Gwen Stefani opens up about new album .. and its striking similarities to her past work

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Gwen Stefani Reveals Heartbreaking New Single After Splitting from Gavin Rossdale

By CHELSEA HUANG

It has been 20 years since Stefani released "Tragic Kingdom" with No Doubt, on the heels of her breakup with bandmate Tony Kanal -- but the singer, who announced her divorce from her husband of 13 years, Gavin Rossdale, this summer, hadn't given the anniversary much thought until she sat down with AOL last week.

"This is tripping me out ... The fact that you're bringing this up right now is so weird, because I kind of feel like I'm in the exact same place I was at 20 years ago in the sense that I've just written an entire album in less than eight weeks -- I mean, 'Tragic Kingdom' was three years in the making, but this is just so weird. It really does echo musically where I was at back then," she said.

Stefani debuted her latest single, "Used to Love You," at her Mastercard Priceless Surprises concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC on Saturday and followed up with a heart-wrenching, raw music video with emotionally-charged lyrics like "Never thought this would happen -- gotta let it sink in/You're gone."



The ballad's lyrics are reminiscent of the star's legendary hit "Don't Speak," which was inspired by her breakup with Kanal. "I can't believe/This could be the end/It looks as though you're letting go," Stefani famously crooned.

"But this time it's different," Stefani said about her new album. "This time, I have all that life that went by, and I'm in such a clear place right now of gratefulness. You just become more grateful in the opportunity to do the things that you love to do because life just goes, you know? It's weird that you're bringing this up right now. Thank you. You were meant to say that today, thanks."



The star also took a moment to reflect on her personal evolution from No Doubt frontwoman to solo artist, founder of her clothing line L.A.M.B, mother and coach on "The Voice."

"Honestly, I have changed loads because I think I used to be naive, innocent and kind of passive and now I feel like I'm not any of those things really. Which is fun, it's fun to evolve and grow and you can only do that through tragedies and heartache and hard times and looking back its a journey that you have to go through," she said.

