Twenty-one year olds aren’t what they used to be.
Blinking blindly into the Aplin on stage during her 2013 tour limelight, many a bright pop star has been moulded, lavished with telephone-number budgets and sent off into the fame stratosphere, only to burn out ingloriously as if by some twisted quid pro quo for their meteoric rise.
Gabrielle Aplin is quite different. Her debut album, English Rain, hints strongly that there’s an older, smarter head on those shoulders, confirmed beyond doubt within the first five minutes of meeting her. References to Joni Mitchell, John Martyn and Bruce Springsteen trip out as credibly as they do to You Me At Six, Ed Sheeran or Katy Perry, as she recounts her slow and steady rise from self-published videos on YouTube to playing the UK’s biggest arenas.
2013 was the Wiltshire girl’s watershed year. She scored a UK Number One single in December 2012, helped along no doubt by its use a major TV advertising campaign. The perfect springboard for her full-length debut album?
“What song is that, I wonder?” she laughs, having been asked hundreds of times about her cover of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s The Power Of Love and that John Lewis ad. “But yeah, absolutely – it was very surreal! It was a really lucky thing and I’ve achieved what I wanted: I wanted my album to come out.”
You’ve just finished your longest, biggest tour yet: how does that feel?
“It’s quite sad, actually, because since the start of summer we’ve just been touring around: I came home and I miss my friends. It was such a good experience. I mean, I’ve done eight tours, starting out on my own, playing tiny little venues and building it up each time. So this was my third tour with the band. The first five were completely acoustic.”
The elation of a big audience is presumably indescribable... so obviously we’re going to ask you to describe it?
“Well, it’s gradually built up to the Shepherd’s Bush [Empire]-type venues. Before that it was Koko, Scala, before that Dingwalls... So it had developed, but I’d never just gone straight to an arena before. I’d been doing 500-capacity venues in Europe, so there were crowds, but not arena crowds!
"Then I went to Amsterdam with John [Mayer], or playing the O2 or Wembley with him... Now, they were really big moments for me. But my gigs have always been similar: the chat in between the songs and the banter with the crowd. If the crowd are up for it, you completely forget about the room.”
Who’s playing guitar in your band with you?
“There was an amazing guitarist called Tom Longworth playing with me, and he’s great, but when it came to touring extensively and recording a lot, I just wanted to use my mates.
“My guitarist is called Tom Crouch – he’s really young, he’s just turned 20, and I knew he was just out of college. I found him doing his own songs on YouTube and thought he was amazing, so I asked him to come and play in the band with me.”