Phosphorescent: Gabrielle Aplin’s Honest & Reflective Fourth Album Explores the Physicality of Life

Gabrielle Aplin © Matt Healy
Gabrielle Aplin © Matt Healy
Acclaimed singer/songwriter Gabrielle Aplin discusses her new, sincere, and beautiful pop-infused fourth album, ‘Phosphorescent.’
Stream: ‘Phosphorescent’ – Gabrielle Aplin




I want people to know that they can put their feelings and their experiences into creativity in any kind of medium, and that expressing yourself is really important.

Starting the new year off right, English singer/songwriter Gabrielle Aplin released her fourth album Phosphorescent on January 6, 2023 via her own label, Never Fade Records. With a variety of pop tunes, the 37-minute album has something for everyone on it. Aplin’s angelic voice tells stories about the world around her, filling each song with layers of intimacy, depth, and meaning. Her vulnerability not only makes the album so easy to resonate with, but also truly lets people feel connected to it.

Phosphorescent - Gabrielle Aplin
Phosphorescent – Gabrielle Aplin

Aplin started writing Phosphorescent during the pandemic. Writing purely for fun, she did not think some of these songs would end up anywhere, adding a truly liberating and honest aspect to the album. But when Mike Spencer, the producer of the album, contacted her to make a record, she was more than ready with her collection of songs.

I was writing songs, not because I was told to go write an album, but because I had nothing else to do. It was genuinely me just being an artist. I think that’s why they’re so honest.

During the creation of this album, Aplin was inspired by the nature of the world. This idea really came forward when she began the writing process for “Mariana Trench.” After watching an episode of Blue Planet, about the deepest oceanic trench on Earth, Aplin found that the fact of life still existing in the deepest and darkest known place on Earth felt like a metaphor for where humankind was at the time.

This inspiration shines throughout her album. In “Skylight” she sings, “Let’s climb out through the skylight, we can watch the sunset fall into the nighttime, then roll into the sunrise, slowly.” Through the mellow beat and her gorgeous vocals, she touches on the most important yet simplistic part of nature – the changing of a day.

“I saw the album come to fruition alongside seasons changing and the cycles of life,” Aplin tells Atwood Magazine. “I saw ducks down the pond by the studio, the eggs being laid, the duck sitting on them and then the ducks being hatched. Just seeing life happening in cycles and living along with that.”




Gabrielle Aplin © Never Fade Records
Gabrielle Aplin © Matt Healy

Aplin’s connection with nature does not stop there; there are also several eco-friendly elements tied into the creation of Phosphorescent.

She made her new music in a heat pump powered studio. Furthermore, the artwork for the album was made using the photographic process of cyanography (the process of printing using sunlight) and she is using Eco-Mix Vinyl (a production that uses the leftover wax already in a factory).

Phosphorescent is an extraordinarily beautiful way of connecting with life. Sometimes it is calming and relaxing, touching upon the reflective process Aplin discussed. Other times, it makes you want to dance around and chase life.

Aplin is finishing up an intimate store tour and hopes to play some more live shows in the near future. One of her new songs, “Side by Side,” can be found in the new Sky original film, The Amazing Maurice.

Phosphorescent is out now. Catch up with Gabrielle Aplin in our interview below, and listen to the album wherever you get your music!

I’m so happy with where I’m at. Music, songs, and people is all I kind of really aim towards. I love meeting people. I love playing songs. I hope I get to continue doing that.

— —

:: stream/purchase Phosphorescent here ::
Stream: ‘Phosphorescent’ – Gabrielle Aplin



Gabrielle Aplin © Matt Healy
Gabrielle Aplin © Matt Healy

A CONVERSATION WITH GABRIELLE APLIN

Phosphorescent - Gabrielle Aplin

this Q&A has been edited and condensed

Atwood Magazine: Hi Gabrielle, thanks for speaking today! Could you please share a little bit about the meaning behind this album? Was there a certain aesthetic or theme you had in mind going into the creation of it?

