which ended up being on Obama’s playlist. Like, I didn’t even know how to write a song, and then that song just came out of me, you know what I’m saying? That’s how that whole record was.

The difference was I never knew that anyone would hear it, ever, and I didn’t know what that would feel like. It was too big of a dream to even dream. It was just kind of, “I’m making these songs, because they’re coming out of me because I’m devastated that my best friend (No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal) doesn’t want to be with me anymore.”

The similarity is that I was also in a really desperate place doing [This Is What The Truth Feels Like], and I wasn’t back to a place of naiveté and purity. It was, “All I have left right now is my music. And if I do that, maybe I’ll survive.” So, the way Tragic Kingdom was pure, this new record was pure. I was making this record because it’s all I could do to save my own life.

On both albums, songs came in such a magical way. Like, I wrote “Make Me Like You” and the next day I wrote “Misery.” I was writing two songs a day, where I couldn’t even write a song for years. The songs were coming so fast, and a lot of the ideas were so simple. It was, like, “Wow.” The best stuff is usually simple, if you think about it, but it’s the hardest thing to do.

MC: The new album is so raw; were you worried about how it was going to translate, and how you were going to be able to sing those songs night after night in front of people?
Stefani: That’s a really good question, because I was in rehearsals yesterday and I did “Used to Love You,” and these songs, I feel like they were really channeled, I feel like God just handed them down to me as this kind of Band-Aid to help me through this crazy time in my life. And it’s all kind of about, for me, finding your gift and then sharing it, but it is very draining.

MC: So what is it like singing these very raw, emotional songs?
Stefani: Super emotional. Satisfying and healing. ... To be able to get up there on stage and feel that love and give that love to the audience, it’s what I need to do and what I want to do, and I’m so honored to be able to have this opportunity. Because touring and getting any kind of attention, having anyone care about your music, you never take it for granted. You’re always starving for it and wishing for it and dreaming for it, especially once you’ve tasted success. You can’t stop.

MC: It’s great to hear that you so appreciate your songwriting gift.
Stefani: It’s incredible to be in the position to be able to be a songwriter and share your story with people and then have people relate to it, and then, it makes you feel better about yourself in your own life and you feel comforted. So I just am really in the moment right now.

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