FOR a long time Gabrielle felt like her music career was ‘out of reach’.

When the singer made her breakthrough at 23 with Dreams, she made history with the highest debut chart entry for a female solo artist in the UK at that time.

Dreams then went from number two to number one and continued to top the charts for three weeks in 1993.

A star was born and success continued with a further nine top 10 hits, including number one Rise and Out of Reach which has since become synonymous with Bridget Jones’s Diary.

But when she became a mum priorities naturally shifted.

She took a six year break to devote herself to her kids before she started touring again in 2014.

And the Brit, MOBO and Ivor Novello award-winning singer only recently returned to the studio – 2018’s Under My Skin is her first album in 11 years.

Gabrielle told Weekend: “It’s funny because I took time out to be a mum and my kids have grown now and it’s one of those things where I thought: ‘Shall I do this? Do I want to do this?’

“I had to say to myself: ‘Of course I want to do this. After my children, this is my life’.

“For a while it was all about being a mother and not wanting to miss a moment.

Winsford Guardian:

“Because when they’re that young if you go away for a few days they change. Now it’s about claiming my life back.”

Gabrielle’s kids only got to hear the stories of their mum’s early popstar days but now they get to live it with her.

The 49-year-old added: “My son came a couple of years after Dreams and was a baby and now he’s this towering young man and he actually comes to the shows with his friends.

“He loves to embarrass me although if you ask him, he’d say the same thing about me. The kids are hilarious and take the mickey out of me.

“Right now it’s a fun time in our house as they’re old enough and they can come and enjoy it with me. It’s a good time for all of us.”

They are starting to follow in Gabrielle’s footsteps too.

She said: “My son is already in the music industry and I reckon that is where my daughter will end up. She loves media so she’s looking at social media stuff and videos.

“But I’d run if she thinks she can direct a video of mine. She’s so bossy. As a parent I want them to find their own feet and love what they do but right now it seems they’re gravitating towards what I’m doing and that industry in general.”

Gabrielle also admitted she was nervous about giving another studio album a crack given how much the music industry has changed in those 11 years. But the record got to number seven.

She added: “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want it to chart. Of course I did. Being older, radio won’t always play your stuff but I’m really happy with the way things have gone.

“Radio 2 are going to make my single Every Step record of the week. I’m really chuffed. Things like that are really exciting because it’s been 26 years since I released Dreams and yet Radio 2 are still really behind what I’m doing.

“Everybody has been so welcoming with my new stuff so it makes me feel like I’m in a great place.”

It has been quite a journey for the Hackney girl who used to be picked on at school due to her drooping eyelid (ptosis).

But it is something she is happy to talk openly about now, particularly as she has inspired others who are ‘imperfect’.

Gabrielle, who recently toured with Newton legend Rick Astley, said: “Growing up and having a lazy eyelid, I was never a conventional looking artist. People used to snigger when I told them I wanted to sing to the point that I stopped telling anybody.

“So the idea that in 1993 I came out as a breakthrough artist with a number one for my first single, which was in the Guinness Book of Records, was quite a powerful moment for anybody who doesn’t fit the mould or is imperfect looking.

“What’s perfection is just being yourself and I’d like to think people can look at me and say: ‘Gabs did it, I can’.

“I know people have been inspired by the letters and tweets that I get.

“That’s been a great thing and if that was my one accomplishment I’d have been happy with that but thankfully people have liked my music which has given me a career.”

Gabrielle does not like to show her right eye – over the years it has been covered by sunglasses, hair and a jewelled eye patch – but she has never let it hold her back.

She added: “At the beginning I was apprehensive about going on TV and how I would do interviews but I’ve lived it for so long that it’s not even a thing.

“I don’t show my lazy eye – you’d think I was half asleep – but the thing that makes me worry more is the fact I could mess up.

“I don’t want to forget the lyrics and that can happen even though I wrote them all. So for me my appearance is the least of my problems.

“It’s all part and parcel of who I am. I do the school run with one eye covered. I’ve tried doing it without and it feels weird.”

What also feels weird for Gabrielle is looking back on more than a quarter of a century of music and memories.

She said: “I was the girl that was raised in south east London that everything took the mickey out of in school and for this to actually happen, sometimes I still look back and think ‘wow’.

“Nobody can take that from me. Those memories are mine forever.

“There was a phase when lots of people were saying that this person knew me and that person knew me.

“I thought it’s funny how everyone wants to claim to be my relative or friend when they didn’t give me the time of day when I was growing up.

“I’m ok with that because at the end of the day I don’t give a damn what they’re doing now but they sure as hell know what I’m doing...”

Gabrielle performs at Parr Hall on Friday, March 29. Visit pyramidparrhall.com or call 442345 for tickets