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Gwen Stefani and No Doubt through the years
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Gwen Stefani opens up about new album .. and its striking similarities to her past work
Gwen Stefani of No Doubt during No Doubt Concert At The Roxy - September 12, 1989 at The Roxy in West Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by Barry King/WireImage)
380749 03: Singer Gwen Stefani of the rock group 'No Doubt' performs at the Livid Festival October 21, 2000 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Liam Nicholls/Newsmakers)
Gwen Stefani joins Moby as he performs live on the second night of the KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles, Ca. 12/17/00. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.)
006387.CA.0414.doubt.1.RG ÂÂ Gwen Stefani, lead singer of No Doubt struts across the Universal Amphitheater stage during it's show Friday night, April 14, 2000. (Photo by Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Singer, Gwen Stefani onstage at the 2001 VH1 Vogue Fashion Awards at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, 10/19/01. Photo by Scott Gries/ImageDirect.
No Doubt, Tony Kanal, Gwen Stefani, Adrian Young and Tom Dumont, backstage at the Wadsworth Theater before a taping of ABC Family's 'Front Row Center' in Los Angeles, Ca. Sunday, November 11, 2001. *Exclusive* Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.
No Doubt's Gwen Stefani performs live at the My VH1 Music Awards 2001 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, CA., Sunday, Dec. 3, 2001. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.
No Doubt lead singer Gwen Stefani performs during the Music Midtown 2002 in Atlanta, Georgia. 5/5/02 Photo by Scott Gries/ImageDirect
Gwen Stefani and Tom Dumont of No Doubt perform during the TRL 1000th episode celebration at the MTV Studios in Times Square, New York City. 10/23/02 Photo by Scott Gries/ImageDirect
SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 26: Singer Gwen Stefani of No Doubt performs during half-time of Super Bowl XXXVII between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders on January 26, 2003 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 23: Gwen Stefani of No Doubt performs at the 45th Annual Grammy Awards at Madison Square Garden on February 23, 2003 in New York City. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - NOVEMBER 15: No Doubt, with singer Gwen Stefani, performs at the taping of the 5th Annual 'A Home for the Holidays' at Ren Mar Studios on November 15, 2003 in Los Angeles, California. The CBS Special, celebrating the joys of adoption, is to air on December 23, 2003. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS - DECEMBER 10: Singer for the band 'No Doubt', Gwen Stefani attends the 2003 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena December 10, 2003 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The 14th annual ceremony airs live tonight on FOX 8:00-10:00 PM ET Live/PT. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES: Gwen Stefani (2L) and her group 'No Doubt' hold their Grammy award in the Best Pop Performance By a Duo or Group with Vocals category during the 46th Annual Annual Grammy Awards 08 February 2004 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. AFP PHOTO/Hector MATA (Photo credit should read HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 29: (L-R) Adrian Young, Tom Dumont, Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal of No Doubt arrive at the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards at the American Airlines Arena, on August 29, 2004 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Peter Kramer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 12: (U.S. TABS OUT) Singer Gwen Stefani performs live on MTV TRL November 12, 2004 at the MTV Times Square Studio in New York City. Her debut solo album 'Love, Angel, Music, Baby' will be released on November 23. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 1: Musicians Gwen Stefani and her husband Gavin Rossdale attend the premiere of 'The Aviator' at Mann's Chinese Theatre on December 1, 2004 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Mark Mainz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - DECEMBER 10: (U.S. TABS OUT) Singer Gwen Stefani and her dancers appear on stage with MTV VJ Damien Fahey during MTV's Total Request Live at the MTV Times Square Studios December 10, 2004 in New York City. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 2: Singer Gwen Stefani launches L.A.M.B. men's sneaker line at Barney's on November 2, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Fernando Leon/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 22: Singers Gwen Stefani (L) and Pharrell perform onstage during the 2005 American Music Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on November 22, 2005 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS - DECEMBER 06: Singer Gwen Stefani arrives at the 2005 Billboard Music Awards held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on December 6, 2005 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 08: Musicians Gavin Rossdale and wife Gwen Stefani arrive at the 48th Annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center on February 8, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 21: Singer Gwen Stefani performs 'Wind It Up' at the 2006 American Music Awards at the Shrine Auditorium November 21, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS - DECEMBER 04: Singer Gwen Stefani arrives at the 2006 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena December 4, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - DECEMBER 07: (U.S. TABLOIDS OUT) Singer Gwen Stefani performs on MTV's Total Request Live at MTV Studios, December 07, 2006 in New York City. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 22: Singers Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale arrive at the 2009 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter held at the Sunset Tower on February 22, 2009 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MAY 01: Singer Gwen Stefani of No Doubt performs on NBC's 'Today' show at the Rockefeller Center on May 1, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JULY 22: Singer Gwen Stefani of the rock band No Doubt performs at the Gibson Amphitheatre on July 22, 2009 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Rebel Waltz)
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JULY 22: Singer Gwen Stefani (L) and bass player Tony Kanal of the rock band No Doubt perform at the Gibson Amphitheatre on July 22, 2009 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Rebel Waltz)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 16: Kanye West and Gwen Stefani attend the L.A.M.B. Spring 2011 fashion show after party during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Private Location on September 16, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 10: Gwen Stefani attends the Sephora celebration of Fashion's Night Out at Sephora Soho on September 10, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Sephora)
LAS VEGAS - SEPTEMBER 22: Singer Gwen Stefani appears with her wax figure after it was unveiled at Madame Tussauds Las Vegas at the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino September 22, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 13: Singer Gwen Stefani arrives at 'The Artist's Museum Happening' MOCA Los Angeles Gala held at MOCA Grand Avenue on November 13, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for MOCA)
Singer Gwen Stefani (L) and musician Gavin Rossdale pose on the red carpet before the screening of 'The Tree of Life' presented in competition at the 64th Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2011 in Cannes. AFP PHOTO / ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT (Photo credit should read ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images)
ANTIBES, FRANCE - MAY 19: Gwen Stefani attends amfAR's Cinema Against AIDS Gala during the 64th Annual Cannes Film Festival at Hotel Du Cap on May 19, 2011 in Antibes, France. (Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 08: Musician Gwen Stefani arrives at the premiere of FilmDistrict's 'In the Land of Blood and Honey' held at ArcLight Cinemas on December 8, 2011 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 26: Singers Gwen Stefani (C) and Adrian Young arrive at the 20th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation's Oscar Viewing Party held at West Hollywood Park on February 26, 2012 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 13: Singer Gwen Stefani attends the world premiere of 'My Valentine' video hosted by Paul McCartney and Stella McCartney on April 13, 2012 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JULY 22: Singer Gwen Stefani of 'No Doubt' performs onstage during the 2012 Teen Choice Awards at Gibson Amphitheatre on July 22, 2012 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 21: (L-R) Guitarist Tom Dumont, drummer Adrian Young, singer Gwen Stefani and bassist Tony Kanal of No Doubt perform onstage during the 2012 iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 21, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Clear Channel)
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - NOVEMBER 30: No Doubt's Gwen Stefani performs at Gibson Amphitheatre on November 30, 2012 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Rebel Waltz)
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Gwen Stefani and members of No Doubt perform at Gibson Amphitheatre on November 30, 2012 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Rebel Waltz)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - OCTOBER 17: Singers Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale, wearing Ferragamo, arrive at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts Inaugural Gala presented by Salvatore Ferragamo at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on October 17, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts)
INGLEWOOD, CA - AUGUST 24: Singer Gwen Stefani attends the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards at The Forum on August 24, 2014 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for MTV)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 04: Gwen Stefani attends Refinery29 Country Club Launch Event at 82 Mercer on September 4, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 27: Sting (L) and Gwen Stefani of No Doubt perform onstage at the 2014 Global Citizen Festival to end extreme poverty by 2030 in Central Park on September 27, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Global Citizen Festival)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 03: Singer Gwen Stefani attends the collaboration celebration of Pharrell Williams and Adidas at Hinoki & The Bird on December 3, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Adidas)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 12: Singer-songwriter Gwen Stefani speaks backstage at iHeartRadio Jingle Ball 2014, hosted by Z100 New York and presented by Goldfish Puffs at Madison Square Garden on December 12, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 12: Gwen Stefani (L) and Pharrell Williams perform onstage during iHeartRadio Jingle Ball 2014, hosted by Z100 New York and presented by Goldfish Puffs at Madison Square Garden on December 12, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Kane/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 18: Singer Gwen Stefani attends the PEOPLE Magazine Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on December 18, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 20: Gwen Stefani and MasterCard announce a Priceless Surprise Performance at the Orpheum in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 7th, 2015. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for MasterCard)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 07: Gwen Stefani performs during MasterCard Priceless Surprises presents Gwen Stefani at Orpheum Theatre on February 7, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Araya Diaz/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 08: Singer Gwen Stefani attends The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards at the STAPLES Center on February 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 08: Singers Gwen Stefani (L) and Adam Levine perform 'My Heart Is Open' onstage during The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards at the at the STAPLES Center on February 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 18: Singer-songwriter Gwen Stefani of No Doubt performs onstage during Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day on National Mall to end extreme poverty and solve climate change on April 18, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Richard Chapin Downs Jr./Getty Images for Global Citizen)
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Stefani may be at a crossroads, but the one thing that has remained consistent throughout her life is collaboration -- in music, design and "making babies," she joked. She said "inspiring and being inspired" and bouncing ideas off of others is what she does best, so fans can expect a lot of collaboration on her upcoming album.

