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

Gwen Stefani Reveals Heartbreaking New Single After Splitting from Gavin Rossdale
Gwen Stefani Reveals Heartbreaking New Single After Splitting from Gavin Rossdale


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."

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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.

See Gwen Stefani through the years:

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

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Originally published