We Interviewed Gwen Stefani For Nine Minutes And It Was A Fever Dream
If there's one thing we learned in our rapid-fire chat - it's that Stefani is very, very excited about her new music.
Somehow, despite spending nearly three decades in the spotlight, Gwen Stefani tells me she still feels like an underdog. Or, at least, surprised by the career she’s ended up with.
“I could go melt into Oklahoma with Blake [Shelton, husband] and plant flowers and be happy doing that, but there’s nothing like writing a song and sharing it which is something I’m so blessed to be able to do,” Gwen Stefani tells me over the phone when I ask what motivated her to get back in the studio. “I wasn’t planning [this record], I just started writing and all of a sudden I had so many songs.”
Stefani has been a household name and chart-topping frontwoman turned solo sensation for over 25 years now, so it would hardly be surprising if she wanted to sit back and rest on her laurels. She’s already had a successful Vegas residency and a stint as a coach on The Voice, but the popstar has still been hard at work on new music — even over the last year, when the world turned upside down.
Her new single ‘Slow Clap’ is the second offering from a yet to be announced album and falls neatly into Stefani’s signature dancehall and ska-influenced pop sound. It might not be the groundbreaking almost-hyperpop sounds of her debut Love Angel Music Baby, more a reinterpretation for the TikTok generation. She’s also just dropped a remix of the track, featuring Saweetie.
Lyrically the song places Stefani as an underdog having to prove herself time and time again, but never giving up. “The song represents how we feel our whole lives, and that feeling never really goes away.” the singer says when I ask if she still felt like an underdog after so much success, “We play these games in our brains, and this song captured that feeling we all have.”
Stefani’s surprise at doing press for Australia echoes this feeling: “I haven’t been there in so long, to think there’s still interest… it’s exciting!”
Love, Angel, Music, Stefani
With just nine minutes on the line with Gwen, it was never going to be possible to talk about every single part of her career — from fronting No Doubt to the long-standing criticisms of the cultural appropriation. Stefani has briefly addressed the latter in recent years, saying her use of Harajuku imagery was a “concept”, not appropriation. With the interview as clipped as it was, our questions on the issue, unfortunately, go unasked and unanswered.
Stefani is clearly very eager to discuss her new music — I ask only couple of questions in our entire interview, such is her enthusiasm for discussing her new material. She talks quickly, energetically, and she has that charismatic knack of completely sweeping you up and along with her.
“I’m so glad I went for it, it was a lot of work but I feel so happy to have new music, it’s the greatest feeling ever,” she says of her upcoming album, most of which was written and recorded in lockdown during the pandemic.
The singer recalled the moment before the pandemic where she first started to feel the process begin. “I’d been given a song, which doesn’t happen that often, I always ask like ‘I’m super open! Give me ‘Umbrella’, I’ll record that!” She laughs.
“So I recorded this song and the girl who gave it to me said ‘They wrote this song for you’… So we hooked up this writing session and ended up writing a song that day called ‘Cry Happy’ and it was quite euphoric for me…I got the [songwriting] bug that day, I didn’t even get to record the demo because I had to leave to be with my kids.”
After recording the vocals for the song during quarantine Stefani apprehensively started Zoom writing sessions where the album started to truly come together. “I was like ‘that sounds really weird and not possible.’ But the first session… we wrote a song… like what?”
After this first experience, Stefani found working from home on zoom more ideal than first expected “It was perfect for me because I had my kids at home so they would be in one room doing school and I would be writing songs in the other room. It was probably the only way I could’ve done this record.”
Before she could tell me anything more about what to expect from her new album — or even when to expect it — our nine minutes were up, and Gwen signed off with a warm goodbye. Like a fever dream, she was gone.
Patrick Campbell is a writer and DJ based in Melbourne. They are on Twitter.