The back-to-basics nature of Gabrielle Aplin’s latest album Phosphorescent has many layers. Starting when the singer-songwriter and Hello! Fashion’s latest cover star, along with her boyfriend Alfie Hudson-Taylor of Irish duo Hudson Taylor moved to Somerset during the Covid pandemic.
“It was just one of those mad opportunities,” she tells us. “I thought, let’s just do it and see what happens.” During lockdown after cleaning every area of the house and exhausting Netflix options she began writing songs purely as a creative outlet. “It was just for myself, an expression more than anything else.”
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Serendipitously, producer Mike Spencer, who worked with Gabrielle on her gold-certified debut album, English Rain, in 2013, contacted her. “He came to me with the idea of making an album. And I was like, ‘Well, that’s great. I’ve got songs’,” she laughs.
Recording at Mike’s countryside retreat studio, The Lark’s Tongue, is the next layer of the album’s connection to the environment. “Mike lives in the middle of nowhere, he has beautiful pastures and everything about him acquiring this place was about rewilding the land.”
She would travel to the converted farmhouse in Buckinghamshire for a few days every week for a year. You can even hear the local wildlife at the start of the album’s opening song, Skylight. “What was amazing was being there in the summer, then seeing winter happen and the spring come... the album simultaneously becoming a full thing as the seasons were changing.”
Gabrielle has always felt a connection to nature and is passionate about sustainability, but being surrounded by fields and feeding the “semi-domesticated” ducks on the lake most days only heightened that passion. “It felt like everything was really synonymous, it all felt so connected to nature.” She even took two abandoned eggs home to incubate: “And now we have Kerry and Kurtan,” she smiles.
The Lark’s Tongue is powered by a ground pump heat source in the fields. “I just found that really cool. I was like, wow, if the album has been made by natural energy, how can we incorporate that into other areas? I enjoyed trying to be ecologically-minded and earth-friendly as much as possible within our means.”
Gabrielle buys most of her clothes from thrift stores, not only because she “genuinely enjoys it”, but for ecological and humanitarian reasons. Even as a child Gabrielle would buy second hand and customise.
“I’ve always enjoyed clothes and accessories in an expressive way. Growing up, we couldn’t afford anything new. It felt so good finding something that you really wanted in a charity shop, or I’d love to find fabrics that I’d maybe cut to the shape I’d want. And it just became this cool little quest.”
Gabrielle, who has already amassed over a billion streams, was given her first musical instrument, a keyboard, by her aunt when she was ten. When she was in her late teens she started putting songs onto YouTube, and soon people were asking her to come and play for them. “I just took every opportunity, and it was then I started to realise that I could be a songwriter.”
But Gabrielle didn’t just want to be a YouTube artist, “I was like, if I’m going to do this, I want to be able to be commercialised, but with that integrity and freedom that exists on YouTube”.
She self-released a five-track acoustic EP under her own label, Never Fade Records,in 2010. In 2011, after releasing her second EP, Gabrielle was invited to perform for BBCMusic Introducing at Maida Vale Studios.
Then her song Home became an iTunes Single of the Week. “The week it came out, it all kicked off from there. And that song did really well with fans on the internet. And a lot of labels started becoming interested. I remember doing the rounds and meeting them all and thinking they’re all great and not really knowing what to do.” She was signed to Parlophone in 2012.
Another big break was recording the soundtrack to the Christmas 2012 John Lewis advert, a cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s The Power of Love, which went on to top the UK singles chart.
She says that she was buying chips in Iceland when they called to say she’d been chosen. “Where I grew up in Wiltshire, there wasn’t a John Lewis and we couldn’t afford to shop there anyway. I phoned my mum and said, ‘We’re with the big boys now’. It was just amazing. Also, I had just moved into my first flat and they sorted me out with a bed,” she adds.
The full interview with Gabrielle Aplin appears in the July/August issue of Hello! Fashion, out now…
Photography: Georgia Baldwin
Photographer’s Assistant: Chloe Yates
Styling: Laura Weatherburn
Stylist’s Assistants: Chloe Gallacher & Eve Fitzpatrick
Hair: Shukeel Murtaza At The Only Agency Using Sam McKnight
Make-up: Emma Miles At Caren Using Armani Beauty