By Andrea Clarke
NO Doubt singer turned solo star Gwen Stefani is set to play the Odyssey Arena, Belfast for the first time next Monday 1st October.
Gwen, lead singer of the multiple Grammy-winning band No Doubt, released her first solo album Love. Angel. Music. Baby in 2004, churning out hit after hit including Hollaback Girl, Rich Girl featuring Eve, Cool, Luxurious and What You Waiting For.
The singer then went onto to have a hugely successful sold-out tour then took some time out to spend time with her son, Kingston with husband Gavin Rossdale.
When it came time for Gwen to record a second album, you would think there would be pressure to make not just another great record, but also to satisfy the expectations that come with massive success. But not for this singer.
As sheâ€™s done throughout her career, Gwen hasnâ€™t let anyone dictate what she should do.
â€œFor me, the music just brings a lot of confidence. Making music is very rewarding,â€ Gwen said.
â€œItâ€™s really fun to have people listen to your music and get something, whatever that is out of it. So when all is said and done, I hope people enjoy it as much as Iâ€™m enjoying itâ€.
And enjoying it they are.
Gwenâ€™s second album, The Sweet Escape brings an unmistakable ability to cross-pollinate genres with effortless joy.
Collaborating with fellow sonic adventurers, The Neptunes, No Doubtâ€™s Tony Kanal, Akon, Swizz Beats, Sean Garrett, and Keaneâ€™s Tim Rice-Oxley, the singer has created a unique album that is unmistakably Gwen Stefani.
â€œAll my inspirations were completely different on this record,â€ she said.
â€œThe last time, it was all about doing a dance record. It was all about â€˜80s-inspired music, the music I danced to when I was growing up.
â€œBut this time, I felt like I was in a whole different place. I have a lot more melodic songs. There are beats but itâ€™s also more. The Sweet Escape is a perfect title because the music takes you awayâ€.
The first single from the album, Wind It Up, featuring a sample from The Sound of Music, was produced by The Neptunes and charted at number three in the UK. Gwenâ€™s latest single, The Sweet Escape featuring Akon went in at number two.
â€œI kept getting people saying, â€˜Youâ€™ve gotta work with this guy Akon;â€, added Gwen.
â€œI was just agreeing to the session because everyone was in my ear. But then, I cancelled a session because I was burned out, I was too tired, and I have ababy.
â€œThen Jimmy [Chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records] calls me and he says, â€˜You can cancel everything else in your life. Just donâ€™t cancel this session! You have to go and work with Akon.â€™ I said, â€˜Okay, dude. Iâ€™ll goâ€™.
â€He had all these tracks he had played for me that blew my mind. I was thinking I was gonna go in there and just have some track that wasnâ€™t me.
â€œAnd when I heard what Akon had I was like, â€˜Whoo-hoo!â€™ And we ended up with this song, which, itâ€™s just greatâ€.
Credit success. Marriage. Motherhood. Listen to The Sweet Escape and you hear an artist, and a woman, inspired by the love that surrounds her, on and off the stage. Not surprisingly, The Sweet Escape is dedicated to Gwenâ€™s best project,baby Kingston.
â€œI want him to grow up and look back and just know how important he is. Heâ€™s just the most delicious thing. I have no words for himâ€.
That emotional bond and sheer joy fuels The Sweet Escape.
From bass-driven jams to ethereal ballads, this album finds Gwen Stefani in a beautiful place, one that sheâ€™s willing to share.
â€œYou work so hard on the musicâ€, said Gwen. â€œItâ€™s such an emotional outlet, and for me itâ€™s really the hard part of everything. But itâ€™s also the fire for everything because itâ€™s so emotional.
â€œWhen youâ€™re all done with it, to get all made-up, and celebrate, and show it off to everyoneâ€¦ itâ€™s just an expression of your personality. It just shows who you are without having to use words. Just the musicâ€.
Limited tickets, priced Â£40.00 / Â£38.00 (seated) and Â£38.00 (standing) are on sale now from Odyssey Arena box office, Virgin & all usual Ticketmaster outlets.
Credit card bookings & info: 0870 243 4455 / 028 9073 9074 (Odyssey Arena box office)