Gwen Stefani takes to the road with the ‘Truth’ in tow
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Sometimes really good things can come out of terribly painful times in one’s life.
That seems to be the case for singer Gwen Stefani. Weathering the storm that included the end of her marriage to Gavin Rossdale in 2015 (they have three children) and the anger and depression that ensued, the 46-year-old entertainer has reemerged refreshed and reinvigorated with the release of her deeply introspective solo album “This is What the Truth Feels Like” and a new love interest, country superstar Blake Shelton, who is also her fellow coach on the reality TV series “The Voice.”
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, Tinley Park
“I just feel grateful… to have to go through the pain to get to this place because that’s sometimes what you have to do,” Stefani said in a conference call with reporters.
That pain is evident in the music video for “Used to Love You,” the first single off the new album.
Those of a certain age remember Stefani as the lead singer of the punk/ska-rock/electronic pop band No Doubt, with formidable albums including “Rock Steady,” “Tragic Kingdom” and “Push and Shove,” or previous solo efforts that included “Hollaback Girl” and her first solo studio effort “Love.Angel.Music.Baby.” Younger generations might know her purely from more recent endeavors such as her clothing lines (L.A.M.B., Harajuku Lovers, DWP and GX), the TV series and her romantic duet with Shelton on “Go Ahead and Break My Heart.”
The pair realized they had more than a professional relationship just as Shelton was going through his divorce from country music star Miranda Lambert, and Stefani was still smarting from her breakup with Rossdale.
“Gwen saved my life,” Shelton told Billboard in July. “Who else on earth could understand going through a high-profile divorce from another musician?”
Of Shelton, Stefani sums it up succinctly: “I have a whole new appreciation for country music.”
With a new band and eight dancers in tow, Stefani is taking her new music and plenty of the earlier hits out on her first solo tour in seven years, including a stop Saturday at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park. What follows is an edited transcript of her teleconference.
Question. What’s this tour going to look like? And how are you approaching the repertoire and song list with this very personal album?
Answer. I feel just so excited to have a record kind of coming out in real time, where I have this exchange of love with people. And it’s been so healing, the process of writing it and sharing it. And to go live with it takes it to a whole other place, where I can actually go face-to-face with the people that have actually supported me all these years and through this year especially.
I have so many songs to pick from. When I did the “Love. Angel. Baby” tour ,I only had that record, and it was the first time I’d ever done costume changes and had a [full] production. And then, when I did the “Sweet Escape” tour, it was still only two albums. Now, I have three albums of work, and it makes it so much more fun to have all that music to choose from.
The whole show for me is not about what I’m wearing or even how I sing. It’s really about my connecting and being able to say, “I want people to feel like they know me by the end” — and if I have to slap them around and tell them what to do, by the end of that show I want to walk away and feel like we know each other and that we have a connection through the music.
Q. The new album is so raw and personal. How are you going to be able to sing those songs night after night?
A. These songs, I feel like they were really channeled — I feel like God just handed them down to me like this kind of Band-Aid to help me through this crazy time in my life. And it’s all kind of about finding your gift and then sharing it. It’s very draining, and touring is very draining because there’s so much output. It’s exhausting. And I think that’s one of the reasons I haven’t toured in seven years because the last tour I did almost killed me. After having those two babies and then going on tour and nursing — I [had] an infant [with me] on tour! Doing those No Doubt shows are really super-physical.
When I did those shows with No Doubt last summer, I literally was in the middle of hell in my own personal life and nobody knew — just my parents and the people that were right around me, and getting up on stage and doing those songs. I would get off stage and be, like, “Oh, my God.”
So it’s incredible to be in the position to be able to be a songwriter and share your story with people and then have people relate to it. It makes you feel better about yourself, and you feel comforted.
Q. Is it a challenge to write songs that relate to fans who’ve been with you since ’95 versus being accessible to today’s young listeners?
A. Well, it’s not challenging when you’re not trying to. On this record, that’s what saved me. I think in the last five years when I was trying to write music … I wanted to have that feeling again. I wanted to be on the radio. I wanted to have a hit. Like, who doesn’t?
But this record certainly wasn’t about that. It wasn’t about trying to find a sound or please anybody or, “Oh, the kids are going to like this.” There was none of that.
It didn’t even come into the picture because of what I was going through —just trying to save my life and get through something I never thought I’d have to get through. Music has to be from real life, and it has to be honest and with the right intentions for people to connect to it. That’s what this record was.
[I had] to go through the pain to get to this place, because that’s sometimes what you have to do.