Gabrielle is unique. She’s unique as an artist, with that instantly familiar shimmery voice and those tender-tough lyrics and way of phrasing that makes every song feel deeply intimate. And she’s unique as a “star,” in the sense of having achieved a great deal without becoming an in-your-face, look-at-me “celebrity.”
It’s not often you can truthfully say this of a singer, but here it is:
Gabrielle is unique. She’s unique as an artiste, with that instantly familiar shimmery voice and those tender-tough lyrics and way of phrasing that makes every song feel deeply intimate. And she’s unique as a “star”, in the sense of having achieved a great deal without becoming an in-your-face, look-at-me “celebrity.”
Gabrielle’s career got off to an incredible start in 1993 when she broke the record for the highest chart debut by a female with the single ‘Dreams’ (it went in at 2, before rising to number 1). A 23-year-old club singer from Brockley, South London, she was the archetypal outsider: she didn’t possess the sort of belting voice you’d expect of an R&B vocalist. “There were so many other girls with better voices and a hell of a lot skinnier than me that I thought I had no chance,” she says now. Following her dreams, Gabrielle launched her career wearing an eyepatch that made her visually striking, and a voice that made her distinctive – and her differences contributed to her becoming Britain’s most successful soul singer.
In 2000, Gabrielle notably returned to the charts with the hit single ‘Rise’, which featured a Bob Dylan sample of ‘Knockin on Heavens Door’ (that he cleared himself after hearing the song), and again reached the number 1 spot. The multi-platinum album ‘Rise’ followed in the same footsteps and topped the charts at number 1.
In an industry where longevity is becoming increasingly rare, the hits have been unstoppable: ‘Give Me A Little More Time’, ‘If You Ever’, ‘When A Woman’, ‘Sunshine’ and ‘Out Of Reach’ which she wrote for the soundtrack of Bridget Jones’ Diary. Then there are the multi-platinum albums; ‘Gabrielle’, ‘Rise’ and ‘Dreams Can Come True’.
It’s no surprise this success has seen Gabrielle pick up a number of prestigious awards over the years. Brit Awards for Best Newcomer and Best Female Vocalist, MOBOs for Best Single and Best Album, and an Ivor Novello for Outstanding Song Collection, and Gabrielle also appeared with not just one, but two albums in the official UK 100 records of the decade. That’s why the likes of Daft Punk and Talvin Singh have chosen to remix her work; rock legend Paul Weller recorded a duet with her; soul legend Al Green chose her to appear as his special guest on his UK tour; Prince asked her to join him on stage at his Formula 1 concert in Abu Dhabi; and multi-platinum songstress Adele revealed she used to wear an eyepatch and impersonate Gabrielle, who was one of her favourite singers growing up.
Gabrielle recently featured on Naughty Boy’s album ‘Hotel Cabana’ alongside the likes of Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith and Emeli Sande. Naughty Boy is a huge fan and tracked Gabrielle down via her publishers.
“He and Emeli Sande had already written the song ‘Hollywood’. I never normally sing other people’s songs, but Naughty Boy persuaded me. He told me to make it my own. It was an incredible project to be part of and funny for me that the other guests were artistes like Tinie Tempah and Ed Sheeran. I’m the veteran, the surprise in there, and I loved that.” Gabrielle enjoyed performing ‘Hollywood’ with Naughty Boy at the iTunes Festival and includes the song in her new live set list.
In 2013, Gabrielle released a seventh album with the iconic Island records; a double album of all her greatest hits, some of her favourite album tracks and seven brand new songs. With the new songs came a new sound, the album titled ‘Now and Always: 20 Years of Dreaming’ also included a new version of the classic ‘Dreams’ re-produced and re-recorded by Naughty Boy.
“I didn’t think we should mess with Dreams,” admits Gabrielle, “but Naughty Boy did an amazing job. It sounds nothing like the old version. When I heard the rework, I was astonished – it was as if I just realised what a beautiful song Dreams is.”
2014 saw Gabrielle go on her first UK tour since 2008. With a new band, new team and new energy she loved being back on stage and has reignited her passion for performing live. The Now and Always tour was a huge success and Gabrielle felt reconnected with her fans; every show she could be seen taking selfies from the stage with audience members – as Gabrielle said herself.
“You may have to push me onto the stage, as I do get nervous, but you will have to pull me off as I never want it to end” After being on stage night after night, Gabrielle is looking forward to more live shows and can’t wait to get back out on the road. “ I’m so grateful that after 22 years I still have the chance to perform and record. Its what I know and what I love. When I said Dreams can come true, I wasn’t wrong!!”
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