Gabrielle Aplin 2017 Interview

An interview with Gabrielle Aplin

An interview with Gabrielle Aplin

It'd be ungentlemanly to mention a lady's age, and mightily crass to harp on about how well a young person has done for their age. Let's just say that Gabrielle Aplin has made two massive albums and is a global star, but she'd defo still get ID'd buying cider at Tesco. It's enviable. It could even be sickening, were she not so refreshingly down-to-earth and such splendid conversation.

Gabrielle spoke to Contact Music backstage at the Leopallooza festival in Cornwall recently, prior to her Main Stage headline slot on the final evening. Festival-goers had partied through a fun- and mud-filled few days, but the clouds politely held off so that we could hug, sway and dance through her varied set feeling dry and uplifted. If more festivals took Leopallooza's bold line and booked more female headliners, it would undoubtedly help to bring added diversity to the currently saturated festival scene.

Subsequent to our chat, summer banger, "Waking Up Slow" came out on August 9th and will form part of the "Avalon" EP. Play it and see if you can manage to keep still for three-and-a-half-minutes. Bet you can't.

Do you think it was tempting fate for someone to book a headliner for the last day of a festival that recorded an album called "English Rain"?
Every time it rains, I think, 'Why did I do this? Why didn't I call it "Summertime Sun"?' I've been camping for the last two days and the weather's been pretty treacherous. We were staying on some guy's farm. He's built this amazing eco-yurt, he's got a nut orchard, he grows his own veg and he's got animals everywhere. It was raining and we were in a field in the middle of nowhere. It was quite cleansing. I didn't have to be anywhere. I could get muddy. On a Sunday night at a festival, I feel like everyone's over the fact that it's muddy now too.

How is 2017 treating you?
Brilliantly. I released some music independently for the first time in a while at the end of 2016 and it's gone really well. I'm enjoying the freedom creatively. I've been playing festivals, I've been in Japan and I've got a tour at the end of the year, so up until now, I've just been preparing for that and my new release that's coming up.

The independent label, Never Fade Records, was where it all began. Is it harder work, but ultimately more rewarding than being on a major label?
Music used to be about getting signed and then getting on the radio. What I really enjoy is that there are so many ways to get music out there now. As a fan, I don't really discover music on the radio. I find it via Spotify or at gigs - much more random places. I feel like artists just need to tailor how they release music for them and their fans. What matters is that you make songs and people listen to them. All the stuff that's in between, while it may feel really important, is ultimately not. I wanted to be able to use ideas that would have a major label saying 'NO!'

What sort of things?
Taking a punt sometimes, spending the budget on things like a small artwork idea. Being in control of what is happening and what is prioritised means that when something doesn't work it's genuinely because of something I did and next time I'll do it a different way. I like to be meticulous. I don't think that anything should be rushed. Everything should be amazing.

You've been touring in Japan. To the average ignoramus like me, you might as well have been touring on the moon. What's touring there like?
It is basically like being on another planet. It's one of my favourite places to go. It's so different from touring in the UK. Everything just works - to the second.

Which is definitely not the case in the UK with musicians.
Definitely not. I do like the culture here that you just rock up and you play, but that's not the case in Japan; they do not appreciate lateness.

What are the fans like?
Unbelievable. Very attentive. At gigs, they clap three times and then stop. There's no talking, no-one on their phones.

Can they come and teach some people how to do that at UK gigs?
I feel we should get a few people over to do some coaching. I find myself getting through my set quicker because there's obviously the language barrier, although I did learn a few of my songs in Japanese to play there.

That's a labour of love!
It was fun. I have a half-Japanese friend who helped my retranslate them and taught me pronunciation. I did "Please Don't Say You Love Me".

Were there any significant phrases that really had to change because of translation or to make it scan?
There's a lyric that goes 'Doesn't mean my heart stops skipping'. When Japanese people are nervous, they have a phrase, "doki, doki", which means that your heart's racing. I got that into the song.

As fans, are they extremely devoted?
They bring gifts, which are always really thoughtful, like things to help you get through jetlag, or because I'm vegan, they'd bring vegan Japanese food. Fruit is a really big gift. It's all packaged individually, which seems weird and wasteful. Imagine a single banana wrapped with a bow on it. They really want to share their culture with you, though, which is incredible.

