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 Bands A-Z: Gwen Stefani
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Page 1

 Recording a solo album ended up being a largely maddening and ego-shredding experience for Gwen ...

Page 2

 "I went in all glossy-eyed, and she's like, 'You're a freak. Go.' " ...

Page 3

 Dr. Dre rolls his eyes at Gwen, but then 50 Cent talks her down ...

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"I think every record No Doubt's made had its own challenges," she said. "But this one, for me, was the hardest. When you've never really written with other people, you're exposing yourself, taking your clothes off, saying, 'All right, here we go, this is me, this is you.' And then there's the whole fan thing going on, when you're a fan of the person you're working with. It's humiliating and intimidating even if they're sweet and excited, because you're drowning in their creativity."

Stefani's ego got a beatdown during her first writing sessions with Perry. The freelance songwriter/producer tried coaxing Stefani out of her shell, but it wasn't until their second day and second song together that their sessions turned fruitful — by writing about Stefani's very fear of writing (on "What You Waiting For?").

  Gwen doesn't go anywhere
without her favorite accessory — her Harajuku Girls. Referenced in her first single and throughout the album (they even get their own song!), the pint-sized posse tags along as a reminder of what saved Gwen from the doldrums of writer's block — the too-cool-for-school Japanese schoolgirl fashionistas who inspire much of her L.A.M.B. clothing line. Like she says in the song, she's their biggest fan.

"I've never been a creative writer," Stefani explained. "I've been a writer from the heart, whatever's happening at the time, usually a love thing. I wanted to be one of those writers who picks up a story or a theme. It doesn't come to me naturally, but it was one of the things I wanted to conquer."

Easier said than done. Soon after their initial success with "What You Waiting For?," Stefani freaked out when she was trying to write "this deep song" about a friend who had passed away, and Perry came up with the lyrics before she could. "That's my territory," Stefani thought. Upset, she told Perry she had to leave. "I went in all glossy-eyed, and she's like, 'You're a freak. Go.' "

So Stefani bolted from the studio and went to visit Kanal, who played her some new tracks he happened to be working on. This made her jealous at first, she said, until Kanal revealed that one of the tracks was for her. They turned that into the Salt-N-Pepa-inspired song "Crash" that very night. "I'm sitting there crying about my ego," she said, "and I go from, 'I feel so bad, I suck so bad, I'll never write again,' to writing a song, the exact song I wanted to write."

  "I don't want somebody writing something better than me on my own record"...
Pumped up, Stefani canceled everything and locked in with Kanal instead — only to run into writer's block. "We totally thought we were on to something," she said. "But we didn't write anything for two weeks straight. We thought, 'We are the biggest a--holes ever in the world.' It was just frustrating and embarrassing to sit there and think we could write songs."

Six months later, she and Kanal took a second look at some of the earlier tracks they had tossed, and one of them, a "Lisa Lisa/ Prince wannabe song" called "Serious" pleasantly surprised them. This moment made her realize she was being way too hard on herself, letting her ego interfere with the songwriting process. She decided to change that.

"I don't want somebody writing something better than me on my own record," Stefani admitted. "But at the same time, it's not about that. If I were to write the chorus of 'Yesterday' by the Beatles, and that's all I wrote, that would be good enough to be part of that history. It's like this whole thing with your ego: 'No, I did that part,' 'No, I did this part.' For the most part, people don't care. And I wanted to take that away."

She found that change freeing, and as she began working with other writers and producers, songs came more easily. She even started mixing things up a bit, turning one session with Dallas Austin into more of a party by inviting Linda Perry (whose studio was across the street) to join them.

"They both worked on the same records, Pink, Christina Aguilera, and they never knew each other! So when Linda called to say, 'I have this mix for you,' I was like, 'Come over,' " Stefani recounted. "Dallas didn't even know what she looked like. So she walks in, and immediately they start talking about all their stuff from the past, and everybody starts having a drink, and the next thing you know, we're playing the tracks and Linda's getting really excited. 'Oh my god, you have to use my mellotron!' And she's punching Dallas in the arm, 'Come on, dude, we have to write a song!' "

Within 45 minutes, the three wrote the new wave rocker "Danger Zone," on which Stefani gets her Pat Benatar on, ripping her lover for trying to keep "all of your secrets, all of your lies." Her session with Austin was even faster on the sweetly nostalgic "Cool," a midtempo track he was trying to write about remaining friends with an ex — something she could relate to. This time, the lyrics took her all of 15 minutes to write.

"When he started to play it for me, I was like, 'Wow, this is my song,' " she said. "I was never intending to do personal songs, you know? But when he told me about the track and where it came from for him, it just triggered something in me. It really captures a feeling and kind of puts an end to a chapter in a really nice way."

NEXT: Dr. Dre rolls his eyes at Gwen, but then 50 Cent talks her down ...
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Photo: Interscope

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  "What You Waiting For?"
Love, Angel, Music, Baby