Thomas Rabsch

Bush’s Gavin Rossdale on Music Being ‘the Most Extreme Pillow Talk Ever’

Known for their high energy, high octane performances, the Grammy-nominated four-piece is looking forward to connecting with fans on a closer level amid the release of their latest chart-topper.

Iconic hard rock band Bush are set to embark on a headlining tour – hitting New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom on February 18 – and frontman Gavin Rossdale, during a recent call from his California home, wants to assure fans that he and his bandmates are rehearsing hard to get themselves ready. “As usual, [we’re] going for too much, trying to make it too good, but in the hope that will settle somewhere and be amazing,” he says cheerfully.

Rossdale says this headlining tour will be “quite a bit different” compared to Bush’s co-headlining tour dates last year with Alice in Chains and Breaking Benjamin because this time, they’ll be able to play more songs, as well as some deeper cuts from across their three-decade career. 

But one thing won’t be different: “We just try and be good, try and get it right. It doesn’t change if we’re playing to 200 people or 20,000 – it’s the same effort, the same desire.”

He’s especially looking forward to playing a few new songs from Bush’s latest album, The Art of Survival, which made the Top 10 on multiple hard rock and alternative rock charts when it was released last year.

“It’s a general, universal concept,” Rossdale says of naming the album The Art of Survival. “I believe that everyone has just been through so much. The pandemic was madness. It was heinous, right? Remember the time when people were dying and loved ones couldn’t visit them? No one had experienced anything like it. That was intense. The pandemic had lots of consequences, so there’s all these different things that people went through, these mad challenges. And so when I thought about the title The Art of Survival, I just was like, ‘That really connects.’”

Forging a bond with listeners has been Rossdale’s guiding principle across all of Bush’s nine studio albums. “I try to be as honest as I can when I sing,” he shares. “I think that has connected with people. I meet people most days of my life who talk to me about the effect the band has had on them. They connect to the words and those feelings. I love it. It’s beautiful.”

As Bush’s main songwriter, “I write so much that it becomes what I’m thinking about that day. Just trying to take in all things around me – emotions that I experience, what I see on the news and what I see when I look in the mirror – and combine it all to try and be interesting. I think that’s every songwriter’s job is to take the everyday or the universal and put it in a way that personalizes it and connects people.”

He continues, noting that “because you literally sit in between people’s ears when they put headphones on: it’s the most extreme pillow talk ever. It’s right in someone’s brain.”

Rossdale’s ultra-honest approach has been especially evident across the band’s most recent albums. As he admits, “I made the really heartbroken, soft record a couple of records ago, Black and White Rainbows.” That album came out in 2017, the year after Rossdale’s divorce from singer Gwen Stefani. “And when I kind of picked myself up off the floor, like the fighter that I am, I was like, ‘You know what? Fuck that. [I’m] fucking come out firing.’ And since then, it just feels so natural to be having this grand laugh with playing way heavier.”

Even as Bush’s music has evolved, though, Rossdale points out that there’s been continuity, as well. “Obviously, the one link between everything over 30 years is my voice, as soon as I sing on something,” he says. And throughout it, he still loves “that people get lost in the music we make.”

Rossdale’s distinctive rasp wasn’t viewed as an asset when he first began performing in his native London, however. “My voice at first was deemed the weakest part of any band I was in – I couldn’t get signed for that,” he explains. “It’s ironic that the very thing that came to define me is exactly the thing that was used to prevent me from signing a record deal with Bush earlier. No one would take the leap of faith. For years, I was so rejected that it would take a special kind of idiot to keep going!” 

Rossdale kept slogging away on the U.K. club circuit until he finally landed Bush a record deal. “I manifested it. I didn’t put any limitations on what I dreamt. It was just like, ‘No, no, music’s going to save me!’ I had no idea how. It was literally hoping.”

His unshakable self-belief paid off when Bush’s 1994 debut album, Sixteen Stone, went on to achieve multi-platinum sales status in the U.S. The band became one of the most successful rock acts in the 1990s thanks to hits such as “Everything Zen,” “Little Things,” “Comedown,” “Glycerine,” “Machinehead,” “Swallowed,” and on and on.

Their success has continued ever since: their latest single from The Art of Survival, “More Than Machines,” reached the top spot on the Active Rock Radio Chart – the band’s seventh single to reach No. 1. The singer-songwriter does acknowledge that this level of success also brings high expectations for his work. “I live under a constant state of pressure, because it’s a creative life – so as soon as you’ve done something good, everyone goes, ‘That’s great – what else have you got?’ [But] I’ve become accustomed to that pressure.”

And, like the rock and roll survivor that he is, Rossdale adds, “The days that things don’t work creatively are essential because they act as stepping stones to what works. You could argue that you may not get to the higher ground without going up through the trenches first.”