Best Japan gig?
Summer Sonic a few years ago. I was on the line-up with Metallica, Linkin Park, Cyndi Lauper, MIA and Bastille - only in Japan can that happen. It was in a sports stadium; everything was air-conditioned because it's so hot and humid there in the summer. People have no qualms about taking naps mid-gig, so there were people moshing at the front for Metallica and people at the back sleeping.

Best festival?
I opened The Other Stage at Glastonbury this year. That's my local festival, so it was a big deal for me. I actually had a crowd. You'd think that people would be in bed early on a Saturday, but people came out and saw me.

I have to have an Alan Partridge moment in interviews, so how do you feel today?
Brilliant, thank you. Loving Cornwall. I enjoyed the yurt, but I'm happy to be out of it and I'm ready to play. I'm very fond of Cornwall. Part of my family is from St Ives. I'd really love to do a show at the Minack Theatre, outdoors on the coast, but every year it gets to the summer and I think 'I really should have done something about that.' It's definitely on my 'To Do' list.

What are the best and worst things about touring?
The best thing about touring is that I get to go to Japan. Also there's constantly something new, so many places I would never have visited if I didn't tour. Last year, I went to Brazil. I spent a lot of time in Asia and Australia as well. The worst thing about touring is the lack of routine. I get on with it, but it can be a weird thing to do. It's fun, but if you get a bit existential about it, you think of your mates leading regular lives, getting up just as you're going to bed, and you can envy that regularity. There are so many brilliant things, though, that it all balances out.

Your forthcoming single is due out in less than a week.
I'm really happy with it. It's an extension of my previous releases. It's pop and I'm really enjoying writing pop songs at the moment. I was a bit scared that I'd be branded a sell-out if I'd not written anything on the acoustic guitar. I was writing pop songs for fun and they were coming out naturally, so there was no point in trying to rein that in.

"English Rain" had a particular style. Was that such a distinctive style and such a particular success that subsequent releases had to go in different directions?
At the moment, I'm really enjoying collecting analogue synths and old electronic instruments and making this kind of music. I probably just need to get it out of my system. No doubt in six months' time, there's a chance I'll want to get my guitar and record an acoustic EP again. I love how I don't have to pin myself to one genre.

I'm looking forward to the drum and bass era.
It could be coming.

Thinking of the John Lewis snowman advert. That must have been the best publicity ever.
Absolutely. Free TV advertising. I really wanted to do it. I loved that they were taking great songs and getting artists to cover them. I didn't actually get asked to do it until two days before the deadline. I knew what the song was, but they didn't want me to pitch for it, but they asked me and I wasn't going to say no. I love that song too. I got a few hardcore Frankie Goes To Hollywood fans sending me abuse, but Holly Johnson sent me a message and said that he loved it, so that's all that matters.

Were there benefits and disadvantages of finding success at an early age?
I feel very grateful and lucky to live the life that I do. I left school and started making music when all my mates were going to university, but it was what I really wanted to do and I have no regrets.

Is there anything you'd say to your teenage self?
I moved to London when I was eighteen and lived in an absolute hellhole - classic Coyote Ugly, 'move to the city to make music' kind of thing. If I could tell myself anything, I'd tell myself that it was all going to be OK. I kept thinking, 'What am I doing? I'm in this lease for a year'. I genuinely thought it was the end. At the end of that year, a friend had a room available in Richmond, and I moved there and felt like the Queen.

Are there any landmark places in your formative musical years?
I'd consider Glastonbury a landmark place. I first played there seven years ago. I played the Acoustic Stage and then three years later, I headlined it. It's one of my favourite places; I walk up the tour whenever I can.

What was your best line in the Brazilian soap cameo?
I was playing myself. They didn't give me a script. It was a love triangle between one girl who was from a favela. She ran away from her evil stepfather. She ran to Rio, to the city, and got picked up by a modelling agency, so she was the face of a magazine. There was an older guy who owned the magazine, so there was a love triangle between them and another guy back at the favela. The whole thing was building up to the point where she was going to have to choose one guy. There was a song for each part of the relationship and mine was the song for her and the guy from the favela. She chose him at the end, but not until they were in Paris, which they had to green screen. The couple then came over and asked me for a photo. The funniest thing was that they laid out a picnic on a chequered blanket, with onions, garlic, cheese and croissants and they gave me a beret. It's called "Totalmente Demais" and it's brilliant. Find it and watch it - it's gas.

Any chance of the Brazilian soap projected onto the screen behind you tonight?
Absolutely none. That's been screened and it's not coming back. You'll have to get it on YouTube.


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