Gabrielle Aplin Reflects On New Album ‘Phosphorescent’

Gabrielle Aplin’s new album Phosphorescent (Never Fade Records) is here, and the build-up has seen the singer-songwriter again earn the attention that her revitalised, life-affirming new songs deserve. Recent tracks including Skylight, Call Me and Never Been The Same have seen Gabrielle play listed at Radio 2 as well as grace the covers of House of Solo and HATC.

Phosphorescent is the strongest representation yet of who Gabrielle Aplin really is – as well as the artist that she is going to be in the years to come. While it’s not a lock down album, it is the product of the solitude and strangeness that Gabrielle, like so many of us, experienced throughout that time. After moving to Somerset with her partner, the two touring musicians were anchored in a conventional schedule for the first time in forever, while the animals and wildlife that surrounded her new home reinvigorated her mojo. The songs emerged with new-found liberation. There were no external influences from the industry, and she made no firm plans as to what topics she would write about. She had a blank slate.

As lock down dragged on, Gabrielle started to think of all the things she’d missed out on, from big adventures such as realising she’d never been raving in Ibiza, to day-to-day moments such as deciding to stay in rather than going for a drink with a friend. Writing with a back-to-basics approach, Gabrielle soon discovered that an urge for reconnection became a recurring motif. Gabrielle talks to Hi Fi Way about the album.

Is it a feeling of relief or satisfaction now knowing that the album’s finally out there now?
When I made the album it was made in such an isolated time that for it to feel fully complete it had to come out and be physically played to people as well. I was doing a little tour playing in stores and meeting people the week it came out. It was really special for me anyway. There were so many concepts to this album, but I just want people to enjoy it. I wanted it to be an antidote to lock down because I wrote songs in that really isolated time. I wanted the recording process to be so physical, so human, a real coming together and for everything to have a physical space. I feel like the full circle of that and for it to finally be complete is to be physically giving those songs to people. It’s wonderful to have it out… finally.

On reflection, do you think the Covid years made it easier or harder given the nature of the songs you were writing for the album?
That’s got a really good question actually. I think it made me reevaluate my process because my previous album, as much as I loved it, I kind of was everywhere. I travelled all around the place. I worked with different producers and different writers all over the place. Then we stuck it all together to make it into an album. It was very disjointed, we made it fit. This was very different. I just sat in my house writing some songs because I’d completed Netflix and there was nothing else to do. In a real innocent way, what I used to do before, this was my job, and I think that mindset made it easier, to be honest. I wasn’t thinking about what people would think of the songs or how catch who they were when I was writing them. I was just writing as something to do and as a form of expression.

It was such a weird time. I do think as well though, the kind of isolation and the bleakness where I live as well, I barely saw people at all before I moved here. I moved here in the lock down, but when I lived in the southeast, even though things were closed and we were allowed out for a walk each day, you’d see people out running or you’d see people feeling like you weren’t alone here, it was different as you literally wouldn’t see anybody for days on end. It just felt so much more bleak and I think that kind of isolation, I wouldn’t say loneliness because I knew we were all going through it, but I think it took a lot of external things away and made us, or made me anyway look up at what was there. Everything was very real and very open.

Did you feel at times that your own sort of personal resilience was tested?
Yeah, absolutely. I think my resilience was being tested all the time. I think we all were. I just remember at one point being like, what the fuck? I can’t even remember what it was on the news, but there was a big bit of news every couple of days, I was like, what the hell? Do you remember when the news was boring? Like what the fuck is going on? And um, I wrote Mariana Trench actually about that as well because I watched that Planet episode again where they go down to Mariana Trench and I was just like, what goes on there? Then they get down there and there’s so much life and it definitely felt like where we were as humans at the time, made me think about that and about human resilience.

There was a point where I thought, where it was at that point in lock down where people started doing really nice kind things for each other, people were delivering food to people who are really vulnerable and like we are seeing all these pictures online about like rivers, the canals in Venice for example, being clear for the first time in years or small clouds not there for the first time in a long time and everything just felt like things were good, obviously it didn’t last, but I did think a lot at that time about human resilience.

Did you think the song writing process was more therapeutic than you originally intended?
Definitely. I didn’t really realise until afterwards. I didn’t know I was writing an album when I was writing it. It was only until Mike Spencer who produced the album came to me. When I had everything started and I was just noodling around asking if I’d be up for making an album, he doesn’t make many albums. I was thinking, oh yeah, I’d love to and I’ve got these songs and it felt scary but in a good way, almost in a naked way. It was very vulnerable and very pure. I think as a concept I wanted to try that. Also what was really interesting, and I realised this from this album, was how important it is to me that I’m always reminding myself that I’m a singer songwriter and a songwriter at my core.

I think artistically after my last album for example, as much as it was wonderful I would be writing songs with producers and over their beats or whatever, then I’d have to teach myself how to play those songs that I’d just written and that was weird. I really loved that before I’d even recorded this album, I could sit there and play it on piano or the guitar from start to finish because that was how they were composed anyway. I feel like that’s really important to me as an artist and something I should always be able to do.

Was it hard staying focused and on track ultimately giving yourself a deadline to finish this album?
Yeah, we kept calling it a mountain and we were climbing it talking about which point on the mountain we are. I wasn’t great at this. I went to Real World, we recorded it down there and that was amazing. It was a dream to go there. It was really special. We did all those bits and that was easy because we were booked there for a week and as soon as we got back up to Mike’s studio to start finishing the album, it was like okay, we just started chipping away. I was there every Tuesday and Wednesday, some days a bit more. I loved having that routine. That routine was just amazing, and we had a rough deadline.

Anytime there was a deadline we kind of continued and ignored it a little bit. Just having that routine was really, really good. I don’t really do well without the routine, when it finished though I was like, what do I do now? What do I do when I wasn’t going up there every Tuesday and Wednesday, I don’t know what to do with myself because it came became such a part of my life as if we were both living in this project for a year and a half.

What was your reaction when you played it back start to end for the first time?
I was just so happy I did it. I played it on vinyl when the test pressing came. It was just so cool. My vinyl player is shit but I got to really hear all the bits, it’s such a wonderful feeling after spending so long, like years on, like I said, living in a project to finally physically hold it, see it and put it on something. It’s a real accomplished feeling and it’s lovely. I can’t crack on, I love making things and I love really consuming myself with the project, and I cannot even start thinking about the next one until that moment has happened.

Are there any plans this year to tour Australia?
I hope so. I’m always begging, I’m always begging to come back to Australia. I’ve always had such good times. There’s definitely plans to come back, I just don’t have dates in my diary yet, but yeah, I’m very, very much looking forward to coming back.

Interview By Rob Lyon

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