No Doubt, it’s a full life
Gwen Stefani has hands full with reunion tour, two sons to raise — maybe even a new album?
By George Varga
POP MUSIC CRITIC
2:00 a.m. August 7, 2009
The world might not be a better place if all rock stars were as candid as Gwen Stefani. But rock ‘n’ roll would be a lot less pretentious – which, come to think of it, probably would make the world a better place.
“I’m quite a lazy person. I love to sleep, eat, watch TV and not do too much,” said the lead singer of the recently reactivated ska-rock band No Doubt, which performs here tomorrow night at Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre.
Of course, not doing too much can be a challenge when you’re in the middle of a summer concert tour, especially when you bring your two young sons (one born less than a year ago) along. Each undertaking, being a parent and performing in a different city each night, is a full-time job that doesn’t lend itself to being lazy.
“It’s like I wish I could be lazy!” Stefani said, laughing, before her tone turned more serious.
“The whole thing is nearly impossible. Some days it just doesn’t work and some days it does. I have so much on my plate right now that at times I feel like I’m not good at any of it. Other days, you think to yourself: ‘Wow, how do I do all that?’ I have a great family, a great husband (former Bush singer Gavin Rossdale) and a great team that help me.”
The 39-year-old singer-songwriter is delighted to be back together with her three band mates in No Doubt, after devoting the past five years to her red-hot solo career. Having been the main songwriter of such No Doubt hits as “Don’t Speak,” “Just a Girl” and “Underneath It All,” Stefani turned toward hip-hop and dance-pop to craft such infectious solo hits as “Hollaback Girl” and “What You Waiting For?”
Her reunion with No Doubt marked a welcome return. The band’s last studio album of new material, “Rock Steady,” came out in 2001. But Stefani, 39, was determined not to leave her two boys, Kingston, 3, and Zuma, who turns a year old on Aug. 22, at home while she embarked on a tour with No Doubt that began back in early May.
“Children are the most important thing, and having them is the hardest and most challenging thing I’ve ever done,” she said.
“It’s crazy having them out on tour,” said Stefani, speaking by phone from a tour stop in Canada. “I’m in Calgary and I’ve already spent the whole day with them. I walked with them, took them to the park, to a Chinese cultural center and to get smoothies at the mall. I’ve already had a full day – and now they’re taking their nap and I’m getting ready to do a concert.
“It’s hard, but I feel really lucky. The hardest thing is trying to fit everything in.”
If things had worked out as scheduled, No Doubt’s current tour would be to promote a new album. Instead, she, bassist Tony Kanal, guitarist Tom Dumont and drummer Adrian Young are embarked on what is essentially a greatest hits tour. They hope that nightly performances will get the group’s creative juices flowing to write new songs for their postponed album.
Stefani sounded despondent when asked what new attributes she brought to the band after her most recent solo tour concluded in late 2007.
“Well, obviously, I didn’t bring back anything,” she replied. “Because I went into the (recording) studio for six months with those guys and couldn’t write one thing.
“I’m in a really weird spot right now as far as songwriting goes. You know, I never dreamed any of this (success) would happen, but it’s all part of the journey. So, if I write a new album with No Doubt, part of the journey is to get back on stage and center ourselves.”
Centered or not, Stefani acknowledged that a new album is not a given, no matter how much effort she and her band mates exert.
“This tour is like the time of our lives, and we realize it,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll write new music, but we know we’re not at the beginning of our career.”
Stefani, who turns 40 on Oct. 3, was barely 17 when she joined the fledgling No Doubt 23 years ago in Anaheim. She grew contemplative when asked if music now means more to her than it did in 1986, when No Doubt – which then included her older brother, future “The Simpsons” and Disney studio animator Eric – began its journey.
“I think it is two different things; it’s like you’re a fan of music and then there’s making music,” she said. “And I guess I do put them together. Because once a song is written and the demo (recording) is done, I’m a fan of it. But when you’re a kid and you discover music, at that age, it defines and represents who you are. And that’s a very powerful thing.
“Now, I have this weird relationship with music. I’m scared of songwriting. To me, it’s something I have no control over. Compared to other artists who love to write songs every day, for me it’s like this fear: ‘Oh my God, I have to write and nothing’s coming out. Argh!’ I want to make a (new) record so bad, but it’s scary for me.”
Fear was not a factor in No Doubt’s early days. Nor was the notion of success.
“It’s really a miracle,” Stefani said. “There’s no way you have told me this would end up being my life. The band was more something we did as a form of procrastination from school and our real lives. It’s what we did for fun. We had no plans for this (fame and fortune) to happen.
“Sometimes, I think I’ll go crazy if I think about it too much, because it’s so overwhelming. Being in a band for 23 years, you just have this appreciation for everything and . . . hold on a second, one of my sons is walking in the room.”
Stefani was able to briefly answer one more question before an insistent wail began. Her youngest son wanted his mommy’s undivided attention, and he wanted it immediately.
“I’m sorry,” Stefani said, as Zuma’s crying grew even louder. “I’ve gotta go now.”
George Varga: (619) 293-2253; email@example.com