Dear Happy

Dear Happy

“I really wanted this third album to be a portfolio for me as a songwriter,” Gabrielle Aplin tells Apple Music. “My first album was a dream, and I had a lot of success. My second album came with a lot of expectation, and all I wanted to do was go and hide in my mate’s basement and make a psychedelic folk album. Which I kind of did. People ask me what went wrong, and I answer: ‘Firstly, nothing. I still think it’s great. And secondly, I didn’t have my work plastered over an advert every 10 minutes.’” A little over seven years since her “Power of Love” cover soundtracked a John Lewis Christmas TV ad and brought instant stardom, the Brighton-based singer-songwriter emerges with a set of radiant, emotionally potent modern pop that absolutely burnishes her songwriting CV. The album’s only big challenge? “My manager said it should only be 10 songs,” she laughs. “I was like, ‘Mate, I’ve been spending three years writing songs. No way.’” Join Aplin on a self-deprecating tour of all 14 hard-won tracks below.
Until the Sun Comes Up “I wanted the song to literally sound like the feeling of when you're lying in bed on Sunday morning and the sun's coming through the window. Not having a worry in the world. It was actually inspired by a very gloomy, gray day in London. I was on the train and it was rolling into London Bridge. I was late, everything was delayed, and I hadn’t eaten breakfast. I’m not a particularly risk-orientated person, but suddenly thought, ‘Fuck it, I want out of the rat race. Maybe I’ll just leg it away today?’ That feeling really inspired the song.”
Invisible “I wrote a lot about happiness on this album. I wanted to write about all the different ways in which we interact with happiness, pick it apart and see if I could learn anything. One thing that I noticed is that we try so hard for validation—especially with social media. You don't post the bad things. You kind of just hope that people notice when you're not all right. Instead of saying, ‘Hey, I feel awful,’ we hit and hope that people get the hints. When people don't get the hints, we feel angry at them. You kind of feel invisible. I wanted to write about that real frustration when you just wish people could read your mind.”
One of Those Days “This is inspired by me feeling so agoraphobic that I didn’t even want to go to a Christmas party I myself had arranged. I managed about half an hour before coming home and wrote this song the next morning. It’s about feeling like you can’t do the day. You can’t get on the train, let alone go to where you need to be. You just want to hide.”
Kintsugi “‘Kin’ means gold or money in Japanese, and ‘tsugi’ means to join or to repair—‘kintsugi’ is the art of ‘golden repair.’ In Japan they will hand down ceramics—you don’t just buy a new mixing bowl, for example, when it breaks. The breakages are what make them special and give them history, so you celebrate that history by fixing the cracks with powdered gold or silver. I wrote this song in Bergen with Simen Hope and Askjell Solstrand, who I knew from his work with Sigrid and AURORA. I felt very lucky that I got to their natural habitat and pushed myself to go on a writing trip on my own. That’s no small thing when you’ve been traveling with a tour manager since you were a child, basically. We were chatting one night and Askjell said he wanted to write something about how I don’t know how to write songs without purpose. I said it reminded me of kintsugi, but I used the world ‘kintsukuroi’ and obviously struggled to get that into a chorus. The next morning he came downstairs and said, ‘I’ve got it! Kintsugi is the short version!’ It all came together from there.”
Strange “The vocal here is from the demo. That was my one vocal from the day we wrote it, and I just knew it was right. It’s the oldest song on the album aside from ‘Miss You.’ I wrote it with Lostboy [UK songwriter and producer Peter Rycroft] and Maverick Sabre, and just really wanted to do something with a good bassline. Working with writers who are artists too is really nice, because they get it.”
My Mistake “This is a song about ADHD. I didn’t actually have my diagnosis until after I wrote it. I played it to my therapist and she said, ‘Oh my god, you knew you had this the whole time.’ You can will yourself to do something, but it’s as though the link between your brain and your hands or feet has gone. All you can do is sit and think about what it is you are supposed to do. I had spent all my brain cells on driving to the studio one day and I simply didn’t have anything left. I usually put on my professional hat and write a pop song, pretending I’m Zara Larsson and switching my Gabrielle brain off. But that day, I couldn’t. I decided to be brave and tell Ash Howes [British songwriter and producer] that actually, I do not give a shit today and I don’t even know how to try. He was very sweet and said that was fine but suggested just writing about the first thing that came out of my mouth. We wouldn’t question it, just run with it, and if it’s shit then we’d move on tomorrow. So this song happened and I went home. It was a really wonderful experience.”
