A Place In Your Heart Gabrielle

It’s been 31 years since the record-breaking Dreams hit big, now with her many-flavoured new album A Place In Your Heart, Gabrielle is back…

If there’s any barometer of Gabrielle’s cultural worth in the 2020s, look no further than the promo for Stormzy’s 2022 single Mel Made Me Do It. There she was, an artist whose first hit was a staggering 29 years ago, sharing screen time with this decade’s hottest UK rapper and such names as Usain Bolt, José Mourinho and Ian Wright. Similarly, when the now 54-year-old released her latest single, the gorgeous, giddily infectious A Place in Your Heart, there she was on Graham Norton’s top-rated chat show. Her last album, 2021’s Do It Again, went Top 5. The one before that almost did the same.

When the singer gigged in 2023, for the 30 Years Of Dreaming Tour, she sold out all 32 dates. Gabrielle, it seems, is as exalted in 2024 as she was when she first released Dreams (a UK No.1, natch) back in the summer of 1993.

Dreams will be 31 years old this year, which sounds crazy!” the singer tells Classic Pop about her breakthrough single. We ask how the 24-year-old Louise Gabrielle Bobb would react if she could, through some kind of crystal ball, see her career now. “I think I’d be like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe you’re still here, kiddo!’” she guffaws. “I’d probably be high-fiving myself!”

A Fresh Outlook

The reason Classic Pop is sitting down with Gabrielle today is because of her brand new album, titled after that latest 45, A Place In Your Heart. There’s also the matter of a major arena tour for 2025, but more on that later.

The last we heard from the much-loved popster was in 2021. But as great as Do It Again was, it was a covers collection, with Gabrielle taking on favourites such as Womack & Womack’s Teardrops, The Jackson 5’s I’ll Be There and even a song composed by Charlie Chaplin (that’s Smile). 

But what fans have really been waiting for is a fresh album of all-new material, and that’s what we’re finally getting with A Place In Your Heart, a 12-track assemblage of effervescent – and sometimes achingly melancholic – pop nuggets, anchored by that voice.

On that previous occasion when CP hooked up with Gabrielle, she seemed keen to extricate herself from the soul diva label she’s been grappling with since the mid-90s. “I love soul,” she told us in 2020, “but I’m an 80s pop child. The posters on my wall were Michael Jackson, Madonna, Adam And The Ants and Nick Heyward.”

Peaceful Phase

“This album is a plethora of everything I love doing,” she tells us excitedly, four years on. “There’s definitely some soul flavours on there, but also little rocky vibes and heartbreaking songs. People who’ve heard the music keep saying to me, ‘Oh my god, why are you singing that, that’s such a sad song,’ and I’m like, ‘That’s what I do, I can’t help it.’ I love upbeat but then I love being able to sing my heartbreakers because of things that I’ve gone through and I know other people have.”

At the moment, it’s hard to picture Gabrielle with a shattered heart. Few pop stars are so aflame and as incredibly positive talking up their latest project, especially after 31 years in the business. But then life is good now for the singer. Not only does Gabrielle have a new album to promote, but she’s basking in her newly-acquired role of grandmother.

“I was looking after my grandson yesterday, and he’s going to be a year old next month,” she says proudly. “He is incredible, so yeah, I’m in a peaceful phase of my life right now. And the fact that I’ve got new music, that’s really exciting for me.”

Wing Man

A Place In Your Heart reteams Gabrielle with her songwriting partner (also producer) Ian Barter, whom she first collaborated with on 2018 comeback album, Under My Skin. They’d met after BMG’s Jamie Nelson put them in touch, with the label boss telling Gabrielle, “I’ve got an idea of someone who will be great for you musically.”

“The first time me and Ian met, he played me pieces of music that ended up on the album and I remember saying to my manager, ‘Oh my god, this is the kind of music I should have done a long time ago,’ because he was giving me these different sounds that I hadn’t done before. Just the vibe, the whole feel of it was like, ‘oh my god’. So when I started working with him I was, ‘I can never let this man go.’

“I’ve worked with people for years, and then after a while, it doesn’t work. But for some reason, it’s not the case with Ian. He just keeps giving me these amazing musical pieces that always speak to me. So it was just the most natural thing that I would end up working with him solely on this album. He just draws it out of me, so I just think it’s a great combination. I’m not messing with that at all right now, not for the foreseeable future.”

Find Your Way - Gabrielle

More Than A Feeling

It’s been difficult over the years, she admits, to find a collaborator that she’s completely simpatico with. Gabrielle says that when she goes into a studio, she’s insistent that whoever’s producing her presses ‘record’ straight away. “If I start jumping on the music,” she says, “and you’re not recording me, more fool you. Because it’s a feeling, and I don’t always get that feeling again.”

A Place In Your Heart seems to have been a relatively uncomplicated album to make then. Barter is, Gabrielle says, “spot on every time”, and reveals that the LP didn’t take long to record. “We were having such a fun time,” she coos. “The songs were a breeze.

