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Interview: Gabrielle opens up about how ‘The Masked Singer’ inspired her new album ‘Do It Again’

The British music icon talks about tackling some tough covers for her new record.

Gabrielle
Credit: BMG

British music icon Gabrielle made a welcome return to music in 2018 with her album ‘Under My Skin‘, her first in 11 years.

Recently Gabrielle took part in the second series of ITV’s hit show ‘The Masked Singer UK‘ where she was under the mask of Harlequin. She kept everyone guessing and she finished in fourth place.

With new album ‘Do It Again’ coming on Friday, I spoke to Gabrielle about her time on ‘The Masked Singer UK’, discussed how the show inspired her new album, and to talk about the new music she’s been working on…

We have to start off talking about ‘The Masked Singer UK’. I knew it was you from day one and I was baffled that the judges didn’t guess you until your final episode. Why did you decide to do the show?

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When I was approached initially and they told me I had to sing in a mask and people had to guess who I was, I was like, ‘how hard can it be? I’m a singer, I can do this’. It was great when I was doing rehearsals and when I was being measured up for my outfit and the costume fittings. Then on the first day of recording they give you the mask and it’s heavy, and it’s hot! I was having kittens. I thought, ‘I can’t do that. I’m going home!’ (laughs). I’m glad I didn’t (go home) but that’s why I did it. It was (filmed at) a time when no one’s been able to go out and perform because of lockdown. Having the opportunity to just be able to perform was such an appealing thing. Doing it in a mask and thinking, deluded clearly as I was, that I could probably pull this off and no one was going to know it was me. We had vocal coaches behind the scenes trying to make you sing so you sounded less like yourself but the moment I put that mask on, I got hot and then I was getting anxious because of the heat and claustrophobia. Yet on the outside, this whole costume is beautiful and it’s amazing. On inside I was dying!

Once I got over that initial shock, it was probably the most fun thing to do. I’m still having panic attacks on a weekly basis but apart from that, it was wicked. (It was fantastic) to be at home watching the show and watching the the unmaskings on a weekly basis, and trying to guess (who was who). When you’re there, you don’t get to see other people in their glory and you don’t know who they are. You could barely pass me in the corridor with my costume. Watching it at home was bloody amazing. I totally understand the addiction to the show, because I was included and I was addicted. I can’t wait for it to be on again next year because it’s just been incredible.

Hearing you sing all of these sings that you wouldn’t normally sing has been a really enjoyable experience. I wasn’t particularly a fan of Harry Styles’ ‘Falling’ but once I heard you sing it, I absolutely love it…

Oh, I love you! When I first heard falling by Harry Styles, and that was when he did his BRIT performance, I was like, ‘flipping heck, how amazing is his performance? His vocals are just so flawless’. I was actually scared because there are notes in there that I don’t know how he does it. I just had to cheat and do it my way. I love him and that’s a song I was singing a lot at home. My daughter introduced me to Billie Eilish and the song ‘Everything I Wanted’. All these songs people wouldn’t actually expect to sing but I love them. People don’t associate me with liking someone like Billie but I love pop music. Having all these songs… ‘Falling’, ‘Fast Car’ which I’m familiar with and I love Tracy Chapman… we had ‘Diamonds’ by Rihanna… Tackling songs that I’ve never sung before publicly and that nobody would associate me with was so much fun. When I finished recording ‘The Masked Singer’, I’d so fallen in love with them that the most natural thing to do was to put an album out covering these songs. A lot of the people around me were like, ‘Gabs, you’ve got to do those songs. You sound great’. I was scared because these are big names but I just had so much fun. It wasn’t a case of me trying to copy the songs exactly, but just doing my own take on it. The response has been amazing.

Gabrielle
Credit: BMG

As soon as you were unmasked on ‘The Masked Singer’, your Greatest Hits shot straight into the Top 10 on iTunes and people who may not have heard your music before, were introduced to you to the first time. Did you expect that to happen off the back of this?

Not at all. In the summer, I would have (normally) been really busy as would have not a lot of other artists going on the road touring. All of a sudden because of lockdown a lot of us couldn’t go to work. For me, actually doing that show, I remember thinking it would be great because then people might not forget about me. I’ve got shows in December that I want people to come and see, so I didn’t think beyond that point. Being on the show up until I was unmasked, social media was alight with my name. It was so nice to then discover that people weren’t around or didn’t really know about my music because they were really tiny. For them to discover me now, it is exciting. At my shows I have generations of people there. I meet 20-something year olds who come and say, ‘I think I was strapped in my car seat when my parents used to play you and I’d be in the back’. I’d think that was really cute. They were coming of their own choice, as opposed to being forced to listen to me by their parents. Now that I’ve got this new generation of people who’ve discovered me I’m in awe of it and I feel really chuffed. It’s fantastic. The fact we’ve got the internet, we’ve got Spotify, and all these different streaming stations, where people can look you up if they hear your name. It’s really lovely and it’s only a win win. It’s is a beautiful thing and I didn’t actually see that coming.

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The new album ‘Do It Again’ is a mix of covers, some from ‘The Masked Singer’, and two new tracks. The first single is original track ‘Stop Right Now’. Why did you choose that one?