"I think this record is full collaboration with other talented people that have just made me blossom in the sense that they brought my confidence out and supported me in such a way that the ideas were just coming. I haven't had that in a long time. I'm so grateful for that feeling and that confidence. If you don't have that, you just dont have anything."

Stefani cited one longtime collaborator as her favorite -- fellow "The Voice" coach, Pharrell. The pair first worked together on No Doubt's 2001 record, "Hella Good" and most recently with "Spark The Fire," which was released last year.

"I knew that if No Doubt worked with him, it would make everything new and fresh, and I just wanted to do that so bad and then we went in there and we wrote 'Hella Good,' and I just feel like that song changed everything. It just made everything feel different. So thats one of my favorite collaborations and one of my favorite people I've ever worked with."

Stefani may love working with Pharrell, but she revealed she might go in a different direction if she was faced with a three-chair turn on "The Voice" -- with Blake or Adam.

The Voice - Season 7

"It's hard -- you pick Blake because he's won so many times, and he has really good taste, and he actually is really smart. Or do you pick Adam because he's such a fighter and again, he's so smart. Adam is really smart. It's really amazing -- and he's literally like a freak the way his mind goes. And then Pharrell who's like all about feeling and instinct and heart. It's impossible to choose. I would probably go with maybe Blake or Adam, since I already did a lot with Pharrell and I know what that is."

Despite her effortlessly cool stage presence, star power and charming relatability that comes across on screen, the star, who is driven by her spirituality, chalks her success up to coincidences and accidents, including her gig on the popular reality competition show. She said she had never thought about pursuing something on TV until she "just got a call" right after giving birth to her third son, Apollo.

"It just seemed so foreign, but it was just part of the path, and basically what I'm getting out of it is one of the funnest things I've ever done. I think being around all that music and talent and being able to play the role of a coach -- I'm getting so much out of it I didn't even know I was going to get."

The star admits that being part of a show like "The Voice" is a bit of a trip, especially seeing contestants getting droves of followers on social media "even if they're on the show for like two seconds," when she and her bandmates had to rely on word of mouth to get their name out there.

"You just have to look at it with a different perspective, because if you try to look at it like what we had, it just all feels weird and you're like, 'how is this fair?' All you had to do was step on stage. We had to make flyers, and we had to like tell our friends."

No Doubt Concert At The Roxy - September 12, 1989

Twenty years ago, Stefani was going to Kinko's to print out flyers with her bandmates and heading to the PO box to handwrite responses to fan mail, and while it's clear the crew put in sweat and tears, Stefani said she still doesn't know how it all happened.

"Let's just be super honest about that," she said about being a female singer for an otherwise all-male band. "That was a coincidence. I just happened to be a girl. I just happened to be the sister of my brother. And we just happened to make a band that we never, ever for one second thought would be anything more than 'hey dad, come videotape us in our garage,' you know what I mean? That's a miracle.

Yet despite two decades of success, she's still getting that "pinch-me" feeling.

"Just having music is enough, but to be able to be a part of writing music and then sharing that with people and then actually people listening to it and responding and supporting me is just like -- it's just unbelievable, and the fact that 20 years later, I still get that feeling and still get to do it is just ... I don't even know how to be more grateful.

"Right now, I just feel like I'm so in this moment," she continued. "I can't even think outside this moment ... there are so many good things happening. I just want to keep doing what I'm doing. I just want to keep writing songs and just have these feelings I have right now."

MasterCard Presents Gwen Stefani In Concert Exclusively For Its Cardholders At Hammerstein Ballroom At The Manhattan Center In N

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