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Gabrielle interview: Singer reveals story behind her stage name and how Tracy Chapman changed her life

23 March 2021, 11:28

By Tom Eames

Gabrielle is one of the UK's most successful and celebrated pop artists of her generation, and she's back with a new album!

The 'Rise' singer recently performed in front of millions each week (albeit secretly) when she took part in The Masked Singer, and she has said how doing the show inspired her to record her new album, Do It Again.

Gabrielle caught up with Smooth's Jenni Falconer for our latest Virtual Coffee Break, where she spoke about her memories of her debut single 'Dreams' and how she came to be called Gabrielle.

Watch the full interview above.

Gabrielle speaks to Smooth's Jenni Falconer
Gabrielle speaks to Smooth's Jenni Falconer. Picture: Smooth/Global

Looking back to her record-breaking debut single 'Dreams', Gabrielle told Jenni: "I’ll always be super-chuffed. When it’d gone straight in at number two, and then number one, it actually made history as the highest-ever debut song by a debut artist to land so highly on the charts since the charts had begun.

"When you have those little things, and all the things I’ve gone through in my life, I would never have thought I’d be there on Top of the Pops, and people would be talking about this song that I had written.

"Even when I look back now, I’ll always have fond memories of the song, to the point that I always still love singing it. Most people get to my time in life, and they’re like, 'The first song that launched me? I don’t want to know anything about it.' But not me. I will forever love that song.

"And I think my audience would kill me if I decided never to sing it again. So, no, it’s like my first love, that song is."

'Dreams' actually started out featuring a sample of Tracy Chapman's track 'Fast Car', but it had to be removed due to copyright.

Read more: The Story of... 'Fast Car'

During Gabrielle's stint on The Masked Singer as Harlequin, she performed 'Fast Car' as a tribute, which inspired her to record a new album featuring mostly cover versions, including the Tracy Chapman classic.

"I don’t believe I could have done a covers album – one, without the songs from The Masked Singer, because this whole album was inspired by The Masked Singer; but two, songs like Tracy Chapman’s 'Fast Car'.

"That song, for me, is part of my legacy, because that’s how I first started. I love and adore Tracy Chapman. She’s just amazing. So to be able to sing this song is like paying homage to her talent and the beginning of my career.

"Because without being presented with 'Fast Car' and being asked if I could sing something on it and write something to it, I don’t think I’d be here. I really don’t. So, yeah, it had to go in."

Do It Again also features versions of 'Smile', 'Proud Mary', 'Killing Me Softly' and 'I'll Be There', as well as covers of contemporary songs by Harry Styles, Rihanna and Billie Eilish. The album also contains two original songs co-written by Gabrielle, including the single 'Stop Right Now'.

Watch more Virtual Coffee Breaks including Marti Pellow, Boy George and Adam Lambert

"I’m really proud of it," she added. "I can’t believe that during such a crazy time, I’ve been able to record a new album. I hope people get to hear it and enjoy it."

Looking back at her career, Gabrielle explained the story behind how she got her stage name, having been born Louise Bobb.

"When I was growing up, I was aware of my middle name, which is Gabriella," she said. "What used to happen was, I’d say to my mum, 'Mum, why do I have a middle name if I can’t even use it?'

"And she said… 'Well, when you go to your new school, you can ask them to call you by, you know, your middle name.' I was just too lazy. I couldn’t be bothered. I thought, 'A bit pretentious. I don’t need everyone to know that’s my name.'

"And then I started singing at a club called Moonlighting on Greek Street. And, in fact, before I started singing there, there was a lady who was the one who was booking all the talent, and was like, 'What’s your name, darling?' She was so posh. Her name was Lady Carol.

"'My first name is Louise – or Louisa, if mum’s angry with me.' And then she was like, 'What’s your middle name, darling? What’s your middle name?'. 'Gabrielle'. Even though I was Gabriella, I actually always thought I was Louise Gabrielle. But I’m actually Louisa Gabriella.

"'Yes. Let’s call you Gabrielle. Let’s call you Gabrielle for now'. I was chuffed, because I didn’t have to make up a name. I was able to use my middle name. And that’s how it came about.

"It’s weird, because now I still get called both. You’ll find me answering to both. But a lot of people I knew later in life, they just call me Gabs – Gabby Gabs. So, yeah, I’m used to it."

Looking ahead to the future, Gabrielle revealed she recovered from COVID-19 earlier in the year, and when asked what she's looking forward to after lockdown finally ends, she said: "Tour! Go on tour! That’s what I’m living for. Again, it’s all about the touring. It’s all about getting out there.

Gabrielle performing live
Gabrielle performing live. Picture: Getty

"I’ve got these amazing songs that I want to showcase. I’ve got my back catalogue that I want to showcase. For me, it’s all about going on the road with my band, and just having a blast, and, again, just continuing to live.

"Knowing that, we’ve come through lockdown, and it’s been hard for each and every one of us. I ended up getting COVID, and thankfully I’m COVID-free. My heart goes out to everybody and anyone who’s ever suffered or suffered a loss, because it’s been a horrific time.

"But for me, knowing that we’ve all had to endure; to be able to come out of this and get a sense of some normality; for me, that’ll be going on the road, and being with my band, and just going from town to town, and just enjoying myself with the shows.

"I’ve been in lockdown with my family. I don’t have to worry about where they’ve been, and my heart goes out to all those who have been separated. So everyone else can go and do what they want to do that makes them happy, and hugging all your family members."

Gabrielle's new album Do It Again is out now.