Lost in a Hayes

Following the success of her Mercury-prize nominated debut album, Gemma Hayes was struck down suddenly with writer's block. Her artistic recovery was a long, painful process, taking her from a sleepy Kerry village to downtown L.A.

Gemma Hayes doesn’t look like she’s been stressing out over her new album. If anything, she looks more relaxed and chilled than I’ve ever seen her.

Sitting in the lobby of an exclusive club in London’s city centre, where she has just played a spine-tingling showcase gig for the great unwashed of the combined Irish and British media, Hayes is all smiles. In fact, she’s far more friendly and open than most musicians who admit to having agonised over their latest album for some time.

“Everybody talks about the ‘difficult second album’,” she says of her new record, The Roads Don’t Love You. “I always thought that was like, you’d be in the studio going ‘gotta make a new single’. The difficult part for me came with the two or three years of not writing. I couldn’t do a thing.”

Creative exhaustion played its part, she admits. “I counted up all the gigs I did in the last year of touring the first album, and it came to 169 gigs in one year. No wonder I was seeing double.”

Following such a gruelling schedule, her enthusiasm for music understandably grew jaded. “After that, I just couldn’t deal with music: I even stopped listening to the radio and rarely went to gigs. And then, after a year away from music, I tried to write and I couldn’t.'

Inevitably, Hayes started to wonder if she was capable of making meaningful music again. Would her creative drought last forever? “I was thinking ‘Maybe that’s it. Maybe I’m one of those people who have just one album in them’. Maybe that was all I had to say. “

Then, when she least expected it, her muse returned.

“Last year, the songs started to come together, thank God,” she says. “Something clicked and suddenly I felt like I needed to record in the next few months or else it might leave again.”

It must have been a worrying time for the Tipperary singer.

“I was really upset,” she admits. “I really scared myself. I know it sounds cliched, but the funny thing is that, the moment I gave up and thought ‘Fuck it, I can’t write any more’, the minute I stopped trying, that’s when it started to happen and came together.”

Once the songs started to flow, Gemma upped sticks and headed to...well, the sticks. Ventry in Kerry was her destination. She brought with her the barest necessities: her guitar, an engineer and a mini recording studio. Settling into a holiday home near the coast, she began to “make sense” of the new material.

By September 2004, the songs were in place, more or less, and Hayes was ready to hit the studio again. The big question was: where to record? She eventually settled on Los Angeles. Southern California can be a weird, frightening place, and Hayes says she needed to “scare” herself.

“In Dublin and Ireland, I’m comfortable, so it’s a great place to write. It’s inspiring,” she explains. “But to record, I need to scare myself. I need to go someplace and feel like I’m starting all over again and I just have my songs.”

Having met with various big-name producers, she eventually decided on former Beck and REM drummer Joey Waronker, who co-produced Lisa Germano’s Lullaby For Liquid Pig, one of the singer’s favourite albums. Waronker was also instrumental in finding the right musicians to record with.

“I was afraid to start using LA session musicians, because I had my own stereotypical idea of these people who come in, and it all sounds jazzy,” Hayes recollects.

Waronker suggested that Hayes draw up a wish-list of collaborators. Eventually, she had recruited an impressive roster of players, including Josh Klinghoffer, PJ Harvey’s guitar player, Remy Zero bassist Cedric LeMoyne, and Beck’s keyboard player, Roger Manning.

The end result is a fine collection of songs, whose mood is perfectly encompassed in lead single, ‘Happy Sad’.

Melancholy and bittersweet, the new compositions are still unmistakably the sound of Gemma Hayes. How personal is the new album?

“The songs on this album, for me, are just the complete truth,” she states. “A lot of my friends commented that there aren’t a lot of different themes on it. But I can’t pretend that there are. It’s what I feel. If that means that I’m saying the same thing in different ways, so be it. But at least it’s real.”

Honesty, she says, is a recurring theme of the record.'

"It’s like when David Kitt put out his album of love songs because that’s how he felt: he couldn’t pretend to be anything else. The thing about this album is that I mean it. I mean every word of it.”

