Gwen joined Zane Lowe in studio for a new (and extremely candid) interview for Beats 1 radio exclusively for Apple Music.
Zane calls Gwen “brave” for putting out one of the most honest records this year with “Used To Love You” and she says that she doesn’t feel brave, but more like something that came naturally from her life. She says that the song “just happened” and finds the whole situation mind-blowing. Gwen shared that she felt like she’s been in a cocoon phase and is ready to break free. “It’s about ready to get good around here.”
She says that performing with Pharrell Williams at Coachella in 2014 as a turning point for her. She admits that her life starting “getting out of control” for her after wrapping up No Doubt’s 2009 tour. “Things started to shut down for me. It was a really hard time”. She says that “that whole period” was not a good time for her and admits that writing Push and Shove was really hard. “I was so blocked for so long” and says that she didn’t feel confident in herself. Gwen says that songwriting was such a struggle for awhile and just wasn’t happening for her at all while writing the band’s last album. She finds her experience now so exciting and says that everything is now clicking for her. “It’s so incredible to be in a place where I can use my gift again.”
“Everyone knows my life is in crazy turmoil”. Gwen spoke again about writing with Rick Nowels and said that it was first taste in rediscovering herself and her love for songwriting. “This is what I got to do now.”
Gwen tells the story on how she was never intending on writing another solo record and found that after the birth of her third son Apollo, which she calls an expected “miracle”, she wanted to dig deep and channel her “spiritual side”. She tells the cute story about her and Pharrell rekindling their friendship via Kingston and his love for “Happy”. She says she was “ready for a change” and debuted for the first time after giving birth at Coachella with him for a special surprise performance of “Hollaback Girl”. Gwen calls Pharrell her “angel” and says, “The things that he said to me during that time were so motivational and he doesn’t even realize it. He said some really amazing stuff for me.” She says that is when everything started to change and got the call from The Voice. Pharrell connected with Gwen saying that he knew where she was, since he had been there, and was her biggest cheerleader.
Gwen talks about going in the studio with a producer, and having zero confidence, and felt like the album would be “curated” for her like other popular female artists. “…Have a writing camp… get things that are my vibe… I’ve wrote a million songs… I don’t need to prove myself.” Gwen says that she attempted that route (with Benny Blanco, etc.), and jokes around with Zane, whom pretty much calls her out saying that is not her style. “It wasn’t, but I was put in a position where I was just, not desperate, but I was like, ‘I have these opportunities’. I’m on the show, I haven’t had any new music in a long time… why not?” Gwen compares it to one of her favorite songs to perform live with No Doubt, “It’s My Life”, saying that she didn’t write it but it always felt good. “I’m not that much of an ego-maniac where I need to write the song.” On the older material last year, Gwen says that the project never came together because “it never felt right”. As we expected, Gwen is referring to her highly anticipated tracks with Charli XCX, Sia (“Start a War”), Benny Blanco saying it didn’t make her “feel satisfied”. “It didn’t make me feel me — it made me feel fake”.
Gwen brings up “Baby Don’t Lie” and said that the track, co-written with OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, was originally titled “Baby Don’t Cry”. She said that the song was pretty much “predicting the future” of her personal life and didn’t know at that point that the track would become relevant for her “like literally lyrically”.
Gwen reveals that she teamed up with Linda Perry (“What You Waiting For?”) again on a new song titled “Medicine Man” which was written in-flight on the way to No Doubt’s Jazz Festival show in New Orleans.
Gwen was put into the studio with JR Rotem, Justin Tranter and Raja Kumari by her new A&R manager (whom she didn’t trust completely at the time) once she returned. She felt upset at first thinking the writers and producers wouldn’t understand where she was coming in and was honest with them up front: she wasn’t interested in writing big hits. Gwen says that the first song the team wrote together was “Red Flag” and calls the song “a work of art”. The second song was “Naughty” and says that the songs were wrote two days in a row. Gwen calls Justin Tranter her wing-man and had been wanting to work with Gwen over the past two years. She says that she finds “crazy chemistry” within their group and they participated in prayer circles together and found themselves “doing things for the right reason.”
