By Sarah Carroll
It was just a year ago when Gwen Stefani last visited Mornings with Carson Daly. She stopped by the AMP Radio studios to talk all about her new single at the time, “Baby Don’t Lie,” and she even leaked a snippet of her collaboration with Pharrell Williams, “Spark The Fire.”
But so much can change in 365 days. After going through a divorce, Gwen hit the reset button and started writing a completely new album.
A couple of weeks ago, she premiered her emotional ballad “Used To Love You” in New York City to rave reviews. And earlier this morning, she returned to AMP Radio to tell Carson Daly all about this new phase in her life.
“My life basically blew up in my face and so I’m in this new life and it’s pretty awesome, I have to say,” Stefani explained. “Everything just feels new. I just feel inspired. I don’t know how else to describe it.”
But that inspiration didn’t come easily.
“I don’t have anything to hide. Everybody knows that I was married forever and now I’m not. So, could you imagine what my life is like right now? It’s crazy! I ended up going into the studio. On the way to the studio, that first time, I didn’t want to go. I wanted to be in my bed, crying. And I did cry all the way down Santa Monica. ‘What am I doing? Why am I doing this?'”
Thankfully, she DID go to the studio, and it sounds like fans can expect lots of new music early next year.
I had the good fortune of playing you for Halloween. I was you from the blind auditions, season 9 on ‘The Voice.’ That was the look that we went after on the TODAY Show. Finding those red leather pants to fit my large frame was no easy feat!
Honestly, it was so good! But I mean, the crazy part for me was when you kept trying to do the kicks, but I feel like the pants were too tight! You couldn’t really lift your legs. The [heels] were so ugly. They were the ugliest heels I’ve ever seen!
How has ‘The Voice’ been different in your second time around? You seem like you’re having a really good time.
Actually, my life feels so extreme right now. The Voice is so fun, but you know that about me. I loved the first season, but this season is crazier because I feel like I know everybody so well and also because my life is crazy. I mean, my life basically blew up in my face and so now I’m like, in this new life and it’s pretty awesome, I have to say. I’m so inspired and being back on the show and just being in a new place. Everything feels new and I just feel inspired. I don’t know how else to describe it.
You talk about it, while shooting this show, you went through such a traumatic experience. You’re on the other end of it now.
I feel like I’m going to throw up right now! Honestly, I had a wave of like puke!
I saw the pictures of you out at Halloween, the cowgirl outfit! You seemed like you were at Jared Leto’s house pretty late, maybe THAT’S why you want to puke!
I was literally that party girl that you hear about when their life blows up and you’re like, ‘Oh, I’m going out! Watch me!’
You and Blake [Shelton] coming out of the house dressed up for Halloween. I’m just like, ‘Oh. My. Gosh.’ Who are both of these people? This is so not like either of my friends, but you guys were having a good time!
We’re just trying to have fun, you know?
Where are you with your third solo album?
This is what’s so crazy. So many miracles have happened to me, like, in the last few years. It started when I got pregnant with Apollo. That was like, ‘What the…?!’ You know how God just shows you little glimpses of miracles? And then I got The Voice. And then I was on the show and that was just like a whole new inspiring experience to be on that show. And then, things went down, I think it was February where my life just, ‘Woah!’ It just changed. Before that, I couldn’t really write. I wanted to, but my life was just so…I don’t even know how to describe it. I’m trying to find the words. Please help me find the words! I couldn’t write. It just wasn’t happening and I was so insecure about it and then, it just opened up. It was like this channel just opened up. I went in to write my first song with this guy called Rick Nowels.
But why did it open up? It opened up because of the divorce? It opened up because of something traumatic?
You just said the D-word on the radio! Woah! Does anyone have a bucket? Because honestly, this is way more intense than I thought it was going to be!
I don’t have anything to hide. Everybody knows that I was married forever and now I’m not. And so, could you imagine what my life is like right now? It’s crazy! I ended up going into the studio and on the way to the studio that first time, I didn’t want to go. I wanted to be in my bed, crying. And I did cry, all the way down Santa Monica. ‘What am I doing? Why am I doing this?’ [Rick] sat me in a room and was like, ‘Okay, let’s write a song.’ And it wasn’t like, to a track. It was ‘sit in the middle of the room,’ it’s just me and him and this engineer I don’t know, and just write a song to the piano. I was like, ‘Woah, this is intense!’ And we did it. We wrote this song called ‘You Don’t Know Me.’ That was the first opening of the channel, like, ‘Woah! I think this is going to happen.’
That feeling of being able to write again, that’s everything to me. Everything about who I am, confidence-wise or my value on myself, is by songwriting. And then I just started writing one after another. I think within eight weeks I had, like, 19 songs! Even in one day, I would write two songs and it was kind of insane.
I worked with this guy, Justin Tranter and this guy, J.R. and this girl, Raja. I called us the Breakfast Club because the moment I walked into the studio, I was like, ‘Listen, I don’t care about anything. I don’t care about hits. I don’t care about anything except for coming in this room right now…all I want to do is just say the truth. I just want the truth to come out. I just want to be honest and real and I just want to do stuff that represents where I’m at right now.’ We ended up going to the piano and we wrote this song called ‘Red Flags.’ The song is literally, I feel like it’s a work of art. It’s a combination of all of us together. It just expresses so clearly where I was at, at that time. And each time that happened. Then we wrote this song called ‘Naughty.’ It just kept happening. I can’t tell you the feeling that I got. It was to the point where I couldn’t wait to be at the studio. I still can’t. That’s all I want to do, is song write right now, which is crazy and such a blessing.
