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LI's Debbie Gibson talks about new album 'The Body Remembers'

Debbie Gibson's "The Body Remembers," which comes out

Debbie Gibson's "The Body Remembers," which comes out Friday, is her first album of new material in 20 years. Credit: Nick Spanos

Debbie Gibson is feeling inspired these days. The singer-songwriter, who grew up in Merrick, just dropped her first album of original material in 20 years, "The Body Remembers," which comes out Friday. The album comes after a whirlwind decade that involved a management shake-up, a romantic breakup and a battle with Lyme disease.

"When I realized how long it was, I couldn’t believe it myself," says Gibson, 50. "I’m just at that point in life where everything you think was 10 years ago was actually 20. I think it’s a common experience amongst people of my generation."

Newsday spoke with Gibson by phone from the movie set of "The Class" in Elmhurst, Ilinois, where she’s playing a drama teacher in a modern-day variation of "The Breakfast Club." She discussed the process of making her new album, teaming up with Joey McIntyre of New Kids on the Block and why she’s proud to be a Long Islander.

How come it was such a long break from releasing an album of original material?

It really took me a minute to get my footing again and be able to have the perspective to write about so much of my life. This is a true second chapter. I have that same excitement I did for my first album. When music comes from the energy of your real life, there’s just nothing better. Most of it came together in the last year. We were all handling the pandemic differently. I went into warrior mode like so many of us did. We had to really pull from a ferocious strength. I think the exuberance of this music, the intensity of some of the songs and drive behind it really channels how I’ve kept my life spiraling upwards even though things keep threatening to pull me down.

The new album has a fresh sound but still contains that vintage Debbie Gibson vibe. How did you create this blend?

I called Ira Siegel, who was my original guitarist on those early hits, to play on this because I love combining my classic sound with my new sounds. Ira has this summertime fresh vibe that fits so well on the song "One Step Closer," which is reminiscent of how he played on "Only in My Dreams" [in 1987]. Plus, the title track is very much about how you can reflect on nostalgic things, places and times in your life but still be very present and relevant now in the modern world. It’s a big theme on the album for me.

The new album has a strong dance flavor. Where did that come from?

Ultimately, my roots are in the dance clubs. At 16, I was hitting every club from Long Island to east Los Angeles and everything in between. I was definitely influenced by dance pop artists like Madonna and Donna Summer and today I love listening to Dua Lipa and Kylie Minogue. I really fell in love with dance music because it’s so expressive. I feel like this is a moment when people need to be lifted up.

On the new album you redo your 1989 hit "Lost in Your Eyes" as a duet with Joey McIntyre. How did that come about?

When I was invited to do "The Mixtape Tour" with New Kids on the Block [in 2019] it was Joey’s idea to duet on the song live. I thought it was brilliant! But I didn’t know how deeply it would move the audience. Fans said they were watching their idol and their crush performing together. That’s powerful! It was a natural fit, it wasn’t a gimmick. I think he was born to sing that song.

You are doing a Las Vegas residency from Aug. 26-29 and Sept. 16-19 with Joey. What do you have planned?

We will open the show together doing an older cover song and a very relevant current cover song. The stuff we are going to be doing together will be super fun because we are both theater kids at heart. We have this "let’s put on a play" kind of mentality. There will be duets and individual sets. We will also be coming together in the middle and the end. I’ll be doing my hits and it will be the first time I’ll be debuting new music which is very exciting. Joey said he wants to play at Westbury Music Fair because that’s where we met in the dressing room in 1988.

You are part of the Long Island legends clubs along with Billy Joel, Pat Benatar, Joan Jett, Mariah Carey, Eddie Money and Dee Snider. What does that mean to you?

I’m so honored. I love being amongst all those artists. Long Island was always so important to me. The arts community on Long Island was a strong part of my childhood and the fabric of my being. All my Long Island and New York City fantasies have come true. It’s such a "little girl makes good" story. Long Island has always been so nurturing to the arts. It was calm and quiet enough to allow me to lock myself in my room, write my songs and work on my vocals. Yet it was vibrant enough to have an active community theater/talent show circuit plus it was close enough to Manhattan to do it all professionally on a worldwide level.

How do you balance your ‘80s past with your current musical direction?

I always feel like I’m connected to my roots and the love the audience has for that nostalgic time but I also don’t live in the past. If you do that you limit yourself. I hate agism in any direction. I don’t think adults should rule out listening to the Olivia Rodrigo album because they are missing out. I pull from those young influences and I want that in my life. In the same way, I don’t think a 10-year-old should be averse to discovering Tina Turner’s "Private Dancer" album. It’s music for all of us at any time or any age. You have to keep evolving.

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