Gwen’s Writing Team Open Up About Working on ‘Truth’

Photo courtesy of J.R. Rotem
Photo courtesy of J.R. Rotem

Gwen’s successful and close writing team, including Justin Tranter, Julia Michaels, and J.R. Rotem, recently commented on working with her on This Is What the Truth Feels Like and what they took away from it.

Genius chatted with Tranter and Michaels and they shared that they were thrilled for the opportunity to work with Gwen since they were big fans to begin with. “Tragic Kingdom is one of the reasons why I ever wanted to make music. She has that amazing gift where she is so honest and so real but still totally fabulous,” says Tranter.

Tranter admired Gwen for wanting the album to come across as genuine saying, “It’s a really amazing thing to see in an artist—’This is who I am, and it has to be something I would actually say or else we’re not doing it.’”

He tells the story of Gwen approaching them for the first time in the studio,

“She walked into the room and was just like, ‘I don’t give a fuck about hits. I don’t care about the radio. I’m here to tell the truth.’ In the beginning, she didn’t really tell us what she was going through. She just said, ‘I’m going through a lot. I started writing songs as therapy, and I need that right now. So that’s what we’re doing, and if you’re not going to do it then I suggest you leave.’ I thought that was great! You’re Gwen Stefani and you want to talk about some real shit—let’s do this!”

Julia Michaels shared that the album has had Gwen’s point-of-view the entire time from lyrical content to the melodies. “If we suggested a line that she didn’t connect to she’d just say, ‘Yeah, it’s good, but it’s not my story.’ She had a lot she wanted to say this time.” Even when it came to Gwen’s love to the word “boy”, Michaels says that her quirks and touches were included throughout, too.

“I think her lyrics are so relatable because they’re not poetic or metaphoric. It just is what it is. ‘Why’d you have to go and make me fucking like you? This is crazy!’ It’s all very conversational and very much from her point of view. If you can be honest then there’s always going to be somebody that relates to it.”

Tranter said that most writing sessions ended in tears from everyone saying, “Once the song was close enough to really listen to, we would turn that shit up and dance along, sing along, and cry along. We’d jump up and down, and Gwen and I would perform them together. It was too cool.”

In an interview with Fuse, producer J.R. Rotem says that Truth is a true snapshot into Gwen’s life and that it “captures that moment, that six-month process, that transitional process, that rebirth, that renewal…” The pair had never met before and J.R. assumed that their relationship and collaboration wouldn’t last pass their initial session.

“She was obviously going through a now-public story, but that was what the theme of the album was—just telling her story. … This turned into a much deeper musical experience, really being part of the sound, the direction, and helping to tell her story and becoming friends along the way. It turned into something that I was very lucky to be a part of.”

J.R. studied Gwen throughout the songwriting process and picked up what was going on since she wasn’t understandably direct about anything in the beginning.

“In the process of the songwriting, you could tell that she wasn’t just coming in the studio and trying to make a hit song. The songwriting process in the studio was almost a form of therapy for her. She would just put it into the lyrics. Without me trying to pry, I would get a clearer sense of what was going on. She’s going through a big transition, she’s writing about betrayal, and that was the beginning of the songwriting process. As things went on… they started to also become love songs, specifically about finding new love. Over the course of writing a bunch of songs and getting to know her personally, she would tell us more and more details and what was actually going on.”

He also comments on the material that was curated for her in 2014 and says that songs that had been written for her just didn’t suit for type of person Gwen is. “Maybe those songs would have worked for a different type of artist, but for her, it just wasn’t this natural, organic connection. I think she’s much more personally connected to this body of work, because it comes straight from her.”

Though he couldn’t say for sure, J.R. is confident that Gwen will be quick to head back into the studio to write new music once touring and promotion slows down.

We feel incredibly grateful and thankful to the team that helped Gwen refocus and create some of her best work to date.

4 Replies to “Gwen’s Writing Team Open Up About Working on ‘Truth’”

  1. I love them! I have loved Justin from SPW for years and was so thrilled when I heard he was working with her. His lyrical style is also very blunt with sarcasm (i.e. “I can’t pay may rent but I’m f****ng gorgeous” hehe).

    I laughed when they mentioned her love of the word ‘boy’. It was one of the first things I noticed from the snipets 🙂

  2. I am excited for Gwen and her new romance because of this album– thinking back to the lyrics she wrote about Gavin– even at the height of their marriage, were still pessimistic,

    “I’ll be back at start with my broken heart”, “and in time it will end and there really is no hope for the two of us” “even when it’s really bad, it’s not that bad” “you knock me down you kiss my face” “I wanna make it worth the fight” “you say you’re gonna burn before you mellow” “do you think we’ll make it? I really hope we make it” “I’m your broken hearted detective” “you’re on your tip-toes trying hard not to get caught” “some people can’t be tamed” “and I know I can’t tame you but I just keep trying”..

    I mean, this is just a small bit of her ‘love’ songs for Gavin, but everything about Blake is so positive and not hesitant.

    1. She mentioned on an interview that looking back, listening to all her old songs, there were so many red flags and she kinda ignore them all.

    2. It’s also ironic that this is the main reason why I love Gwen and ND, we all have doubts and hesitations i our lives, that’s why we relate so much. However, it is refreshing to hear Gwen sing about the beginning stages of being in love, when everything is perfect. 🙂

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