Gabrielle Aplin: There were so many threads. I didn’t have a concept in terms of sound. But I started writing in the pandemic. It wasn’t like I was in a campaign or anything. It wasn’t like I was told to make an album. I was writing for fun, without any industry in mind for the first time in a very long time. It was a very isolated and bleak time. Then Mike Spencer, who produced the album, he contacted me and was like, “Let’s make an album,” and I already had this bunch of songs. I guess for us, we’ve been consuming music digitally for a few years, and even consuming human connection digitally for a few years. As an antidote to that, we wanted the album to have a real physicality. For real musicians in a room, recording in one take, even any processed and synthetic sounds being recorded and re-recorded through weird and wonderful speakers, so everything had a physical space. That’s really come across in the feedback from fans, which is amazing.

Then with the writing, I kind of knew what I was doing when I wrote “Mariana Trench.” That’s when I realized, I found a theme starting to form. It was very inspired by this natural world. I found the fact that so much life exists in the deepest and darkest known place on Earth, felt like a real metaphor for where we were at the time. Then when we were making it, Mike’s studio is almost completely 100% self-sufficient from natural energy. I thought that was really cool. It wasn’t intentional, but then it made me think about how we could incorporate that into all aspects of the album. So, I made cyanotypes with an artist called Nat Michelle. All the artwork was printed in the garden by the sun, which is why it’s blue. But then it even led me to apply that to literally everything. It made me think about how my physical copies could be, within my means, as friendly to the environment as possible. We were exploring digital pressings and things like Eco-Mix Vinyl and different types of papers, and just having that mindset towards everything we were doing with the album.



Kind of going off that, you have such a collective group of songs on this album. You have songs that are upbeat such as “Never Be the Same” and slower paced songs such as “Half in Half out.” Do you mind walking me through some of the stories that could be found on the album?

Gabrielle Aplin: Absolutely. “Never Be the Same” is a really interesting one actually. It was written almost like a dance song, but it wouldn’t fit with the album. It was the last one we actually wrote, and we wrote it as a dance song. I love dance music, but the recording process, I wanted it to feel like everyone was in a pub, and they all grabbed an instrument, while still feeling like a pop song. It’s interesting because I wrote it with three other writers, Liz Horsman, Andrea Rocha and Anna Straker. We’d spent the pandemic writing on Zoom and Dropbox for other artists. Our first in-person session together was for me and my project. It felt really special. We wrote about that time just before lockdown, where I was on tour, and I thought my life was that. Then the next day, all of the things I thought made me who I was were completely stripped away, and just rediscovering who you are without all these external influences.

“Mariana Trench,” for example, was a very reflective song. I was genuinely watching the Blue Planet episode where they go down into the Mariana Trench and discover so much life. It felt like a real metaphor for where we were at the time and for human resilience. How art, be it TV, film, music, crafts, DIY food, was so important for people during lockdown and that period of the pandemic. And how we became quite reflective about where we were in our lives and things we wanted to change when we had a chance to pause. I guess the whole album and the writing is really, really reflective. It’s just literally me, right, sitting at the piano, with my dog and just spewing out whatever was on the top of my mind that day. But then even little bits of the recording process, and just the attention to detail, especially from Mike, was amazing. He loved the way my vocal was on my demos, and we wanted to really recreate that environment in a more controlled setting. For example, I did my vocals literally on my own, in my loft, with my dog next to me. So, when we did the vocals with Mike, we’ve taken it so seriously he put me in a studio and no humans were allowed in, apart from his dog. Loads of little things like that really added to me making an album that I’m really proud of.



Just like you were saying, it was a time we were all in, which makes the album so relatable for fans. And this is your fourth album, how was the writing process for it? Was it different from others?

Gabrielle Aplin: It’s very different. It felt closer to my first album in many ways. I was up at the same place I made it. One of the main differences is that I was writing songs, not because I was told to go write an album, but because I had nothing else to do. It was genuinely me just being an artist. I think that’s why they’re so honest. I didn’t think about how catchy they were, or what playlists I would get on, or how fashionable they were, or what trends I was putting into the songs. It was pure singer/songwriter mode and quite traditional, in that sense. I wanted to make sure that we were making a very modern and forward-thinking album. But there was a kind of traditional element to the writing process. Definitely.

