The musical exploration of Gabrielle Aplin has been a captivating journey of self realisation and pure evolution. From the release of her beautiful debut album ‘English Rain’ in 2013, the British singer-songwriter has been learning more about herself and the type of artist she wants to be.
Her third studio album ‘Dear Happy’ (out now through Never Fade Records) is her most ambitious and experimental release to date, and hears her boldly stepping into the pop spotlight with pure confidence.
“I’ve had success with acoustic songs and I’m really grateful for that, but I just felt like I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life chasing sad songs because while I do love ballads I also love dance, pop and soul”
“I just got so bored and I really tried to not abandon songwriting while in this musical exploration but more-so bring what I’ve learnt into these sounds” Gabrielle Aplin explains to ThomasBleach.com about the directional shift.
Through accepting that artistic realisation, the concept of the album and this new musical era started to take shape.
“I wanted to make something that regardless of the subject matter would sound happy. I wanted to listen back in ten years time and hear happiness, hopefulness and joy, and ultimately feel moved by it”.
“During the writing process I wrote the title track with my friend Liz Horzman called ‘Dear Happy’ and that was a moment where we decided to write a letter to happiness”.
“It may sound cheesy but I found it really interesting to explore all of the different relationships that we can have with happiness and it’s absence. So this album really became a way of documenting those feelings and reflections” she explains.
Feeling the importance of the concept that she was trying to lock down within this song, it started to take longer to finish as it just didn’t feel right and felt like she was only diving into half of the heart that it deserved to have. So while she was in Los Angeles for the end of a tour she went into the studio with Jamie Hartman for a spontaneous re-approach to what ‘Dear Happy’ would become.
“We just started it again and changed it around so the verse became the chorus and the chorus became the verse, and it started to sound right. It felt like I had all the pieces but we just had to re-arrange them. I wanted it to have that Massive Attack warmth, that thing you can chill out to but also dance to at the same time. And I also wanted it to feel like the last song that I would play at a festival” she reflects.
And with the concept shining through strong she felt like it perfectly represented the ideology behind the record and the direction she was going towards that she not only made it the closing track on the record but also the title track.
The whole record is compiled of upbeat pop songs that have a sense of raw hopefulness and candid reflections to them that don’t lose the artistic drive to her songwriting that she’s crafted over time.
Opening with the upbeat outlook of ‘Until The Sun Comes Up’, she confesses the hopeful song about not wanting to waste any moment was actually written about a really dreary and ominous day that over saturated her emotions while heading to a studio session.
“I was getting the train into London and I already had a mood on me that day and I just looked out the window to see miles and miles of buildings covered in grey, and I just wanted to run away. I started to think what would happen if I just didn’t hop on the train, or what if I just stayed on and traveled somewhere else. I realised that I didn’t actually have to, like it dawned on me that I never have to do anything. But I still went because I’m not a rebel” she laughs.
“There is the beat that comes in the pre bit before the chorus and I think of it quite visually and I see the rain falling onto the train window and I can actually hear it. I wanted it to feel like when you go to sleep and it’s raining and you wake up and it’s sunny but the ground is still wet but you know it’s going to be a good day. So I wanted the song to feel like that feeling and feel like the start of a day” she elaborates.
While the production is super pop and has that happy spin injected, the songwriting is still as pure, honest and reflective about love, loss and personal demons as her previous records were.
Reflecting on the record as a whole she notes that her favourite lyric is “I’m a loser and I self deprecate” from ‘My Mistake’ which she admits still makes her giggle as it’s so bold, raw, and in your face.
“At the time I was feeling like a massive loser and I just said screw it; I suck and I am the worst! I wasn’t afraid to live in that moment for a bit and I do feel great for saying it”.
Through fighting her internal demons, ‘Just One Of Those Days’ instantly becomes one of the clear highlights on the record and stems from a place of feeling down and not being able to pin point why.
“I was going out to the label Christmas drinks and I just really didn’t want to leave the house. It was so dark and cold, and I felt like pure shit. I was truly really struggling in doing this simple motion of walking to the train station to go have a drink. But I did end up leaving the house and luckily my sister-in-law had missed her flight and had to come back so I dragged her out of the house to come with me. But what was interesting is that there was actually no reason for me not to go. I wasn’t tired or sick, it was just one of those days” she explains.
“I wrote the song that day after I came home from the drinks and then in January 2019 my friend Nicholas Atkinson and Edd Holloway who I produced it with came to my house and we wrote the middle eight part and that’s when the production really came together. I knew I wanted it to be quite stripped and for it to be cinematic and have drama but I just didn’t know how it would flow”.
“The idea and production all clicked once we wrote that middle section together but the mixing took forever. I just became really peculiar about the mix. There was a lot of back and forth because I was really listening to every little bit of percussion and wanted it to feel cohesive” she elaborates.
From start to finish ‘Dear Happy’ takes the listener on a journey of self reflection while also giving them something they can dance to in a selfless rhythm with songs like ‘Stranger’ and ‘Nothing Really Matters’ leading the way of that production flow.
But it’s ultimately a record she’s proud of because it is happy at it’s core and comes from a place of love, and wanting to understand her inner monologue in a bright and colourful way.
‘Dear Happy’ is out now