More than merely entertain, Gwen Stefani wants to make friends and influence people with her This Is What The Truth Feels Like Tour, which kicks off July 12 in Mansfield, Massachusetts.
"The whole show for me is not about what I'm wearing or even how I sing," Stefani told Billboard during a conference call with reporters promoting the tour, her fourth solo trek. "It's really about the connection and connecting. I want people to feel like they know me by the end of it, and if I have to slap 'em around and tell 'em what to do, by the end of the show I want to walk away and feel like we know each other and that we have a connection. So all of the other stuff -- the lights, the video screens, the costumes, the makeup -- to me what's punk is saying, 'You will have fun and I will control you, and by the end of this we're gonna be best friends.' That's my attitude.
"But I do love all the rest of it too."
There will be plenty of the rest, in fact. Stefani is deep into rehearsals with her new live band and the eight dancers that will be part of the shows. Meanwhile, Stefani and longtime collaborator Sophie Muller have been working on visuals for the production, even during the Memorial Day weekend while Stefani was visiting boyfriend Blake Shelton in Oklahoma. "We're going to do some more in New York," Stefani says. "Basically it's like having the opportunity to do little miniature videos that go behind the songs. Every time we get a chance we get in front of the camera and do some more creative stuff. There's a lot....[Muller] is like a muse for me."
Muller also directed the just-released video for "Misery," the latest single from the This Is What the Truth Feels Like album. "I'm shocked by the response, I have to say," Stefani said. "It's such a traditional type of old-school video, I didn't know if people would be kind of bored with that." After the quick shoots for the "Used to Love You" video and the real-time Grammy Awards creation of "Make Me Love You" -- both also directed by Muller -- "Misery" was produced over a whopping two days in the abandoned Sears building in Los Angeles, which Stefani considered a "luxury." "[It's] what we love the most, which is just fashion and making beautiful images," Stefani explained. "It was like an art project...like, how many outfits and looks can we do in one day? It was kind of like a Vogue fashion shoot, but to music and actually moving. It was just a lot of fun."
As far as the tour set list, Stefani and company have learned the entire This Is What The Truth Feels LIke album, but she's still determining what she'll play. "I'm still working out all the kinks," she said. "I have three albums of work and it makes it so much more fun to have all that new music. I'm basically trying to tweet everybody and say, 'What songs do you really want to hear?' I don't want to disappoint anyone. This tour is about giving, and I want people to walk away and go, 'Oh my god, I'll never forget that night!' That's my goal. I'm gonna play all the hits, obviously. I haven't chosen costumes yet, but you know I'm gonna go for it on that. My whole life is, 'What am I gonna wear?' so I'm really excited about that part."
Of course, This Is What Truth Feels Like features some of Stefani's most personal material to date, chronicling the breakup of her marriage to Bush's Gavin Rossdale and her subsequent relationship with Shelton. She expects a cathartic tone throughout the night, even if the likes of "Hollaback Girl" and even "Misery" will put a bit of happy face on the proceedings.
"It's going to be super-emotional, yes," she acknowledged. "Even, like, going back in time when I did those shows with No Doubt last summer; I was literally in the middle of hell in my personal life...so I'll be revisiting those emotions I had then. But it's incredible to be in the position of being a songwriter and sharing your story with people and having people relate to it. It makes you feel better about being in your own life. I just really am in that moment right now, in disbelief that all this is happening now. I'm super, super grateful."
Stefani did not address reports that surfaced this week about slow ticket sales for the tour; in fact, a reporter who raised the question was cut off by her handlers. But she is looking forward to having Eve on the tour, reuniting her with the her collaborator on the singles "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" in 2001 and "Rich Girl" in 2004. "She was just one of the names that came up, and it seemed to make so much sense and seemed so fun," Stefani said. "She literally is one of the most talented girls I've ever been in a room with. It's so crazy to watch her. So we're gonna be able to...do those songs together onstage. I couldn't think of anybody else I'd want to be onstage with, especially a girl. She's dope, so I'm excited."