Light in the Darkness

Singer/Songwriter Gabrielle Aplin takes some time aside to speak to Patrick Kelleher about her musical influences, touring, and being happy with her new album.[br]Gabrielle Aplin has been something of an anomaly in the music industry over the last number of years. Her career has blossomed in the most unassuming of ways. Growing up from her folk-pop roots, things have more than snowballed for Aplin: they’ve exploded. This began when, at only 21 years of age, her cover of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘The Power of Love’ skyrocketed to number one in the UK charts. Things have only gotten better since. She has flexed not just her vocal muscles, but also her songwriting ones too, perhaps most notably with her recent album Light Up The Dark. Her pop-folk, experimental style was born from an eclectic list of musical influences, which Aplin recounts with a sense of awe still.“I love Joni [Mitchell], she’s kind of my biggest inspiration really,” she says. “I also love Nick Drake...Through most of this album, I was listening to a lot of Arcade Fire and The National, and a lot of bands like that, so yeah, a big mix.”Music wasn’t always the central ambition for Aplin, however. “I was painting, that was like my thing I was doing even before I was writing or singing, and I loved creative writing and poems, and then I kind of taught myself piano. And then I realised I could put the two together when I saw that Joni Mitchell was writing poems and then singing them, and then making her album artwork. And I was like ‘Oh, this is something that I want to do!’”When this realisation hit, it hit hard. At 17 years of age, Aplin was ready to start on a journey, albeit one that she didn’t yet understand. “I didn’t really consider what I’m doing now as an option really,” she says. “Not that I didn’t want to, I just didn’t really expect it to happen, and I just didn’t really know what I was doing. I wanted to learn about the industry, and I was thinking maybe songwriting for other artists, or kind of working within a label and developing artists, and then I became one! That’s kind of how it happened, I was just taking the opportunities that came my way, and now I’m here.”For Aplin, singing is clearly a joy; it shines through on Light Up The Dark, where she seems at ease, an artist who is truly enjoying the chance to be heard. However she is adamant that songwriting is central to what she does, something which isn’t as easy as it sounds.“What kind of inspires me is that I can’t just go ‘right, I’m going to book a studio between 12-4 tomorrow and I’m going to write a song, and that’s where I’m going to write it’, because sometimes I just can’t. Some parts of the day, I’m probably the worst songwriter in the world, and I don’t know how to do it. And then suddenly I can write a song in half an hour, and I’m like ‘Oh!’, and that can happen at any time. So I don’t really know when or what is going to inspire me to write. I suppose in terms of what inspires me to be a performer and a storyteller in a way, is those artists within the kind of 60s and 70s folk revival during the kind of revolution and everything, they were writing about social things. Like Bob Dylan writing about Vietnam, and John Lennon writing ‘Imagine’, for example, all those amazing songs that were for people. I love hearing about those stories... People don’t really write about social things anymore, and I think that’s really good, and people are starting to do it again; write songs that can actually do things.”
“The main thing that I’ve kind of wanted to is just make an album that I’m really happy with and see where that takes me. And I’ve been able to do that.”
Touring is undoubtedly something that she is in love with, and she is keen to stress how much she enjoys performing for her fans. However it also has its strains. “I mean in the UK you can do it on a bus, or you can kind of go to sleep at a normal time and just wake up in a city you’re playing in, and it’s a lot of travelling but that’s easy,” she says. “But it’s more difficult in a place like Australia where you have to fly every single place you’re going. So yeah, I mean it’s different most places. I find flying is quite hard anyway. Because you’re only really playing for an hour and a half each day, and then it’s just kind of waiting around.”Despite the stresses and strains of flying from one continent to the next, there is a veracity, but also a looseness to performing that she adores. Aplin lights up when she speaks of her recent show at the Village Underground in London, which she describes as one of her favourite live experiences. She explains how a rocky rehearsal had everyone convinced that the evening was set to be a disaster. “Everyone thought it was going to be cancelled because I couldn’t make it through a song without having a coughing fit. I was really ill. And everyone was panicking, and then we went on stage and it was probably the best show of the whole tour, we don’t really know how it happened.”Alongside her music career, Aplin has also recently begun a tentative career in modelling. However she is keen to stress that it is not central, nor will she allow it to compromise her status as an artist. “I wouldn’t just do a campaign just to take money,” she says. “I find it quite a weird thing, I mean I only really do things that will tie in with the fact that I’m a musician, and will highlight the fact that I’m an artist.”Next up for Aplin is promoting the varied and eclectic mix of music that appears on Light Up The Dark through touring. On the morning that Aplin spoke to OTwo, it had just been announced that her Dublin show in February has been upgraded from Whelans to the Olympia due to high demand. “Yes! Really, really happy,” she shrieks with excitement when the upgrade is mentioned.Things are on the rise for Aplin. At only 23 years of age, her musical repertoire and touring experience is something to be reckoned with. Right now, however, she is trying to keep combining hard work with the satisfaction of having made an album she is really happy with. “The main thing that I’ve kind of wanted to is just make an album that I’m really happy with and see where that takes me. And I’ve been able to do that,” she says. And if an artist can be entirely satisfied with their work, then what else can they ask for?Light Up The Dark is out now. Gabrielle Aplin will perform in the Olympia Theatre in Dublin on February 20th.