Like You Say You Do “I literally cannot stand my friends on social media. I probably can’t stand myself on social media either, to be honest. I look at stuff and think, ‘Why are we pretending we are like this? You don’t talk like that! What the hell is all this!’ In some ways it can be empowering, but the day I wrote this, I was feeling very cynical about it all. I just think it’s very important to protect our sense of self, because social media can really water us down. It’s why I don’t now share personal stuff. But I will, of course, ram my dogs down everyone’s faces.”
Losing Me “Weirdly, this is the only song on the album that was initially written for another artist. It was a pitch session and a few people went for it, but I decided after writing it I realised that I loved it so much and jokingly thought that only Beyoncé or Rihanna could have this song. Maybe Shawn Mendes. Anyway, I decided to keep it for myself! It was also written as a duet so I thought to ask JP Cooper, who I am a big fan of. His vocal fit the song so perfectly and I’m so happy with how this song turned out.”
So Far So Good “I’ve been with my partner for nearly 10 years, and there’s not really any drama with us, so we rely on our friends to supply it. But there’s something lovely about being calm and not having to prove anything to anyone else. We like to go on adventures in the car—sadly not a Ferrari, although I mention one in the lyrics—and find new places to explore. So it’s a song about traveling and being happy, and realizing that nothing’s ever linear. It all goes up and down, but ultimately it can always be worse, so we should appreciate the happiness we have.”
Nothing Really Matters “I was traveling from Brighton to Harringay in North London, which, as anyone who has taken that journey will know, is a pain in the arse. Something was happening with Brexit that day; it was very gray but also in the middle of a heat wave. It felt quite apocalyptic and heavy. I had this feeling that I didn’t really have to make this journey because it didn’t really matter. The world feels like it’s about to self-combust. Nothing literally matters beyond the things that are in my control right now, and so I could and probably should go home, feed my dog, and have a nice dinner with a true crime documentary and go to bed. So, really, it’s a positive song. It’s about caring about what you can control.”
Magic “I wrote this song with Nick Atkinson and Edd Holloway [UK producer/songwriters]—who I wrote a lot of my first album with. At the start of last year, my house was empty with the dogs with my mum, so we set it up as a studio. I was really ill, actually, and these are my flu vocals. When we went to redo them, they just didn’t sound the same, so we kept them as they were.”
Love Back “This one goes out to all the flaky friends out there. Now, I know that flakiness usually comes from personal issues and not because people don’t care. But it’s still annoying. I have a friend who I’ve done a lot for—it sounds so dramatic, but I needed them to do one really small errand for me and they didn’t even wake up. They went out, got fucked up, and didn’t wake up. It really upset me. In that moment I wished I could take back all my time, love, and money because they didn’t deserve it.”
Miss You “At the time this was first released [November 2016], I had just left my deal with Parlophone. It looked like I had been dropped, so it was really important what I did next. I could’ve just gone away and done the obvious thing, which was perhaps, ‘Oh god, she’s made a fucking banjo album.’ But I said, ‘No, I want to be a commercial artist, and I don’t think the fact that I’m now not with a major label means I can’t do that.’ And then my publisher dropped me, which was the one thing I didn’t expect to happen! So then I literally had no backing at all. That made me doubly committed to writing the song they always wanted me to write, and fuck them. And so I did! Surprisingly to me, it wasn’t too hard either. Maybe once you remove the pressure from an artist, they do what they’re born to do.”
Dear Happy “Liz Horsman—who I wrote ‘Miss You’ and ‘So Far so Good’ with—and I wanted to write a letter to happiness. It was her idea, actually. We only had the ‘Dear happy/ please leave a light on’ line for ages. It was like a postcard. While on tour in the US a few ago I heard this Brandi Carlisle tune on the radio and thought perhaps it could go in that direction. I tried a bunch of things and everything left is sounding very power rock and dated. I then had a session in with Jamie Hartmann at the end of the tour. I always like to go into a writing session with something, so I took this in and we eventually managed to finish it after some last production work by Nick [Atkinson] and Edd [Holloway] and then Mike Spencer who is a producer I have worked with many times. It was the last song I finished for the album. I wanted that very last part of the song to really take off and then come down so stark to sum up the album. It was important to me that the album ended with ‘Dear Happy’, and that the chorus is the very last thing you hear.”


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