She confirms that she has about two albums worth of material done but is still wanting to keep writing. Gwen says that her label and herself held a conference call about releasing a single while appearing on The Voice this season. After listening to her new material, Interscope was afraid that the album was too personal and no one would relate and appreciate it for what it was. They advised her to maybe hold off on releasing a single but relating an intimate “body of work” instead. Gwen felt like the label had “punched her in stomach” and felt hurt that they didn’t get where she was coming from. She says that after such a long career, she isn’t expecting to be on the radio saying “that’s not why I’m doing it.” But she admits that the advice still hurt her. The next day, Gwen she went back into the studio with her team and shared what her label had said, and then put her emotions into the most “non-commercial” emotional-sounding song that could write… “Used To Love You”. After hearing the song, Interscope reached out to Gwen and told her they thought she had a huge song on her hands, which no one had expressed to her ever before.
Songwriter Julia Michaels joined the team shortly after and found it scary to bring someone new in. Justin suggested to Gwen that they collaborate with songwriting and producing duo Mattman & Robin next, whom she’s always wanted to work with. Gwen says that she wrote “two more songs” that could possibly be singles and says she has around 25 total.
Gwen says that she wrote the chorus to “Used To Love You” the day after “things went down” (she can’t bring herself to say divorce), and found herself writing things down all the time. She’s spending all of her time now focusing on herself and her brain and feels like she has had to. She says that the song is about “forgiveness” to her. “I think I needed to get to that point.” Gwen shared that MasterCard actually suggested to Gwen that she rehearse and perform her new single in New York during her special engagement show a the Hammerstein Ballroom.
Gwen brings up director and close friend Sophie Muller and says that she helped her get through a lot. She was always there for her, including a lot of late night Skype calls. The pair couldn’t think of a video idea and Sophie thought of just filming Gwen alongside the song. Gwen said it was craziness enough preparing for her show in New York: rehearsals, new band, new dancers. They filmed the “Used To Love You” video the night before the show in Gwen’s dressing room. Gwen won’t go into details but said that more “crazy stuff went down” prior to filming the video and says that it took four takes to get the final version (she cried through the first two and had messy hair in the third). Gwen felt like fans understood where she was coming from while performing the song onstage in New York. “The truth is so powerful.” After the buzz of the live version, Gwen’s label pushed for the song to premiere on Monday and said the release was “really spontaneous”.
Gwen says that she feels like she’s always been really honest and has “nothing to hide” besides her children.
When asked if she would step away from other projects and focus on straight music, Gwen says that she would love to return again to The Voice if asked. She says that her time on the show has inspired her to create new music. She said touring over the summer with the band over the weekends was ideal for her and is taking her plans “one day at a time”. Gwen says that playing her new material live would be the next step but isn’t sure what’s next. She says it would be a dream to tour but is not into predicting the future and is living in the moment. She confirms that she has enough material done for two albums and is expecting a release next year for sure.
Gwen says that the later part of her writing this time has been joyful, versus the first batch of songs she calls “dark” and “sarcastic”. She thinks people will be surprised when they hear the album. Gwen says that at first she wasn’t ready to be serious saying [her situation], “…was so bad, I just had to laugh.”
She mentions a new track, which could possibly be the second single, tiled “Misery”. She calls it a “happy song” (which was written in 20 minutes) and is debating on changing the song’s title. She also revealed another song that her team had written titled “Make Me Like You”.
Apple Music’s Beats 1 radio will be airing a new interview with Gwen tomorrow, Monday November 2, at 9:00AM PST. Fans can tune into the broadcast here on iTunes and Beats 1 host Zane Lowe says that Gwen “opens up about her life and new music.”
Gwen will also be stopping by the 97.1 AMP Radio studio tomorrow morning for an interview with Carson Daly at 7:10AM PST. Make sure to tune in or stream live on Radio.com.