‘Holiday…Need to get away…A little headspace…Don’t forget the toothpaste’. – ‘The Great Escape’ by Gemma Rogers
A true perk of reviewing music for Joyzine is activated when us writers come across a powerful, emerging creative talent and our lifelong passions are delightfully aroused by what we’re hearing. This week, I was blessed to have such an epiphany when the new single from London-born singer, Gemma Rogers reached my ears. Ever-curious, I wanted to know more about Gemma and the inspiring music that she creates. Because simplicity is the key to life, I began with a simple question; namely, ‘Who is Gemma Rogers and how did she get into making music?’
Gemma: ‘I’m a Londoner. I don’t like fancy dress. I make sloe gin every October. If you kick your football into our garden I’ll return it. I think music is the closest we’ll ever get to time travel. I go to the theatre as often as I can. My earliest memory is digging for Australia and my biggest accomplishment is my daughter. I decided to step things up a level about six months ago, as the album dropped around the same time as the kid was born and it all got a little noisy around the HQ. Up until then music was alongside me day to day. To be honest, I do what I can, when I can. When you’re freelance you can’t stop hustling or you’ll sink’.
Joyzine: ‘Absolutely. Hustling is a key part of success. So, what musicians inspired young Gemma?’
Gemma: ‘The Beatles, Buddy Holly, The Kinks, The Specials – was lucky enough to see them at the roundhouse in 2021, RIP the late, great Terry Hall. Patti Smith, UK Hip Hop is my jam too; Taskforce, Jehst, Klashnekoff – it’s storytelling with a heavy heart, a rage and a twinkle in their eyes’.
Joyzine: ‘Can you give a little insight into your creative process for writing your music, Gemma? Are there set routines in place, or is it a more random process
Gemma: ‘It’s different with every track. I write a lot and scribble on whatever’s lying around. And I play around with melody ideas by recording voice notes, I use Google Docs if it’s a collaboration. To record the LP, ‘No place like home,’ Sean, Alfie and I got into the studio and pulled all the ideas, themes and writings together over a week’.
Joyzine: ‘Your new EP, ‘The Great Escape’ has just been released, alongside the superb musicianship of Alfie Jackson, Spike Williams and Sean Genockey. Can you tell us more about this great track and how it was originally created?’
Gemma: ‘It has. I hope you all like it. The lead single has just been playlisted by 6music! ‘The Great Escape’ was written against the backdrop of a caravan park on a rainy summer’s day. I was introduced to Spike by the head honcho of Tiny Global productions (who I signed with at the end of 2019) – he came over to the studio once we had it down and added his unique string sound. With ‘Ship of Fools’ I wanted to hold up a mirror to society’s impulses and offer a mantra for when the seas get rough, ‘save our souls.’ I do know we need much much more than a chant at the moment! There are two new versions of Tailspin (a track off my LP) both which I’m pretty excited about – ones a live cut – as the song has grown into a live favourite from the tour – and a remix by EAMES – its dreamy and loopy and just quite something…’
Joyzine: ‘You released an album, ‘No Place Like Home’ and performed live in 2022, including the ‘Song for the Cities’ tour. Do you have many gigs planned for the near future?’
Gemma: ‘There’s a ‘secret’ gig on 12th Feb, I headline the Courtyard Theatre in Hoxton on February 17th to showcase the EP – then on to a festival in Barcelona on the 24th February – My manager is booking festivals – oh and there’s a date with Buster Shuffle at the wonderful Underworld in Camden on April 22nd…’
Joyzine: ‘So, a busy start to the new year! What creative gems can we expect from Gemma Rogers throughout 2023?’
Gemma: ‘More music – more good vibes – more of everything really – I want to contribute to making 2023 very special…’
Joyzine: ‘Thanks for spending time to give our readers more insight into you and your music, Gemma! Finally, if you had the chance to work in collaboration with any musical artist – live or dead – for an album, who would you choose and why?’
Gemma: ‘There are a few but I met one half of Bob Vylan at a gig recently – they’ve got fireball energy that makes sense right now’.
So, now that we’re more clued up about Gemma Rogers, what about the new EP, released today via Tiny Global Productions? I was interested to hear Gemma talking about the ‘storytelling with a heavy heart; a rage and twinkle in their eyes’ when describing her musical influences. I found this intriguing, as the storytelling was a key ‘flavour’ within her own music that inspired my initial interest and kept my ears fully engaged in what I was listening to. Gemma employs a strong, intelligent communication and dialogue within her music; something which immediately took me back to my younger days, listening to early east coast USA Hip Hop and basking in mighty British bands such as Squeeze and Madness, who all told intricate and detailed stories with their music, rather than a series of mundane, safe lyrics so readily encountered within popular music. The depth that these pioneering bands had are aspects I easily find in Gemma’s music. The opening, eponymous track of the EP begins with a steady drumbeat and superb rockabilly guitar, before Gemma’s excellent vocals begin. It’s fair to say that Gemma’s vocals are very distinctive with a perfect clarity that never diminishes her individual style.
The second track on the EP, ‘Ship of Fools’ is again delivered with impressive class, backed by a very solid musical display. The third and fourth tracks are a live version and a remix of ‘Tailspin’ which was released on the 2022 album, ‘No Place Like Home’. Both of these versions stand out on their own merit and, once more, it is a delight to hear the depth of Gemma’s vocals interwoven with impressive musicianship and production.
It’s very clear from hearing these tracks (and also from hearing the 2022 album) that Gemma places strong focus upon her storytelling, alongside an interest in providing social commentary on the world around us. It’s hardly surprising that BBC Radio 6 have picked up on Gemma and I’ve absolutely no doubt that 2023 will break down more doors and offer many opportunities for her music to shine.
Gemma’s Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/gemmarogersmusic/photos
More information on Tiny Global Productions – https://tinyglobalproductions.bandcamp.com/
Review by Kevin J Milsom