Biography

iTunes Biography

It was sheer force of will, and no little talent, that bought Irish singer/songwriter Gemma Hayes her first record deal with French electro imprint Source Records, as the singer had spent the best part of half a decade working and performing around the capital's premier music venues. While her debut EPs were relatively spare and folksy affairs, her label's legacy came to bear on subsequent recordings, where Hayes demonstrated a proclivity for chilled electronics and swampy, My Bloody Valentine-style shoegaze effects alongside the subdued melancholy of Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. This cross-genre appeal would see Hayes mentioned regularly alongside female contemporaries Beth Orton and PJ Harvey and earn her a Mercury Music Prize nomination in 2002.

Gemma Hayes was born into a musical family with seven siblings in the secluded village of Ballyporeen, Tipperary, in the southwest of Ireland. The claustrophobia of small-town life on the one hand and boarding school on the other led Hayes to immerse herself in music and poetry as a teenager. Enrolling at university in Dublin upon graduation, Hayes took up the guitar and continued writing. Eventually, she made the decision to drop out of college and pursue music full-time, supporting herself by working at a launderette and performing solo gigs around the city by night. Assembling a band to flesh out her sound, Hayes was approached by EMI's dance music imprint Source Records and signed a multi-album deal in 2001. She was just 23 years old.

That same year saw the release of Hayes' first EP, entitled 4.35 AM, which along with 2002's Work to a Calm saw the singer tentatively dip her feet into the world of recording. Interest in the EPs was sufficient to create a buzz for her debut album. Turning down the opportunity of working with the label's preferred producer, Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, Beck), Hayes instead chose to work with Mercury Rev's Dave Fridmann and her then-boyfriend, Dave Odlum (Kíla, the Frames). Fridmann's influence allowed her to realize the shoegaze and noise rock textures that the EPs had only hinted at. The resulting album, Night on my Side, was released in the U.K. and Ireland in May of 2002, charting at number eight in her home country and in the U.K. Top 100. A slightly reworked version of the album was released in the U.S. the following April.

Night on my Side proved a critical success, and it was just edged out by Ms. Dynamite's A Little Deeper in the race for 2003's Mercury Music Prize. Yet Night on my Side had proved neither the commercial nor artistic success that the artist had planned, and Hayes decided to take an extended hiatus from the music business before planning her next move. In the meantime, she co-wrote the track "Hazy" with Adam Duritz for Counting Crows' 2003 live album, New Amsterdam. Duritz expressed his appreciation by referencing Hayes in the lyrics of a track entitled "Washington Square" from the 2008 album Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings.

Hayes returned in 2005 and, with the help of Joey Waronker (Beck), self-produced The Roads Don't Love You. Lead single "Undercover" was co-written with Jellyfish supremo Roger Manning, Jr., piercing the Irish Singles Chart at number 38 and hitting number 60 in the U.K., while noted influence Lisa Germano added guest violin to the album. The Roads Don't Love You was an overall more accessible effort than its predecessor, and it reached number 13 in the Irish Album Chart, but it wasn't enough to dissuade Source from canceling her contract the following year.

In late 2006, the now Los Angeles-based Hayes announced that she would work on a third album with Dave Odlum. To be released on her own specially created Gemma Hayes Music label, The Hollow of Morning took over a year to create, a torturous process that was more akin to guest producer Kevin Shields (of My Bloody Valentine) than Hayes. Other producers included Bell X1 frontman Paul Noonan and singer/songwriter Joe Chester. The Hollow of Morning debuted at number 12 in the Irish Album Charts upon its release in May of 2008. A worldwide release with Nashville indie label ATC Records followed later that month.

 

Biography

She writes tunes soaked in honeyed vocals, tailor-made to keep you cosy on lazy Sunday afternoons. She's been courted by every major label worth a mention. She's just signed with the coolest record company around. And she's only 23. (11/8/1977)

“Sometimes a melody and a chord change just break your heart and there’s no words to describe that. And when you do use words it seems to make it into a square box again.”

When Gemma Hayes talks about her music she shines. The hazelnut flecks in her blue eyes seem to dance with a pure passion born from almost total immersion in music’s myriad possibilities. For her it’s about passion, a form of escape, a source of strength, a spiritual high and an expression of those thoughts and feelings that just can’t be put into words. It’s about those small moments in time where everything becomes clear. Moments of understanding that we all experience.