I just love it so much. This is a song I wrote. I always tell people try not to speak too much about my private life. I mean, I have it all on show normally and I say everything but as I’m getting older I’m like, ‘no, if you want to know about me, listen to my songs, and you can hear what I’m going through’. ‘Stop Right Now’ for me, as much as it’s about a temporary breakup it feels like a feel good song. It’s kind of weird, feel good and breakup that can’t be possible, right? I’ve got friends who are messaging me saying, ‘this song’s a bop’. I love the fact that it’s a song that gets you moving. It’s an easy to sing song and it feels great, even though it’s about a sad thing, but it’s a temporary sadness. The song is about two people who love each other and want to save a relationship that’s worth saving, but they’re going through difficult times and just stepping back, and they come back together again. It’s a positive song, as opposed to just a pure breakup song. I wanted people to hear it.

‘Can’t Hurry Love’ (the second original track), is another song I wrote. I think leading with songs that I’d written first, as opposed to the covers, just made sense. I’d been writing new material and it was ‘The Masked Singer’ that inspired this covers album. I still want to showcase the fact that I do write my own songs and it’s nice to write stuff that people don’t know, and then to give them the covers, which I’m loving, and I’m hoping people will love my take on them. Hence why it’s called ‘Do It Again’ as opposed to trying to be like the artists who’ve gone before me and sung it beautifully. It’s just singing it Gabrielle’s way, my way. There’s no gymnastics. It’s just me doing what I love doing and that’s how it was all born.

There are some very brave song choices on this album. Roberta Flack’s ‘Killing Me Softly’ is not an easy song to sing for example. I particularly love your version of ‘I’ll Be There’, which is so different to Mariah Carey and The Jackson 5’s versions. Were you nervous tackling these songs?

Always, but I love these songs. ‘I’ll Be There’, I’m so aware of all the amazing people like Mariah who sing it beautifully. I just wanted to do my take on it. It’s one of those things where I love the song, but I can’t sing it all the way up there (in that range) so I ended up singing it in my register. ‘Killing Me Softly’, she’s incredible Roberta Flack, but I wanted to sing it my way. Then you’ve got Sam Cooke, ‘Bring It On Home’, I sing that in the shower, and sing it my own way. If I’m in a hotel and I’ve got to have a quick shower, my manager will be like ‘there she goes again!’ (laughs). It was not a case of me saying, ‘I’m going to sing this and have vocal gymnastics and be up there with the greats who’ve gone before me’ but I’m going to sing songs that I love singing and that I love performing. I had fun with those songs. They are a bit scary or a bit brave and most people will probably be like, ‘how dare you? Who do you think you are trying to sing those songs?’ I’m not trying to sing them like those people, I’ve trying to do it my way. That’s why this album exists and I’m really proud of it.

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That’s what’s so great about this record. No one wants an album with covers on where the songs are trying to imitate the original. All of the covers on ‘Do It Again’ sound naturally like something you would record and that’s why it works…

Oh, thank you my darling. I can’t wait to go out there and perform them. Hopefully people when they receive the album they’ll like it and love it as much as I do. I’ve had a lot of fun recording this album. I love it. Now, at my age, I love making music and I love doing what I do but I’ve got to love it. The moment I don’t love it, then I need to go and do something that I do love but right now I’m still loving this so hopefully people will love this.

Gabrielle
Credit: BMG

I’m pleased we didn’t have to wait as long for this record as we did for ‘Under My Skin’ after ‘Always’. You mentioned that you’ve been writing lots of new music, does that mean more will be on the way this year?

Yeah, oh definitely more new music. Once we get this album out and I can tour it, I don’t think I’ll be leaving it so long in between to release new material anymore. I had excuses prior to that like being a mom and sometimes just wanting to stay and be with the kids. I felt sometimes that I would miss out on things because I was away working. Now they’re older, I can’t wait to get away from them (laughs). I love them, bless them. I think it’s a newfound joy of doing what I love doing and appreciating it because I’d been away for so long. Now, I feel I’m on a roll. I’ve been writing new music and after this album, I look forward to giving you more new music. The fact that I was able to add two new songs for this album, I’m just really excited because it just gives a little taster of what I’m doing. You know me, I’ll come with something else (unexpected). People will say, ‘Gabrielle’s soul’ but, but ‘Stop Right Now’ is not a soul song and I love it that much, but ‘Can’t Hurry Love’ is more soulful. Who knows what you’re going to be getting from me next? I’m excited. I’ve done quite a few songs and it’s just nice to actually finally get them out there. The new ones will be waiting to make their debut later on.

You mentioned you have shows at the end of the year. Are you looking forward to getting back out on the road?

I can’t wait and people keep saying, ‘if’ and ‘if’ is a swear word to me. It’s not ‘if’ it’s ‘when’. If we send out positivity into the universe and hopefully everyone who will have the vaccine will be vaccinated so we can all just go out there and just play an return back to normal life. Whether it’s going back to work, being in offices, hanging out with your family and your friends or going to shows. That’s where my head’s at. I believe, we’ve just got hang on in there. Not long to go. That’s what I’m hoping. By the end of the year, it’s not ‘if’ it’s ‘when’ November hits, I should be on the road touring with my band. I’m not gonna say any other thing other than ‘when’.

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Gabrielle’s new album ‘Do It Again’ is released on 5th March 2021 via BMG. Watch the video for ‘Stop Right Now’ below:

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