Gabrielle Aplin talks fourth album Phosphorescent and coming around full circle: "A Top 10 would feel like Number 1 to me"
Gabrielle Aplin is trying not to read the signs.
But you have to admit, the coincidences are beginning to stack up. Nearly ten years precisely since her first album, English Rain (containing the Number 1 single The Power of Love, as well as further Top 10 hit Please Don't Say You Love Me and Top 40 entry Panic Cord) debuted at Number 2 on the Official Albums Chart, her fourth album, Phosphorescent, is currently on track to return Gabrielle back to the Top 10 a decade later as this week's highest entry.
Not only that, but to work on the new LP - which Gabrielle released independently through her own label, Never Fade Records - she's re-connected with Mike Spencer (Ellie Goulding, Zara Larsson, Cat Burns) who produced English Rain.
"I feel like I've done the exact same thing again," Gabrielle tells us over the phone as she travels across the country to promote the record, "only with more experience. It feels like a full circle."
Hi Gabrielle! How does it feel that Phosphorescent could be your first UK Top 10 album since English Rain?
It's tricky. I mean, if it ends up in the Top 10, that will feel like a Number 1 to me, honestly. Especially given how much music is released each week, I think the best thing about it is knowing that people have consumed [the album].
It's nice to know my fans genuinely care. I'm doing some in-store meets this week and it's the best actually seeing people and how they connect to a song. It's so nice, especially after a few years of everything feeling very digital.
You've also forced me to learn how to spell Phosphorescent again
I split it into syllables: Phos. Phor. Es...and then SCENT at the end. Does that help?
The album itself is an amazingly cohesive listen - it soaks in all these different genres, from singer-songwriter, to folk, to indie-pop, to electronic pop music and synth-pop, but it all feels very lived in, very natural
When I was recording the album, I wanted everything to have a physical space. Everything was played live. Even the synths and electronic instruments, they were all passed through a physical speaker and then recorded. It felt very human.
It meant that we were doing it for creative purposes, not commercial purposes, and it turned out how it turned out. We weren't worrying about it, it was very creative!
You seem to have cultivated such a strong relationship with your fans, and it seems to have only grown deeper since you went independent in 2016
It's amazing! Being an independent artist, charts aren't really something that becomes the priority [for me and my team] anymore. So it feels particularly special speaking to you, about the Official Chart! Like, my independent label is in there, with all these majors. It feels like a real achievement.
I can't wait to tell my fans! And it could end up anywhere, but regardless, it's amazing. I think it's amazing!
Phosphorescent is also a really cool full circle moment for you, considering you've teamed up with Mike Spencer again, who you worked on English Rain with!
What's amazing is that we were in the exact same studio, 10 years ago, making English Rain. I think [with that record] we were so lucky because, even though I was signed to a major [Gabrielle released her first and second albums through Parlophone] I don't really have any horror stories. I was just kind of left to it. I think back to that album and we really were left alone.
It was artists making artists decisions. It really felt like I was making an album for the first time again. No-one knew about these songs. I'd written them all in lockdown, I hadn't played them for my manager even.
Mike really liked how my demos sounded, so we tried to replicate them. I had recorded them in my loft with my dog, so Mike made sure I was recording with his dog, left alone. It was a no humans allowed zone.
Can you look back on where you were 10 years ago just starting out on this journey...and where you've ended up now?
The biggest thing I've learnt is that artistic decisions should be made by artists. I really trust myself, artistically, now. I just feel a lot more confident. I look back [at English Rain] and things had kicked off the way they'd kicked off [debut Number 1 single - not bad!] and I was so busy. I'd suddenly travelled the world and I'd never been on a plane. I'm so lucky to still be doing this 10 years later, but I keep reminding myself - don't let this time pass you by. I was so anxious before, I'm really trying to soak everything up and not forget it.
One thing I've always found really interesting about your career - and your friend Nina Nesbitt, too - is that it took you leaving your major label deals, where you were pressured to write pop songs to...
Write the massive pop songs they'd always wanted us to write?
The pressure was off, honestly. When Miss You [2016 single, a bop] came out I hadn't technically been dropped by that point. I nearly had been! I got a call from my A&R and I was in Brazil, where I'd just self-funded a trip there because I was Number 1. I thought they were ringing me to congratulate me, but it was actually to ask me to change the lyrics to Miss You.
When I was at Parlophone, I was being sent into sessions with some of the biggest songwriters in the world, but when you're in a room like that, you are expected to come back out with a single. I always had really, really bad sessions because of that. I've always said, I've written my best pop songs with people who aren't successful yet. It's just a lack of pressure. I love pop music, I just feel safer exploring it with people I trust.
Ok, Gabrielle, we're giving you one last chance to pitch yourself to the readers and music consumers of OfficialCharts.com - what can we say to help them get Phosphorescent to stay in the Top 10?
My manager told me not to beg. I'm not embarrassed to beg! Please, please keep streaming. If you have bought the album already, thank you. It's highly appreciated. Thank you for supporting independent music. It's a huge deal to me, 10 years later. Thank you. I hope you enjoy it. Please buy it! Thank you!
Phosphorescent is out now via Never Fade Records.
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