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Hot Press meets Gemma Hayes

Fancy appearing on Gemma Hayes’ new album? If you've a few quid to spare, you can make it happen.

John Walshe, 13 Sep 2013

As crowd funding options go, the chance to join an act in the studio and appear on their new album must be just about top of the wish-list for most fans. Gemma Hayes is giving admirers the opportunity to do just that with her PledgeMusic campaign for her fifth album.


“There are one or two songs where I want to get a choir of people whistling, so we were talking about whether we’d just overdub ourselves doing it or whether we would bring people in,” Gemma explains. “Then the idea came up: how about if someone wants to be part of the album, get their name on it and just hang out in the studio for a day, have dinner with the band and myself and just be part of it? It’s all about handclaps and whistling. So we threw it out there and thought we’d give it a go. But it is really off the wall,” she admits with a grin.

It sounds great, in theory, but what happens if she ends up with somebody with no rhythm and who can’t whistle?

“That’s why we didn’t ask for people to play or sing on the record,” she smiles. “Anybody can clap their hands, right?”

Er, speak for yourself!

Gemma’s funding campaign features a host of options for fans to get involved, ranging from pre-ordering the album (£13) or hand-written lyrics from Gemma (£45 – sold out), right up to having the Ballyporeen native play in your house (£2,000).

With 78% of her target achieved at the time of writing, it seems that PledgeMusic is working for Ms. H.

“As an independent artist, I want to keep making music but you can’t be naive about the business. This allows me not to have to deal with any of that,” she explains.

Removing the barrier between artist and audience is also a big plus.

“There are less people in between you and the people who listen to your music. So there’s an exchange between me and the audience and there’s no record label, distributor or anything else in between. It’s intense.”

For fans, it’s a chance to connect with Gemma and to feel like they're part of the album’s creation.

“At the end of the day, it boils down to the songs I write and the people who actually like to listen to those songs. Ultimately, when you take away album covers, interviews, radio sessions and all that stuff, it’s just about the music and the people who listen to the music. This is about reaching those people.”

With studio time booked, Gemma aims to record this autumn for a release in early 2014: "I've ideas and there are some songs ready but they’re all in my head.”

Gemma, it transpires, performs better under pressure.

“Even when I was in school, I wouldn’t study until it came to cramming the night before, and I would get on fine. I need a deadline. It’s the same with music: I have all these ideas floating around. (Producer and former Frames guitarist) David Odlum is brilliant because he knows the score, sets a deadline and lights a fire under my bum.”

Writer’s block, it seems, is not an issue. Indeed, having penned a number of songs for film and TV over the last few years, Gemma admits that she finds it easier and “more liberating” than writing for her own albums.

“The hardest thing for me would be lyrics,” she admits. “Melodies just happen but lyrics are tough. Sometimes the melody says it all and then I have to bloody well explain it with words and I’m not good with words. But with movies, it’s brilliant because they often don’t require lyrics. It’s all about the melody. I’d love to do more of it.”

Rumours that the forthcoming record is going to herald a change of direction, with some online posts featuring an #electronica hashtag, are wide of the mark, she reveals: “Old analogue keyboards will definitely feature but by no means will it be electronica.”

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