It’s these small moments that Gemma presents in her own songs. Whether through lilting acoustic calm, or through frenetic white noise tension, she manages to capture the essence of universal experience. Not the stuff of your average singer songwriter. But then again, Gemma Hayes is anything but average.

Gemma grew up in the secluded village of Ballyporeen, in Tipperary, Ireland. She was always surrounded by music. Whether being played by her dad who was a keyboardist in a local band, or by the variety of sounds which would come blaring out of her brothers’ and sisters’ bedrooms. There were eight kids in total. Eight kids, each with different musical tastes. Which made for one eclectic cacophony.

“You’d have Davey Spillane coming from one room, Fleetwood Mac from another and AC/DC from another, and it would all just meet as a huge mush. And I would hear melodies that I liked all of the time, without really knowing who it was, or what kind of music it was.” explains Gemma between sips of water.

“Ballyporeen is basically a village of about 500 people, one road, a few houses and a shop. There was no place to go. You’ve your bedroom and you¹ve got your television room where your dad sits there smoking all day. And you don’t want to be there. You’ve got your kitchen where your mother is all day and there’s this other room with a piano so I’d end up sitting there playing around, trying to relieve the boredom.”

If this sense of suffocating isolation wasn’t bad enough in the wide-open spaces of her hometown, then when she was placed into the strict regime of boarding school in County Limerick, it became intolerable. Inevitably Gemma truly immersed herself in her music. It became a way of getting outside of her everyday life.

When Gemma enrolled into University in Dublin she found herself sharing accommodation with a girl who owned a beautiful Guild guitar. Gemma was captivated by the instrument and quickly started missing lectures just so she could play it. A battle between studying for a degree and playing guitar soon raged and in the end there could only be one winner. Gemma left University.

“The only thing I loved in life was music and I realised I had to make a choice to go with it.” she explains.

For the next few years she took a job in a launderette by day, and honed her songwriting skills playing the Dublin circuit by night. Despite audiences and critics instantly warming to her gorgeous melodies and haunting songs, she gradually grew tired of the restriction of the acoustic guitar and started to put together a band. Her vision to combine the singer songwriter elements of her acoustic work with the layered harmonic discord of her favourite artists like My Bloody Valentine. It’s been this aim to combine the opposing forces of fragility and chaos that has remained central to her work since.

Gemma eventually signed to Source Records early in 2001. As if mirroring Gemma’s career path to date, her first two EPs revelled in the extreme forces at work in her music. The debut “4:35am” displayed her in a chilled acoustic setting. Songs like “Evening Sun” and the title track capturing the contemplative melancholia of the darkness before the dawn, and drawing immediate comparisons between Gemma and female songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez.

Such comparisons however couldn¹t be further from the truth as the follow up EP, “Work to a Calm” proved. Here she could be found with full band exploring layered distorted harmonics. Indeed if there was an argument against her being placed in the role of the stereotyped image of the female songwriter, it comes on the stunning opener “Tear in My Side”, in which she repeats the same lyrical refrain over and over, subsequently underpinning the full force of the melody. It’s a mood song which paints a picture more vivid than the storyteller ever could.

“I’m not really a storyteller. That’s not what I do. I don’t even use imagery; it’s just kind of like how it is, about small moments, those feelings that everyone has.” she says, “For me music has always been about taking myself elsewhere. It’s never been about celebrating the moment that I’m in then and there, but celebrating the moment when it’s past.”

The “Work to Calm” release displayed the full force of her band at work. However it is with the Gemma Hayes live experience that the finer nuances of the full band’s power becomes clear. With tours of Ireland in support of Beth Orton, Rufus Wainwright and David Gray, and last year’s UK tours with both Sparklehorse and Zero 7, the band won over audiences and critics alike. Providing people with a glimpse of what to expect from the debut album.

With the release of the album “Night on My Side” the Gemma Hayes picture can be seen and heard in all of its multi-hued glory. The theme, if there is one, is of the journey of self-discovery. Whether that's the life changing journey which ends in regret as on the opening “Day One” and the following “Hanging Around”, or the journey to resolution as on “Back of My Hand” and “Let a Good Thing Go”.

Musically, the album’s beautifully crafted songs turn any notion of what a female songwriter should do on its head. From the aching celebration of life in the face of impending loss that is “Dartmouth Square” (one of the album’s two hidden tracks) to the soaring, ether bound flight of “Lucky One”, Gemma pushes ideas to an extreme, tapping into the deepest human emotions.

