Gwen sat down with Mary J. Blige for a new interview for her weekly Beats1 radio show Real Talk which aired on Apple Music. Gwen shared that she’s felt like she’s known Mary through other people for so many years and has nothing but love for her and calls her a “deep girl”. We’ve shared in-depth details on the interview due to some fans not being able to check it out.
When asked how she was able to handle being around men for the majority of her life, Gwen says that she was really girly growing up and not a tomboy. She admits that she was “really passive” when she was younger and was extremely close with brother Eric Stefani. Gwen says that she’s always loved making music but never imagined she would have the power to touch people with her songs. No Doubt never had a backup plan and kept pursing music out of love. Gwen found her love for reggae music when the band started as a ska band with former lead singer John Spence being a huge influence on her. “He turned me on to all this reggae music that I had never heard of before.”
After attempting to write on her own, Gwen would show her songs to her family and friends who would then encourage her to keep writing. “The music was just always there”, she says after admitting that she never saw herself as a singer of a songwriter. Gwen talks about writing her first song, No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom staple “Different People”, “which is a song about unity and people coming together. It ended up on Obama’s list of top songs and it’s crazy, cause when you first listen to it, I’m embarrassed, I listen to it and I’m like, ‘Oh my God… that song…it’s the first song I ever wrote.’ But it touched him.” Mary complimented Gwen on being able to make an impact on the President and says that her own song “Doubt” made First Lady Michelle’s playlist, too.
“Songwriting is just what makes me feel alive.”
Mary points out that Gwen has been able to achieve it all: music, fashion, television while raising a family and asks how she does it. Gwen says that its been an “evolution” of herself which started with songwriting after “having her heart broken.” “Once I started writing songs, I started having power.” On fashion, Gwen says that her family was always really protective and made each other clothes so has always appreciated the art of creating and designing. Mary brings up Gwen’s former stylist and good friend Andrea Lieberman and credits her for opening her eyes to having a style of her own. Gwen says that she first worked with Andrea while collaborating with Eve for “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” and was blown away by her. Andrea listened to Gwen’s ideas and ran with them and calls that whole time a “turning point” in her life being the first time she worked outside of No Doubt.
— Beats 1 (@Beats1) January 10, 2016
On her new album, Gwen credits being on The Voice for her recent inspiration and admits she was in a writing drought for about five years. “There was a lot of stuff on [Push and Shove]… I’m proud of it. I think I’m proud of it because it was such a difficult time in my life… It was the craziest few years of my life. Talk about, trying to do all of it, the kids and trying to do the music stuff, and the fashion, and it was just a really hard time. I don’t know what happened… but I do know what happened. I just feel like I’ve found a channel again to open up and I’ve been writing and it’s just been the most incredible experience of my life.” Gwen says again that she’s wanting to write even more songs since she stepped away from the project for awhile due to being on The Voice these past few months. “I wanna go back in and see if the channel is still open. I’m like ‘Please…’ because it was the greatest feeling, you know.”
Gwen says she has an idea in mind for the album’s title and wants it to be “something about truth”. She told the story about meeting with new people this past summer while writing songs and wanting to focus on honesty and not hits. She spoke about her new song “Red Flags” which she remembers feeling a sensation of how amazing she felt afterwards and knew that the song was important. “After all this time, and I’ve been doing this for a long time, and when it just says everything you need to say and it speaks back to you, and you’re like, I didn’t even know I was saying that, and then you just start crying, and then you just start listening to it ten billion times in a row and you want to play it for everyone. It’s kind of what happened. I’m not even saying it’s a hit, I’m saying it’s important.”
Gwen spoke about hitting the road with No Doubt this past summer and how the band’s material (as well as her own) has changed for her. “During this last I went out and did some No Doubt concerts and when your life makes a big switch and a big change, and your eyes are open for the first time, probably ever, I hear that music in a different way. I look back at some of the songs from like 20 years ago and go, ‘Wow… that could have been written like yesterday, idiot. You should have made some changes a long time ago. It’s so funny cause even like the solo songs, I just did a concert a few months ago and I hadn’t done those, and they just take on new meanings. It’s crazy. Music is so powerful.” She admits that she’s never been able to write creatively and has had to rely on her own inspirations.
On “Used To Love You”, Gwen says that she’s received so much love for the song. Mary said that she tuned into Gwen’s recent performance on the American Music Awards and called it “touching” and that it gave her goosebumps. Gwen said that it felt like she was getting naked and telling everyone how she was feeling. She recalls after performing that night feeling like she was “going to shake off the stage” not due to neves but reality setting in. “I haven’t had a new song out that has been that deep in a long time, and going through everything that I had gone through, it’s just crazy.” Gwen shared that she cried after the performance and felt such a release. Mary says that she could see and tell what Gwen had been going through during the song. The pair had met earlier in the day at a party and Gwen wanted to catch up and speak but didn’t have the time. Mary felt concerned for Gwen and really wanted to make it happen. Gwen compares Mary to Pharrell, another kindred spirit that has helped her spiritually during tough times.
Mary points out that Gwen looked much different a few months ago but now gives off a sense of “strength and optimism”. When asked if she’s happy right now, Gwen says, “I think I might be the happiest that I’ve ever been.” She said that it’s crazy how she went from a terrible year full of horrific things to an incredible one filled with surprises. Gwen “feels lucky” to be writing again and feels fulfilled. She joked around with Mary saying the title of the album should be “I Was Sad, Now I’m Not” after recalling their recent run-in together at a party hosted by Jimmy Iovine.
When asked who inspires her, Gwen says her parents and their love for each other and a solid family foundation has always been an inspiration. She also brings up Pharrell and Missy Elliot’s performance on The Voice saying she was blown away and is still inspired by music and “good creative stuff that’s left” leading the way. Mary asks Gwen which reggae artists she loves and she mentioned UB40, Bob Marley and gave a shoutout to one of her all-time favorites, Steel Pulse.
Gwen admits how tough it is for women of their age to be successful on the radio. She says she thinks about that all of the time and feels incredibly honored to have “Used To Love You” be the success that it is — even though it was unintentional for the most part.
In case you missed Gwen’s interview, and you’re an Apple Music subscriber, you can now stream the full episode 5 podcast of Mary J. Blige’s Real Talk on Beats1 Radio here.
Songs included in the episode/playlist:
No Doubt – “Just a Girl”
No Doubt – “Different People”
Eve feat. Gwen Stefani – “Let Me Blow Ya Mind”
No Doubt – “Underneath It All”
Gwen Stefani – “Used To Love You”
Pharrell Williams feat. Gwen Stefani – “Can I Have It Like That”
Gwen Stefani – “Hollaback Girl”
Steel Pulse – “Earth Crisis”
No Doubt – “Don’t Speak”