Things have changed a fair bit in Gemma Hayes’ world since the release of her last album, The Hollow Of Morning. Back home in Ireland after a stint in LA and now releasing music on her own label, Let It Break finds her facing life as a truly independent artist. She told State that this new life has its ups and downs…
You’ve recorded the album with a set of very familiar faces. Have you settled into a way of working now?
Definitely. For me it’s a no brainer. David Odlum has produced all my work bar one album, we have a relationship in the studio that just works. By this stage if I want to use an electric guitar he doesn’t have to ask, he knows exactly what I want to hear. We save a lot of time, there’s an unspoken knowingness. To me that’s golden, you’d be mad to walk away. If I decided that I wanted to record a completely different album I’d go somewhere else but I’m not too concerned about changing my sound or style just for the hell of it. I like the bubble that we go into and the sounds that we create.
Is that same for your sound?
It just happened naturally. The sound is a mixture of everything that I love – folk music, a lot of production, interesting sounds. I get bored when I just here acoustic and vocal. I love keyboards. David and I both like to mix it up a bit.
That’s the aim then, to balance the simple with the more polished approach?
This album, like a lot of stuff I’ve been doing over the past few years, is quite moody and atmospheric. I treat each song to what it needs. ‘Ruin’ on the album has sixty odd separate layers to it, followed by a song that is just vocal and guitar, really exposed.
How are you finding being your own label boss?
Terrible, I hate it. It’s so hard. I just want to be a singer and a musician. It’s been fantastic experience wise, I had very little knowledge even though I thought I knew everything about everything. All the different business and official stuff has been a bit of a headache. I don’t think I’d ever sign to a big record label again, I can’t see it ever making sense, but I wouldn’t do it totally on my own again either. It’s kind of crazy, especially since I don’t have a manager either.
It’s an experience that maybe every musician should have though..
If it’s possible I’d say absolutely try it out. For me it’s made me appreciate other people. I thought my job as the creative person was the most important but I didn’t realise how hard the other stuff was. Some people like working out percentages and tax, I hate it but it’s good for me to know what’s involved. That’s priceless.
People say to me that I’ve come back in the depths of the recession but it’s my home, it is what it is.
How are you finding life back in Ireland?
Ultimately it’s part of me, recession or boom. I was here when people were losing their heads and now they’ve been humbled, including myself. The last great creative boom we had was so in the eighties. There’s so much talent in Dublin, it seems that everybody’s doing their own individual thing. It used to be about movements.
That’s all great, but that DIY approach makes it hard for bands to get heard outside of Ireland doesn’t it?
When I was putting out my first album it was still about big record labels and huge budgets. Everything’s changed now, no-one will but that amount of money into anything that’s not pop. They won’t take a risk on anything that’s not guaranteed to be a success. When I signed it was on the strength of one song that the record company boss thought would be a hit. I didn’t put it on the album at first and he went mad, we had a huge big fight. They were signing people based on one song, it was crazy. I don’t see that anymore.
Let It Break is out today. Gemma Hayes plays the Button Factory tonight and then tours Ireland throughout June. See www.gemmahayes.com for full dates.
Photo: Kieran Frost