Concentrating to the lyrics, this listener got the distinct impression that Gemma Hayes isn’t the happiest chimpanzee in the zoo.

She giggles: “What could possibly give you that impression?”

Well, what about tracks such ‘Another For The Darkness’ or the aforementioned ‘Happy/Sad’, where it seems like the Ballyporeen singer feels all alone in the world?

“Those songs are little moments in time. They’re not general,’ she says. “‘Happy Sad’ is one of the only songs that’s written as a character, because it’s from a young girl’s point of view. There’s a CD cover from a band called Golden Republic for an album called People. The picture shows this real goofy girl at a prom and everybody’s dancing around her. When I saw that photograph, it made me think about the girl. So I wrote that song with her in mind. The line ‘My friends are few’ is about her being in school and feeling like a nobody. There’s definitely a part of me that feels that way sometimes. But the song is not about me. The other song you mentioned, ‘Another For The Darkness’ – when I wrote that I was crawling the walls. It was like ‘that guy is the light and everything else is dark’. So yeah, that’s about me.”

Melancholy maybe, but there’s a new toughness and confidence about the 2005 model Gemma Hayes that wasn’t apparent on her debut.

“I think I’ve learned a lot from the last time,” she explains. “Before, it was everything to me how the album went, but now, I’ve just let go. I do care, but it’s not going to crush me. This is an album in time and I’m proud of it. Hopefully, it will have its day in the sun but it’s in the lap of the gods.”

Was she pleased by the response to her debut, Night On My Side, which garnered a Mercury Music Prize nomination and hotpress Award for Best Female Singer?

“On a human level, when [media coverage] is great and good, you can’t help but love it. Similarly, when it’s bad, you can’t help but be hurt by it,” she admits. “You can pretend that you’re not. But that’s why a lot of people stop listening to the good and the bad, because you’re affected by it so much.”

Good reviews were encouraging, but she’d tried not to let the positive press go to her head.

"Having people hear the album and like it and getting great reviews was fantastic. I got some hairy reviews too so I knew how that felt. But the fact that I got more of the good ones was great. At the time, all that was very new and so it meant a lot to me. Over time, for your own sake, you stop putting a lot of weight to all of that: if you did, you’d be up and down like a yoyo. But at that time, it was absolutely brilliant. It still is a lovely thing to hear.”

Having spent so long thinking about The Roads Don’t Love You, planning the songs, the sound and the overall package, Gemma is chomping at the bit to hit the road again.

“I’ve been sitting around, eating so much tea and toast, watching so much Coronation Street and Eastenders – to the point where I was really thinking about not going to Los Angeles because I couldn’t watch my soaps,” she admits with a laugh. “I got so stuck in my ways that I can’t wait to get back up on stage and start the whole thing again.”

 

Related Articles

Gemma Hayes features on US TV

Her song 'To Be Your Honey' could be heard on Reign last week.

Read More

Gemma Hayes 'Bones + Longing' - Album Review

IRISH FOLK SINGER DELIVERS HER FINEST ALBUM TO DATE

Read More

LISTEN: New Gemma Hayes remix + Aldi Xmas ad

Team Hot Press is loving this MAPS remix of Gemma Hayes’ ‘Chasing’, which is so glacially cool it sounds like it belongs on the Drive soundtrack.

Read More

Gemma Hayes plots new album release

'Chasing', the first taster from it, is streaming now.

Read More

WATCH: Gemma Hayes performs live for Hot Press

The popular singer-songwriter paid a visit to the Hot Press Storeroom and gave us two songs.

Read More

Hot Press in conversation with Gemma Hayes

The popular singer/songwriter paid a visit to the Hot Press Storeroom to give the lowdown on her next record and more...

Read More

Gemma Hayes hits PledgeMusic target

New live album gets green light...

Read More

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.

Read More

Gemma Hayes launches PledgeMusic campaign

Plus details of the exclusive content on offer to fans...

Read More

Gemma Hayes contributes to Mark Linkous documentary

The Sad & Beautiful World Of Sparklehorse tells the story of Mark Linkous...

Read More

Gemma Hayes And Richie Egan get festive

The pair have covered 'Christmas Song' for SPAR.

