Gwen Stefani wasn’t kidding when she called her new solo album “This Is What the Truth Feels Like”. It manages to combine positive pop with bracingly frank lyrics about her split from ex husband Gavin Rossdale, the father of her three kids.
“Even before I knew that my life would be forever changed and all my dreams would be beaten,” she says, “I was rather desperate to make new music.” She ended up with a flood of divine guidance that she compares to No Doubt’s 1995 breakthrough, Tragic Kingdom, composed in a similar separation daze: “I did not even know I could compose music,” she recalls. And this record, I feel like it just fell out of the skies. It was a miracle.”
I’m not in a different area yet. I am still heartbroken. You can not have your family break up and still not be going through it a year later. I was cleaning out a room in my house before I called you. It is devastating.
You had another solo album almost done before this one, which never came out.
That was a fake record. I had it, but it never felt right. I had this chance to be on The Voice, so it was like, “You Are on TV, let us place a song out.” I was still nursing. There was no way!
You worked hard on the last No Doubt record, and it did not join. Is that group over?
I don’t understand what is going to occur with No Doubt. When Tony [Kanal] and I are connected creatively, it is magic. But I believe we have grown apart as far as what type of music we want to make. I was really drained and burned out when we recorded that album [2012’s Push and Shove]. And I had lots of remorse: “I need to do it”. There’s some genuinely great writing on that record. But the generation felt truly conflicted. It was sad it did not get heard and how we waited that long to put something out.
Do you have any issue with the other members of No Doubt?
Of course care. They are from when I was a little girl, my homeys! I want them do whatever they need to do to execute whatever creative place they need to fill and to be happy.
What do you make of the state country music?
Being on The Voice helped my mind open to all kinds of music. My parents loved folk and bluegrass – my first concert was Emmylou Harris. And at the end of the day, a song is a tune. It’s all about how it is produced.
You collaborated with Prince a couple of times.
He was such a genius that you can not believe he existed. I was onstage in the Nineties with No Doubt in Minneapolis, and I saw his silhouette in the crowd. We collaborated on one of my songs that he re-did. In the studio, Prince sang and showed me what he did to my song. I was in there for, like, eight hours. It was great.
How did Pharrell Williams and you compose it?
Back then, I felt frightened to be around Pharrell. He’s supercute, and he is so talented. It hurts you! But I knew that at that time, I needed to get back at somebody for talking shit on me. And I wanted it to sound like a cheer. I explained it to him, and he said, “I have this.” He also said, “Gwen, you are too good, you do not need to holla.” We were doing the Tom Cruise on the couch, when we finished the tune. And the label was scared to release the song – they waited until the third single to put it! Isn’t that insane?
Is it rough having to live up to tunes like that?
You do get scared when you have a lengthy career. How do I do something new that does not seem like something I did? And aren’t we going to seem like the girls that tried to sound like that? But this latest album was supertriumphant for me.
The Nineties were such a dude-significant time in music. Is it enjoyable to see women ruling pop?
It’s such a weird time in music. Everyone is listening to whatever their playlist is. Whereas before, we were told what we all were going to be into. There’s some really amazing information out there, and some really terrible stuff. I feel sorry for some individuals that these are the tunes they need to grow up listening to.