By now everyone knows the Gwen Stefani story. Or at least they think they do. The gist: SoCal ska-punk girl turns global superstar, first as the lead singer of No Doubt and then as a hit-churning solo artist with a side of lauded fashion (L.A.M.B.) and fragrance (Harajuku Lovers) lines. She spent 13 years married to Gavin Rossdale, the Bush front man with whom she has three boys: Kingston, Zuma, and Apollo. The couple split last August and now share joint custody of the kids. Three months later, Gwen went public with her relationship with Blake Shelton, her costar on NBC’s The Voice and former husband of singer Miranda Lambert. The country megastars divorced in July 2015.
The exact time line of who, what, when, and how the two Camelot couples of music came undone is murky. Sleuths can mine Gwen’s latest album This Is What the Truth Feels Like and Blake’s If I’m Honest (we sense a theme) for tells of what went down. Hear especially their duet “Go Ahead and Break My Heart,” which Gwen cowrote with Blake for his album. The rumor is that Gavin cheated with the nanny (heard that one before). But whatever, that was then. This is Gwen. On the set of her Cosmo cover shoot, the singer—who was raised Roman Catholic—is hyper-spiritualized, giving it up to the power of God, prayer, and blessings at every turn. “It’s a journey I’ve been on,” she says of her faith. “I got lost for a while, but I found my way back. So many crazy miracles have happened around me, I don’t feel that I can be responsible for that.” She’s also tremendously happy. A woman transformed not by her usual OTT hair and makeup but by the wonder of the ups and downs and ups of her 46 years. “If you look at all the records I wrote, there were so many disclaimers,” she says. “Even a love song, there would be one line that was like, By the way motherfucker! It’s so boring and not who I am. I’m positive. I’m full of love. I’m full of hope.” For how Gwen’s gone from “Don’t Speak” to speaking her truth, read on.
COSMO: You’ve had quite a year!
GWEN: It’s been crazy. Blake and I had our song [“Go Ahead and Break My Heart”] come out yesterday, and we were sitting there like, you couldn’t write this! So bizarre.
Did you know him at all before you went on The Voice?
No. I didn’t know anything about who he was or even the show really when I got the call. I remember one of my nannies was hot on him and her telling me, “Oh, yeah, that cowboy guy….”
You guys looked pretty tight during your second season on the show.
We were laughing our heads off when we saw the blind auditions. I love NBC, but they for sure edited stuff to look like we were flirting. They chose to run with that story before anything was even real. I hardly knew him. But it was like it was in the air—happening before it happened.
And then it happened for real….
The story is so crazy. I performed at the Grammys [in February 2015]. I came home, and the next day, I found out what everybody knows….
About Gavin? No one knows the specifics though.
Nobody except for my parents, the people involved, and whoever they told. Nobody would believe it if I could really say what happened. I went through months and months of torture. I knew I was going to do The Voice. I was like, Oh my god, I’m going to get fired if I get a divorce, because it was not who I am to have that happen to me. I had this big secret.
Did you know something was going on?
There’s no need to ever answer that. All you have to do is listen to every single song I’ve ever written and it’s all there. It’s an ongoing theme that I’ve had for a long time.
What made you decide to come clean?
When we went back to start filming The Voice, Blake was like, “I want everyone to know that by the time this comes out, I’m going to be divorced.” This was a Tuesday—he had found out on Saturday about his whole thing.
Well, we had the exact same stories happening at exactly the same time. I was just looking down at him in shock that he wasn’t scared to say it because I didn’t know what was going to happen with me at that point. I was trying to work it out.
There was a time when I was desperate to write. You have a long career, and you don’t want it to end. You start to become competitive with what you’ve done before and competitive with things people have done after you that are like you. So many times I’ve gone into the studio and people are excited about me being there yet don’t have the confidence that I can do anything anymore. I had been praying thatI would find something. For this album, I had the right team. Once the songs started coming through me, I felt like I was chosen. God was in that room. I sound like a crazy born-again, but this record was a miracle. When I wrote “Used to Love You,” that was a huge turning point.
How did the subject of that song feel about it?
I don’t know. I didn’t talk to him about it. But everything switched at that point, because I started falling in love, which was completely unexpected. I still can’t believe it.
Now you have a song with Blake, which you never did with Gavin.
All it is is just being real. It happened really early on. We were both having trust issues, as you would if you were us. It was like, I have so many problems. How can I now be getting into another potentially huge problem? What am I doing? Blake wrote the song and sent it to me. He was like, “Help me finish it.” I wrote a verse and sent it to him, but he was gone because he doesn’t live in L.A. He didn’t have Wi-Fi, so he wasn’t answering me back! As soon as he came back to town, he brought his guitar over. We were like, “We wrote a song together! This is crazy!”
You’ve talked a lot about always wanting to have babies.
I always wanted to have four. My mom had four, and I wanted to be my mom. But it just never happened.
Well, it’s not over—
No, no, it’s over!