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The pursuit of happiness

Gabrielle Aplin tells David Hennessy about why social media’s grip is creepy, why she doesn’t tell everyone what she had for breakfast and her forthcoming album.

Gabrielle Aplin burst onto the scene in 2012 when her cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s The Power of Love was featured on the John Lewis Christmas advert. Since then, her debut album English Rain has gone to number two in the UK album chart and charted really well all around the world. She followed this up with Light up the Dark in 2015 and is getting ready to release her third album in January next year.

She has also recently been busy with her festive EP December, with collaborator Hannah Grace, and is preparing to play Union Chapel next week. The festive period remains a busy period for the singer-songwriter from Wiltshire. “A Gabrielle is for life, not just for Christmas,” she laughs.

In her most recent single, Gabrielle tackled the subject of social media with her song and video for Like You Say You Do which depicts two versions of herself projecting two different images: “It’s creepy. My thought process was, ‘What if Black Mirror was slapstick and silly?’ That’s basically what I wanted to do.

“I also thought it’s weird actually. It(social media)’s taken over completely but so quickly. Even five years ago, it wasn’t what it is now.

“If I wasn’t an artist, I probably wouldn’t be using it in the way I do now. But I understand, especially as an independent artist, it’s very important to be present and visible and connecting with your audience.

“What’s great about the internet is it allows fans to connect with artists internationally. It allows artists to have careers in countries they have never even visited.

“Everyone felt like right hand of the screen Gabrielle which I’m glad to hear. I’m glad people related to it.

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“I get it. I’m not gonna sit and moan about it but I’m also not gonna act like I’m massively thrilled to share everything.

“I just remember I can control what I share on social media. I don’t have to give away anything I don’t want to give away. I don’t feel pressured to tell people what I’m eating for breakfast but if I feel like I want to one day, maybe I will. I don’t think anyone cares.”

This followed My Mistake, a stripped back piano-based song that got everyone’s attention for the vulnerability Gabrielle displayed in singing lines like ‘I’m a loser’: “I got lots of messages really just enjoying the sentiment of just being, ‘I can’t do today sorry, not a good day’. I got a lot of messages about just that letting go which is really nice.

“I hadn’t quite worked out what the rest of the album was at that point. I was really happy to put it out and it was the start of this campaign.”

Her forthcoming album Dear Happy is more upbeat than its first offering may have suggested: “I didn’t want to make a depressing album. I wanted something that sounds happy as an entire piece.

“At the moment it may feel like a bit of an anomaly but in the context of the album, it will make more sense. It’s predominantly a very hopeful, happy sounding album.

“I’m really happy with it as well.

“I always try to think of cool things to say about them (songs) in interviews. Really it’s always very simple, I just like writing songs.”

Can Gabrielle believe it is now seven years since The Power of Love brought her to so many people’s attention? “Not really. Feels like a long time ago, doesn’t it? I love doing that tune and it’s been so good for everyone involved.”

Gabrielle plays Union Chapel on Thursday 19 December.

The December EP is out now. The album Dear Happy is out in January.

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