What song are you most excited for people to listen to? And what does that song mean to you?
 

Gabrielle Aplin: “Mariana Trench.” From feedback from fans, I’ve been meeting them in stores this week and doing meet and greets, and that song seems to be the most obvious one that people are resonating with. I felt really proud, and I wrote it because it kind of just wrote itself. It was very, very honest. The whole project spun out from this song. I’m really really proud of it.

What the f— am I even hearing on the news?
I can’t remember the last time we met, and I miss you
Oh, I just wanna run away, but I can’t even move
I don’t know how we get through
the sh– that we do, but we get through
I was watching Blue Planet
And the Mariana Trench
The darkness it scared me, tighten up my chest
Sometimes I get so low and deep
but don’t know if I’m gonna make it

But I remember there’s life down in the darkest places
Ooh, ooh-ooh
I don’t know how we get through
the sh– that we do, but we get through



Gabrielle Aplin © Never Fade Records
Gabrielle Aplin © Matt Healy



I was writing songs, not because I was told to go write an album, but because I had nothing else to do. It was genuinely me just being an artist. I think that’s why they’re so honest.

Kind of going off that, do you mind sharing what song off this album you personally resonate with the most? Is it the same song or is it a different song off the album?
 

Gabrielle Aplin: Um… Oh, God. I think that one. “Mariana Trench” really sums up that period of isolation for me in a very bleak time. But remembering that I can use creativity and art to put that into words and into something physical that other people can then take along with them and relate to their lives.

People can find raw and real lyrics in your music such as “Wish I Didn't Press Send.” A lot of people could probably relate to that song so deeply because of that. Is it hard to be vulnerable? Or do you think it's a way of connecting with people? Or maybe even a combination of both of those?

Gabrielle Aplin: Yeah, definitely. One is in a more commercial setting. When I’m being sent to a studio to write with someone, it’s a lot harder to be vulnerable. But when I’m just sat on my own, in my house and no one’s paying attention, I was like, “No one knows I’m writing the songs.” My manager didn’t know, no one knew. It’s very easy to be vulnerable because I had no intention. I was able to just write, thinking that they may not ever be heard. Then having the songs, it felt like that was what I was meant to record when the opportunity to make an album came.

I was walking ’round my hometown thinkin’ ’bout you
Thinkin’ ’bout how no one’s ever hurt me like you did back then
It was fun to forget
Now I’m sleeping through the memories every bad night
Every last fight, trying to remind myself I don’t regret
That you’re outta my head
But it’s late, I’m awake, and I’ve broken my rule
I swear it was that drink that had me messaging you
I’ve gone and done the thing I said I wouldn’t do
Well, I shouldn’t have said it
‘Cause I never meant it
I wish I didn’t press send
I’m never going back again
I only did it ’cause I’m overthinking, lonely, drunk at 3 a.m
You should have left it on read
I really meant what I said
When I was sober and I told you I was happy that it came to an end
Oh, I wish I didn’t press send



Gabrielle Aplin © Matt Healy
Gabrielle Aplin © Matt Healy

I didn’t think about how catchy they were, or what playlists I would get on, or how fashionable they were, or what trends I was putting into the songs. It was pure singer/songwriter mode and quite traditional in that sense. I wanted to make sure that we were making a very modern and forward-thinking album.

And what do you want people to take away from Phosphorescent?

Gabrielle Aplin: I really want them to take away that everybody can be artists, in whatever medium. I want people to know that they can put their feelings and their experiences into creativity in any kind of medium, and that expressing yourself is really important.

What was your inspiration for the album?

Gabrielle Aplin: Honesty and reflection, I guess. Putting who you are, how you feel and the things you want to explore and talk about into a creative process.

Sustainability and eco-conscious practices are important to you. Can you tell me more about that and how you incorporate it into your music?

