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The album Play To Win - Out Now

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Aicha Jacas

Gabrielle has spent over a decade in the music industry - it’s hard to believe that ‘Dreams’ was released some 11 years ago and spent three weeks at number one. Her critics, on the other hand, thought differently. They believed that she would be a one-hit wonder and that she wouldn’t last.

However, with 10 Top 10 hits, and three huge-selling albums - the widely acclaimed ‘Rise’ sold more than 1.2 million purchases and her ‘Greatest Hits’ LP went on to shift 2.6 million units world wide - she’s still here.

At a time when a career in music is as fickle as ever, Gabrielle has prevailed. Maybe it’s the fact that she shies away from media attention, not letting her personal life conflict with her musical abilities, or maybe it’s because Gabrielle is talented in all sense of the word. Either way, Gabrielle is here to stay. She agrees that award parties and endless meals at the Ivy and other celebrity haunts for paparazzi glory is not her ‘thang’. Instead, she enjoys the simple life, which she appreciates with immense pleasure: “Chilling with the children, doing all the mummy things that doesn’t allow you much time. I am a performer but off stage I’m a mum, so it’s just having time out for my son and two nieces.”

At the beginning of 2003, work began in the studio for the production of Gabrielle’s new album, ‘Play To Win’. Co-written by the sultry songstress herself, Gabrielle has used her own experiences regarding the complexities of life and relationships to pen each track, something both new and old Gabrielle fans can relate to. “It’s not a typical Gabrielle album, what is that?” she smiles. “I’d like to think that fans can relate to it, men and women, even though I have a wider female audience. The songs are from the heart, about personal experiences, about relationships, about life, but this time around I’d like to think that ‘Play To Win’ has more depth. There’s also a couple of songs which lean more to Country, so there will be a couple of surprises for them.” So in this day and age, why has Gabrielle decided to incorporate Country influences into her songs, “There’s nothing wrong with Country. Yeah, I’m a black woman, but I’d like to think that I can just sing ‘songs’. This album is diverse but people buying my music can expect diverse music; it’s about love, life and optimism.”

It was her secondary school music teacher who got the ball rolling, she claims. She was inspired the moment her teacher asked her to construct her first poem. Her poetry began to develop into songs, and then she began to sing. Other inspirations came through in an eclectic collection of ’80s pop. “Madonna, Culture Club, Haircut 100, Duran Duran, Adam and the Ants, Wham… You know, it was all pop, and at the same time I was a huge Michael Jackson fan, so I had a big picture of him, you know, when he looked really beautiful and he was dark chocolate and you just wanted to lick him, (she laughs). Although they were innocent thoughts those days, when I was younger.”

Her accomplishments surpass most artists; her first came in the form of the ‘highest entry ever for a female artist making their debut’ in the Guinness World Records with the single ‘Dreams’, which was released 11 years ago this summer. “That was fantastic! When I first came out, I had a lot of negativity from so-called friends. I just wanted to put the record out, I just wanted to sing, then to be told that it was the highest entry ever for a debut female artist was amazing. Apparently now I’ve been kicked to the curb because of all the new artists out, but I did it first, fantastic!” she said smiling gleefully. “It’s something to tell the kids and the grandchildren about.”

Since then she has gone on to win two Brits, two MOBOs, an American Music Award and recently had her single, ‘Out Of Reach’, as the theme song to the hit romantic comedy ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’, something few British artists have accomplished.

So how does Gabrielle feel about this new era of manufactured urban music? “What era of urban music? When you say urban, you’re referring to…? No, no, no, we have to rephrase that! To me, urban is not for instance S Club 7. Urban to me is black music. They used that term from back in the day to make it sound nicer than ‘black music’. They’re wanting to now put everyone under the same umbrella and I don’t understand that. As far as put-together groups, I haven’t got a problem with it, I don’t know much about them. I think my kids would know more, but they’re more into Busted, my son’s just turned 9. There have always been put-together groups in the UK, in America, like the Supremes and all that, because they were class acts back in the day and they were groomed. It was all to do with artist development, which America is so much up on and the UK are totally crap at. Regarding manufactured music? “I’m not bothered by it as long as they make good music and it’s not offensive and kids can listen to it, I don’t have a problem with it. ”

Gabrielle now sits in her chair at Island Records’ boardroom table with her head in her hands. She’s relaxed now; she’s comfortable and her aura reflects and bounces round the room, creating warmth and a sense of overwhelming calm. “I think everything that happens career-wise is relative, I’m not gonna complain because I think that it’s just gone from strength to strength rather than having a time where it just started off and I just peaked and that was it. I like the idea that it’s been a steady growth for the last 11 years and I’m now on my fourth studio album and quite happy with it. If I could change anything it would be a regret, and I don’t regret anything apart from my videos,” she giggles. “My videos are so awful, I don’t even mind the songs, I like them!”

Gabrielle has had her fair share of problems, if not more. In 1995, just after she won a Brit for Best Newcomer, Gabrielle's former partner, Tony Antoniou was charged with the murder of his step-father and was subsequently jailed for life, leaving Gabrielle to raise her son alone. Although she would not discuss this, she did admit that “without life’s complexities, self-growth and self-awareness is not achieved.” This is a conscientious woman, who has stood in the eye of a storm and remained. “I’ve come a long way ’cos I’ve gone through a lot of things, and I think that had I not had to go through certain experiences, I probably wouldn’t have got this far. You look at life in a different way because of experiences, you kind of get involved in certain things and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, this didn’t happen!’ I think I’m a better person really for the fact that I appreciate life and people around me a lot more, it’s just one of those things.”

The next question seems only natural; does Gabrielle believe in re-incarnation, and if so, what would she come back as? “Oh my God!” she laughs. “I never really thought about it. No, actually if I ever came back, I’d come back as a geezer, I always said I’d come back as a man honey! Not sure who, but definitely a male,” she says sassily.

Gabrielle’s latest single, ‘Stay The Same’ has just entered the Top 40 UK Singles Chart at No.20. A classic Gabrielle track, this song had the fusion of emotive lyrics, classy production and her trademark smoky vocals, perfect for the first release from her new album.

Her final words. “Believe in yourself, stay true to yourself and don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something. I’d like to think my music has been full of messages, positive messages, just believe in that ’cos I’ve had to. Have self worth and respect for yourself because if you don’t respect yourself, other people won’t. Apart from the serious side of it, just enjoy… enjoy your life. As for my future, I will continue to make music, the be all and end all to make sure I’m on stage. I’m looking forward to it because I’ve got a great band, the same band I had from ‘Rise’ and I’m ready to roll.”

Play To Win’ is out now on Island Records.

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