The album was produced by Gemma Hayes with David Odlum and Dave Fridmann (Sparklehorse, Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips,...), and mixed by Mark “Spike” Stent (Massive Attack, Bjork...). As a complete work “Night On My Side” is as assured a debut album as you’re likely to hear. No doubt due to Gemma’s definite vision of how she wants her music to sound.

Gemma Hayes is a strong woman. She seems like she wouldn’t suffer fools gladly. She’s articulate, opinionated and enthralled by music. And when Gemma Hayes talks about her music - she shines.

Martin James

 

AstralWerks Biography

Acoustic Folk? Raucous Rock? No labels please: Gemma Hayes has a style as diverse as her imagination and tastes. The results are totally convincing and uncompromising, as refreshing as the woman herself.

Over the past two years, Ireland and Europe have already had the pleasure. She first wowed the Irish public by being voted “Best Female Singer” at the highly respected Hot Press Awards, and saw her album enter the Irish charts at #8. 2002 saw her debut further chart a musical growth that included countless rave reviews, transcendent live performances, and the cherry on top -- a coveted prestigious UK Mercury Music Prize nomination. Not bad for a girl who grew up in the small village of Ballyporeen in Tipperary, Ireland. On her youth in Ireland she comments.. "The only thing I loved in life was music and I realized I had to make a choice to go with it."

When Gemma Hayes talks about her music she shines. The hazelnut flecks in her blue eyes seem to dance with a pure passion born from almost total immersion in music’s myriad possibilities. For her it’s about passion, a form of escape, a source of strength, a spiritual high and an expression of those thoughts and feelings that just can’t be put into words. It’s about those small moments in time where everything becomes clear -- moments of understanding that we all experience.

It’s these small moments that Gemma presents in her own songs. Whether through lilting acoustic calm, or through frenetic white noise tension, she manages to capture the essence of something universal. Honing her song-writing skills playing the Dublin circuit by night, audiences and critics instantly warmed to her gorgeous melodies and haunting songs, but she gradually grew tired of the restriction of the acoustic guitar and started to put together a band. Her vision is to combine the singer songwriter elements of her acoustic work with the layered harmonic discord of her favourite bands such as My Bloody Valentine. It’s been this aim to combine the opposing forces of fragility and chaos that has remained central to her work since.

Gemma eventually signed to Source Records early in 2001. As if mirroring Gemma’s career path to date, her first two EPs revelled in the extreme forces at work in her music. The debut "4:35am" displayed her in a chilled acoustic setting. Songs like "Evening Sun" and the title track capture the contemplative melancholia of the darkness before the dawn, drawing immediate comparisons between Gemma and female songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez.

Such comparisons however couldn’t be further from the truth as the follow up EP, "Work to a Calm" proved. Here she could be found with full band exploring layered distorted harmonics. Indeed if there was an argument against her being placed in the role of the stereotypical female songwriter, it comes on the stunning opener "Tear in My Side," in which she repeats the same lyrical refrain over and over, subsequently underpinning the full force of the melody. It’s a mood song that paints a picture more vivid than the storyteller ever could.

The "Work To A Calm" release displayed the full force of her band at work. It is with Gemma Hayes live experience, however that the finer nuances of the full band's power becomes clear. With tours of Ireland in support of David Gray and Rufus Wainwright, shows in support of Lambchop and Mercury Rev, and last year's UK and European tours with Sparklehorse and Zero 7, the band won over audiences and critics alike, providing people with a glimpse of what to expect from the debut album.

Now Astralwerks is finally releasing Night On My Side in the U.S., an album that epitomizes the juxtaposition of delicate emotion and raw energy. The album has been completely reworked for the American release, with new songs not included on any other edition, a new running order (divided into 'Night' and 'Day' sides), new artwork and a refreshed mastering that will no doubt make this the definitive version. With the release of Night On My Side, the Gemma Hayes picture can be seen and heard in all of its multi-hued glory. The term "musical journey" is supremely overused, but for once it truly applies. The album opens with the barrage of guitar texture and grit that is "Hanging Around", Gemma's voice commanding the festivities with celebratory delivery. For the next 50 minutes, all preconceived notions are dismissed as the album evolves dramatically and effortlessly from loud to soft, somehow never losing momentum and focus, even as the last strains of "Evening Sun" end the trip.

Listening is believing.