Not All Who Wander Are Lost: An Interview with Gavin Rossdale

Gavin Rossdale

Gavin Rossdale is accustomed to success.

After all, he was catapulted to stardom in the mid-’90s as the lead vocalist and guitarist of Bush, one of the most successful alt-rock bands of the time, enjoying commercial achievement with hits such as “Glycerine” and “The Chemicals Between Us”. Wanderlust — his first-ever solo outing — proves that despite time away from the music scene, he can hit the ground running and conquer the world once again.

Rossdale who has said in past interviews: “I feel like a racehorse that’s been stuck in the stables a bit too long. The doors are locked and no one can find the key — worse I’m not sure who’s looking for it.” As such, he’s tried creating a new sound. Rossdale’s approach to songwriting has not drastically changed insomuch that his lyrics are as introspective as ever; but if you are expecting to hear Bush-like bass lines — think again. Wanderlust is much more laissez-faire than his previous days with Bush and Institute. In order to explore different musical avenues and gain a new perspective, Rossdale employed the skills of producer Bob Rock, the mastermind behind records for Metallica, Aerosmith, and Motley Crue. Rossdale and his band recorded eighteen songs in a mere five days, and the band’s work ethic has paid off, yielding the hit radio smash “Love Remains the Same.”

As one half of the power couple that is Gavin Rossdale and Gwen Stefani — it is nearly impossible for Rossdale to escape the ever-present paparazzi. With the new album and a burgeoning family, it is difficult to maintain a private life. As Rossdale explains, “It can be annoying and it is nearly impossible to maintain a private life. The Paparazzi are like mosquitoes. There are so many more important things in life to pursue.” While making strides in evading the constant glare from the media and welcoming a new child into the family, Rossdale has created a notable addition to his library of work with Wanderlust.

The wish to see the world through travel is not what motivates Rossdale; it is the overwhelming desire to play music for audiences demonstrating that not all who wander are lost. Rossdale admits, “Wanderlust is an antidote to the previous records. I wanted to do something that was all-encompassing: inviting, wide, cinematic.” Rossdale waited to work with famed producer Bob Rock on this project in order to “Gain an overview in the old school way of making an album. With Bob Rock, I fell in love with his philosophy of not working in an obsessed climate – to be free and try to create something. I also wanted to pull back from the Bush guitars to set this album apart. Really I felt like my life depended on this record. There are too many records anyway and not enough outlets.” The album was intended to be a departure from Bush as well as a reflection of his current outlook on life.

In 2005, Rossdale released an album under the name Institute which was produced by Page Hamilton; they toured with U2 to support the album. The anticipation from fans was high but Rossdale has said that the band was a “marketing disaster,” and that it “felt like a really painful left turn.” Conversely, with Wanderlust Rossdale explains, “I wanted to be like Peter Gabriel. A good friend of mine told me that the great thing about this album is that, you can play it anytime of day, and it works.” In spite of the failure of Institute, Rossdale has bounced back with Wanderlust. Fans can easily identify with lyrics and the subject content of many of his songs. Wanderlust having received much critical acclaim since its release, resulted in its use in the feature film trailer for Nights in Rodanthe, which featured Rossdale’s hit song “Love Remains the Same;” and the track “Some Days” was featured as the theme song for the TV show entitled, Drive.

The evolution of Rossdale’s songwriting is audible by the more obvious simplistic approach that he took in recording the series of songs on Wanderlust. Rossdale explains that while his lyrics are as candid as ever, “I focus less on stream-of-consciousness lyrics, which have at times been the subject of criticism. I didn’t want to edit myself on this album. Even now sometimes I think, ‘I could have done better on those words.’ I have always felt that a simple phrase can elevate the chorus.” There is no clearer example of this as in the song, “The Skin I’m In.” As the lyrics read, “There may be rocks in the water but still the river flows / And when the sea gets rough you bring it all back home.”

This year Rossdale will return to the road in support of the album. “I will be touring this spring. I am looking forward to it. I love it; I don’t want it to end.” Rossdale adds, “The reception out on the road has been brilliant. The fans on the road are half-mad at me for not having toured. Musicians, I guess, are such needy people. I just love performing.” Regardless of the whirlwind recognition that Wanderlust has provided, there has been much speculation on whether Rossdale’s solo career closes the door to a possible Bush reunion in the future. Rossdale says, “I want to do another solo record and hopefully a Bush record as well. I always hold out the hope of a Bush reunion. The drummer and I especially would like to see it come to pass. I really identify with the band, not so much concerning success but in terms of identity.”

Identity is an expanding term for Rossdale; with a solo singing career well underway, he has also had a respectable start in the feature film enterprise. He has given fans a glimpse of his acting chops through his appearance in films such as Constantine, Zoolander, Little Black Book, and The Game of their Lives. While an impressive beginning for any musician taking on an acting career, Rossdale reveals, “I watch as many films as I listen to records. I am definitely interested in continuing to act in films, playing darker roles. I absolutely would like to play dark roles that highlight the human condition.”