To hear No Doubt frontwoman Gwen Stefani tell it, she’s just a girl from Orange County following a dream.
“I’m just like you, except I write songs,” Stefani says. “I feel like I’m doing something right. And right now, I feel like I’m in a good place in my life.”
Indeed. Stefani – rock star, pop culture icon, fashion entrepreneur (clothing line L.A.M.B.), actress (Martin Scorsese’s “The Aviator,” due in December), wife of Bush vocalist/guitarist Gavin Rossdale – is gearing up for the next chapter in a prolific career.
Her solo debut album – or as she prefers to call it, “my side project” – “Love, Angel, Music, Baby” arrives Nov. 23 in the United States (and a day earlier in Europe) from Interscope.
The disc will also be available in a deluxe limited edition. This fabric-wrapped, gold-embossed Digipak, with a case designed by Stefani/L.A.M.B., will retail for less than $30.
“Gwen is the kind of person with the potential to move the needle of popular culture,” Interscope Geffen A&M chairman Jimmy Iovine says. “She comes from a different place; she has her own lane. This is her very own concept album.”
Stefani is more direct. “This is my dance record,” she says of the set. “I had always wanted to do a dance record, but ‘dance’ is misleading (because) the definition of ‘dance music’ around the world is so different.”
Stefani’s “dance record” – not to be confused with today’s four-on-the-floor underground club music – is steeped in all things ’80s, from Lisa Lisa and Debbie Deb to Depeche Mode and the Cure, from Prince and Club Nouveau to Missing Persons and L’Trimm.
Stefani credits No Doubt bandmate Tony Kanal with exposing her to these sounds. “I was a strict ska girl until I met Tony,” she says. “He was always listening to all this stuff that you would hear when you went dancing at Knott’s Berry Farm – like I did.”
She adds, “Everyone I worked with (on this album) was under strict instructions as far as inspiration goes. I wanted to recapture the feeling I had when I first heard those songs.”
“Love, Angel, Music, Baby” includes the work of numerous producers, songwriters and musicians: Dr. Dre and Eve (“Rich Girl”), the Neptunes (“Hollaback Girl”), Wendy & Lisa and New Order’s Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner (“Real Thing”), Dallas Austin (“Cool”), OutKast’s Andre 3000 (“Long Way to Go”), Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis (“Harajuku Girls”) and Kanal (“Serious”). Stefani co-wrote all the tracks on the album.
Lead single “What You Waiting For?” – which ascends the Billboard Hot 100 to No. 63 this week – was penned with Linda Perry.
“It wasn’t about me having to create every part,” Stefani says of the album. “It was about me driving the car, making the rules. Because I let so many other people in, this record is less of me than a No Doubt record. I see it as one big collaboration.”
Stefani – who has collaborated with Eve (“Let Me Blow Ya Mind”) and Moby (“South Side”) in recent years – acknowledges that she had a goal: “I was not looking to make an art record. I was looking to make a specific record that would be everyone’s guilty pleasure. There was no room for anything but singles on this album.”
Whether Stefani takes “Love, Angel, Music, Baby” on the road remains to be seen. “Touring is something I’ve done a lot of in my life, and right now it’s about doing stuff I’ve never done before – like dancing to my own song in a club,” Stefani says. “But I can’t picture myself touring without No Doubt.”
Speaking of No Doubt (as she often does), Stefani hopes hardcore and casual fans alike will welcome her album. “I have all the respect for everyone (who has) ever supported No Doubt around the world,” she says. “But if I’m being honest, when I’m making songs I’m only thinking of myself. I had a specific thing I wanted to try (with this album), and now I’m ready to share it with people.”