You’ve always written about what’s going on in your life. Like you said earlier, you wrote [Tragic Kingdom] and then it came out 2 or 3 years later. It was not in the real-time that ‘Used To Love You’ is reflecting what’s happening in your life. You have this new sense of immediacy that’s just got to freak you out.
It is true! And honestly, what’s crazy is ‘Used To Love You’ came out a couple of weeks ago and that was literally the week of the 20-year anniversary of Tragic Kingdom, which is just bizarre. The timing for me, there’s so many of those things happening. It’s blowing my mind.
‘Used To Love You’ was another crazy thing because I had written down that chorus the day after some crazy stuff had gone down, like, crazy stuff in my life. I’ve been writing stuff randomly, like, instead of going online and looking at stupid stuff, but being like, ‘I’m just going to write. This is how I’m going to heal. I need to write. I need to write.’ And I went back in and found that lyric and then it ended up being the chorus to the song.
The whole thing happened in like eight weeks. The whole record. That’s what’s so weird about it! Usually it takes three years! You know what I mean? I felt kind of defeated this one day and I went in and then I wrote ‘Used To Love You’ and it’s the first time in 25 years someone called me from the label. They were like, ‘We think you might have a hit.’ I was like, ‘What?! No one’s ever said that to me in my whole life!’ I was calling my dad, I was like, ‘Okay. Whoever just sent me this email, I’m going to tweet this! Can I tweet this from the record company?’
Maybe your fans know this about you, but in the darkest of times, it’s really amazing to me how humor is something that [plays a role]. I’ve watched you. You’ll crack jokes like we did at the TODAY Show the other day. Humor is really important to you…you’ve still got to live every day!
When you hear the record, the entire record if you listen to it, the first half that I wrote was like that. All the songs were quite humorous, but like sarcastic, you know what I mean? There was a humor to them. And then it kind of went to a place of realness, like, that’s where I think ‘Used To Love You’ kind of happened. Then it went to joyful. There’s so many fun, happy songs.
When you listen to the lyrics for [Used To Love You], I feel like everybody driving around is like, ‘She’s singing my story too.’
This particular song, it is kind of a weird thing to say, you know what I mean? But unless it happens to you, you wouldn’t really think it up, but when it does, it’s like, ‘That’s exactly how I feel. Right there. That’s exactly how I feel.’ I just think that’s what’s so amazing song writing, being able to capture that and just put it into music. Because music is such a vessel for that feeling and it’s so powerful to put it to music.
And for us to receive it is just as powerful. When you put it to music for us, it becomes like our medicine.
Wow…when I hear you say that, that’s like my medicine back! But it is true! Definitely, if you give like you receive, that‘s what I feel like giving a bit of myself through this whole thing. I couldn’t believe it when I did the song live in New York a couple of weeks ago, which was going to be the first time I ever did the song. Right afterwards, we were all sitting at the bar. It was like it was the 1930s, like, ‘Oh, the press is in! Fresh off the press!’ And they were reading the reviews and everybody’s response and it literally felt like people putting band aids all over me. I don’t know them, the people, but they’re helping me because I feel so supported. And I feel like also being me, I’ve been around for so long, I feel like people just know me. And I don’t really hide anything. Anyway, I’m just so grateful.
You’ve rattled off ‘Red Flags,’ ‘Naughty,’ you have some songs. When are they coming out?
Good question! I think probably early next year. I’m still writing too…I feel like I have probably 25 songs now. The record is SO good. I don’t mean to say that in a bragging way because I don’t really feel responsible for it. I feel like I’m just channeling and it’s just been given to me and I feel so grateful for it.
I’m so excited. If I was, like, right now, Tom Cruise, I’d be up here [on this counter]! I would be couch-jumping!
‘The Voice’ is on tonight. You’ve got your key adviser Rihanna, who’s another huge name, but she’s been great on the show. She’d make a great coach herself. What’s she been like?
She’s so funny because she’s really deep and intense and she’s talking and you’re really following and then all of a sudden, she’ll do some crazy thing. She made me laugh so hard. I loved hanging out with her. And it’s really hard hanging out with her because she’s SO beautiful that you’re distracted the whole time. Rihanna looks like a crazy, Tootsie Roll Barbie doll and I’m like, ‘Can I just eat you? Because you’re so beautiful.’ So, you’re trying to talk to her and be serious, but all you can think about is, ‘How did God make a creature that looks like that?!’
No Doubt played at the Global Citizens Festival, you guys did a show in Chicago, you did [Kaaboo Festival] down in Del Mar, is there any life for No Doubt? Album #7…where’s that at?
We kind of are…this is also my mantra…is like, living in the moment, in the present. That’s the only way to do it. So, if I start thinking about stuff like that, then I get really stressed out, but the shows that we did do, they were incredible. It’s not even just being with them, but also, playing live is something I haven’t done a lot of in the last four years. So, getting up there and doing festivals…and I wasn’t prepared. I rehearsed a couple of times, but because my brain’s been so crazy right now, I would just go out there and I’d be like, ‘I’m just going to see what happens!’ And it was so intense! The one that we did in San Diego, the last one we did, I felt like I was in high school.
What is it like to sing ‘Just A Girl’ or ‘Spiderwebs?’ Does it all just come flooding back?
It hurts. It’s weird because for me, each song is capturing a moment in time and every time you hear it, it’s like you feel it again. You know what I’m saying? It doesn’t go away. If I’m singing ‘Don’t Speak,’ all of a sudden I’m associating that with what’s going on with me now, so, it’s very intense. And also, when you look out and see real human beings, because, you know, none of it feels real until you see them singing your music, that was just intense to watch that. And knowing that they know what’s going on. There was lots of almost-breakdowns and tears. Every time the lights would go down, I’d be [sobbing]. I love it. I love feeling intense, so I’m happy.