Gabrielle Aplin: I’ve been spending a lot more time in nature. I live in Somerset, in quite a rural area. I saw more nature than I did people during that lockdown period. I love animals so much, and I love plants, food and everything that the world gives us. I love it. I feel like we all have a responsibility to look after it. But I’m also aware that more people have different starting points and different resources. I do feel like people who have more resources have more of a responsibility to do what they can within their means. I do feel like with music, so many industries, everywhere, everything is polluting, and I can only concentrate on what I know. But I do feel like in the future, there will have to be laws in place to make sure that what we create isn’t damaging and to minimize that damage as much as we can. I just thought well, “Why not start now?” “Why not start exploring this before it’s compulsory?”

There’s so many exciting things. We were able to do Eco-Mix with my budget and it’s just using up all those scraps of vinyl. It’s not perfect, but it was what I was able to do within my means. Also, just a strong connection. I made that album up at Mike’s over the course of just over a year. I saw the album come to fruition alongside seasons changing and the cycles of life. I saw ducks down the pond by the studio, the eggs being laid, the duck sitting on them and then the ducks being hatched. Just seeing life happening in cycles and living along with that. I thought, “Why not do what we can?” It wasn’t like a big pain for me. It didn’t feel like a chore. It felt like a quest. It’s just important to me.

I was making cyanotypes. I genuinely enjoyed that. I do feel like some restrictions in some place can really help creativity and lead you in a direction. I just wanted to do what I can. Hopefully if I do this again, to even push that even further and also to inspire other musicians as well. I didn’t know that Eco-Mix Vinyl existed until I asked a world to explore ways in which we can make friendly physicals. So, I don’t know. I think it is an exciting time. People are becoming very aware. Things I don’t like about it is that there’s this air of perfectionism, and I do think that little and often is better than not at all. I don’t like the way that people can be shamed. I’m vegan, and I love being a part of this community. But I don’t think forcing people to change their entire lives, especially during the cost-of-living crisis and a time where we’re all so busy and overworked, is reasonable and all realistic. I love campaigns like Meat Free Monday, which allows people to dip in every Monday and make small changes that are manageable. For me, I want to encourage people to do what they can within their means. If you can’t, then encourage people that can.

Gabrielle Aplin © Never Fade Records
Gabrielle Aplin © Matt Healy



You're on an intimate record store tour. How has this experience been so far? And can fans expect more live shows in the near future?

Gabrielle Aplin: I hope to be touring towards the end of the year, and more of an extensive tour. But what’s been really great about this tour is meeting people. Regardless, we can get caught up in numbers and start some things, but I’ve always maintained that songs and people who hear them are the two most important things. It’s been really nice to meet people, hear their feedback from the album, which songs they like, what’s resonating and what it means to them. That’s really nice.

You recently released a song called “Side by Side” for the Sky film, The Amazing Maurice. How did this opportunity present itself and how was it like writing and singing in a film?

Gabrielle Aplin: My publisher approached me and said the opportunity was there. So, I had to pitch. I am big into music and film. I love it. It was really lovely to work to a brief. I love Terry Pratchett. As a fan, it was a really wonderful experience. I think it’s a really wholesome film about literally being yourself and community, and how your individuality is your superpower. I loved writing that. I love putting bits of the script into the song. It was a really wonderful thing to do and a really wholesome experience.

What are you looking forward to in 2023, music wise?

Gabrielle Aplin: I hope to keep doing what I’m doing. I’m so happy with where I’m at. Music, songs and people is all I kind of really aim towards. I love meeting people. I love playing songs. I hope I get to continue doing that. I hope I get to travel a bit more this year. I’m really enjoying it. I’m so tired. I’ve done so many shows. My schedule has been insane. But also, it’s good tired, wholesome tired. I feel really good for it.

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:: stream/purchase Phosphorescent here ::
Stream: ‘Phosphorescent’ – Gabrielle Aplin



— — — —

Phosphorescent - Gabrielle Aplin

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