Though Barter is credited as co-writer and the album’s sole producer, there’s another collaborator on the record in the shape of the BRITs-nommed 25-year-old artist Mahalia. The pair first met when Gabrielle supported Adele at Hyde Park in 2022, with the twentysomething neo-soul newbie approaching the singer to tell her how much she loved her music. Fast-forward a year and Mahalia received an invitation from her hero to sing on the song Good Enough.

“She’s a great singer-songwriter,” Gabrielle says, clearly as much of a fan of this hot new talent as Mahalia is of her. “And it was just amazing to have such a positive and amazingly talented person singing with me. The song is about being female, and about being who you are. She just sounds incredible. I have to thank Adele that I got to meet her.

Now And Always: 20 Years Of Dreaming

Now And Always

The fact that cutting edge artists such as Mahalia and Stormzy are knocking on Gabrielle’s door is testament to how relevant she remains in 2024. But there was a period in which it looked as if Gabrielle had slipped quietly away from the music biz (she actually took time out to raise her children, son Jordan and daughter Patricia). After 2007’s Always the singer took a step back, releasing just one mostly greatest hits album – 2013’s Now And Always: 20 Years Of Dreaming – before returning with 2018’s Under My Skin.

Normally, an artist loses momentum after such a drawn-out break, shedding chunks of their fanbase and witnessing their big comeback languishing at the darker ends of the hit parade. But not so with Gabrielle. Under My Skin charted higher (UK No.7) than either of her two previous albums (her last LP proper Always had peaked at No.11, while Now And Always only just broke the Top 40), proving that the public was hungry for more from one of the 90s’ signature artists.

Under The Skin Gabrielle

Going Live

“I knew when I finished the Under The Skin album, I felt really happy,” Gabrielle beams, revealing that she knows a record is working when she wants to spin it in her own car. “If I want to crank it up in there, I will – I mean no one knows it’s my song! [laughs]. It’s then I know that I’m onto a good thing.”

Of course, listening to a new song in your motor is nothing like debuting it live. And of A Place In Your Heart’s 12 tracks, several have already been previewed, as part of last year’s 30 Years Of Dreaming Tour. More, however, will be getting an airing in 2025, for her next 10-date arena tour, that kicks off at Glasgow’s SEC Armadillo on 2 April, taking in such venues as Birmingham’s Resorts World Arena, Manchester’s AO Arena and, for the first time ever, London’s O2.

“It’s scary, but fun at the same time,” Gabrielle says about the prospect of performing in the capital’s iconic 20,000-capacity arena. “I never thought that would actually happen. It’s quite daunting, but I’m up for the challenge. I wouldn’t have believed that I’d be doing this in my fifties. Some people would be unfazed, but I am friggin’ fazed by this!”

Family Affair

For her 30 Years tour, Gabrielle was supported by Wallis Bird and Skinny Living, but for this set of concerts she’ll be joined by Tunde Baiyewu, one-time lead singer with 90s pop pairing Lighthouse Family. “I love the Lighthouse family and I love Tunde’s voice,” Gabrielle enthuses. “I’m going to have such a blast on this tour. I’ve always had their music on in the background of my house, in my car. I’ve got all their CDs – and yes, I still play CDs in my car! To actually know that I’m going to be going on the road with him, it’s going to be incredible.”

While 15 years ago, it looked as if Gabrielle had retired, it seems now – at the age of 54 – that she’s busier and happier than ever before. With no kids at home anymore, her only obligations outside of music are her grandma duties, and, as she says, “you get to give them back at the end of the day” 

So, is she planning studio LP number nine? “There’s no stopping me,” she laughs. “There’s nothing else to do now. All the mummy things have gone, and the nanny thing is different, so there’s even more time. I’m just really excited – the new album’s out in May, I’ll be touring in 2025 and, dare I say it, I’ll have a new album out in 2026. I’m just at a really nice place right now.”

In her latest song, she sings, “I’m ready now, do you have a place for me in your heart” – it’s plain to see that British music lovers are answering in the affirmative. 

For more on  A Place In Your Heart and Gabrielle news click here

Dream A Little Dream

Dreams was Gabrielle’s debut single in June 1993 and made history at the time, entering the UK hit parade at No.2, which was the highest chart entry a debut act had obtained in Britain at that time, quickly reaching No.1  for three weeks. It’s still the song for which  she’s most remembered, but what’s her relationship with it now?

“Oh, I’ve always embraced it,” she says. “Although sometimes I might have a wobble where someone will be like, ‘Oh, we want you to do this TV show. They want you to sing Dreams.’ And I’m like, ‘I love singing Dreams, but Out Of Reach was bigger!’ You hear other artists not wanting to sing the songs that launched them, but for me, I’ve never been upset about it. I never do a show and go, ‘I’m not going to sing this song. I’ve sung it too many times’ – hell-frickin’-no. This is a song people come to see. It has so many memories for so many people and I’m here for it.”

And does she have any idea how many times she’s performed Dreams over the past three decades? 

“I almost don’t want to know,” she laughs. “Maybe someday somebody could compile a list. But it wouldn’t be easy to do, because I was singing that song even before I was famous. That’s actually a damn good question – and now you’ve got me thinking! But I never get bored of singing it, I gotta say that.”

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