Read More

Gemma Hayes for Dublin

She's in the Olympia Theatre on December 9.

Read More

Gemma Hayes added to Marlay Park line-up

The singer song writer will join Tom Jones and Van Morrison this Saturday...

Read More

Gemma Hayes for Dublin

The singer has confirmed an Olympia date.

Read More

Gemma Hayes to break it down in Tipperary

She'll be promoting latest album at Jim Kennedy's.

Read More

The Sea Sessions

Bell X1 show why they're still one of the best live bands around

Read More

A wee gem

Despite a series of major label knockbacks, Gemma Hayes has not only survived but established herself as one of the country’s most individual talents. She talks to Olaf Tyaransen about her new album, Let It Break, falling in love, courting Hollywood – and dancing a jig for Ronald Reagan.

Read More

Gemma Hayes tours in support of her new album

Let It Break is out next month.

Read More

Gemma Hayes announces acoustic show

It's taking place next week in Crawdaddy.

Read More

Gemma Hayes for Dylan birthday gig

Gemma Hayes is one of the acts invited to kick off a year of festivities to celebrate Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday next year

Read More

Gemma Hayes announces Irish date

The singer will perform a special acoustic show this month

Read More

Charity fundraiser gig for Barretstown at Olympia

Tomorrow night's show will feature Gemma Hayes, Jape, Paddy Casey, Mundy, Duckworth Lewis Method, Lir, Villagers, Jerry Fish and more, all performing songs by their musical heroes.

Read More

Gemma Hayes announces big Dublin show

She's also had a song snapped up by One Tree Hill.

Read More

Night on my Side

Read More

Gemma Hayes for Crawdaddy

Gemma Hayes is set to play what has been described as "an intimate acoustic show", at Crawdaddy, in Dublin, in December.

Read More

Gemma Hayes live at Crawdaddy

The Irish vocalist will play an intimate acoustic set on Friday 4 December.

Read More

Gemma Hayes confirms winter tour

Fresh from supporting Joe Jackson on tour in the US, Gemma Hayes has just confirmed a set of Irish dates for November and December

Read More

Gemma Hayes adds Tripod date

Following a busy autumn on tour around the US, Gemma Hayes has lined-up a date in Dublin this December.

Read More

Gemma Hayes adds Wexford dates

Gemma Hayes adds two post Electric Picnic dates in Ireland before jetting off on her UK tour.

Read More

Gemma Hayes, Giveamanakick for Indie-Pendence '08

Tipp songstress Gemma Hayes and Limerick's Giveamanakick are just two of a rake of new acts added to the bill for Cork's free Indie-Pendence festival.

Read More

New Dawn Hayes

As Gemma Hayes steps back into the fray with her long-awaited third album, Hot Press arranges for her to have a tete-a-tete with long-time collaborator Dave Odlum.

Read More

Gemma Hayes live at the Roisin Dubh, Galway

As an admirer of Hayes' new album, I’d been hoping for a more mellow and subdued performance, but she was playing with a full band. And it didn’t really work.

Read More

The Hollow Of The Morning

Tipperary Songbird blossoms on long-awaited comeback – eventually

Read More

Gemma Hayes reveals new album details

Gemma Hayes has given us a sneak peek at her new album, with cover artwork and a full tracklisting.

Read More

Gemma Hayes announces comeback gigs

Gemma Hayes ends her Los Angeles exile next month.

Read More

New Gemma Hayes album on the way

The long wait for the new Gemma Hayes album is almost over...

Read More

'Undercover'

Like much of Haye’s second album, The Roads Don’t Love You, ‘Undercover’ is bland and distinctly average. The sense of intimacy, and indeed the delicate nature of Haye’s songwriting, which made Night On My Side so special is lost amid the bigger production. Often ‘Undercover’ sounds dead and lifeless; Hayes’ vocals, less subtle than before, lack honesty, with the previous sexiness to her phrasing now sounding forced. Dull.

Read More

Gemma Hayes live at Vicar St, Dublin

“Holy Shit!” Not the words you might expect to hear from the usually quietly-spoken Ballyporeen beauty. But that was precisely her reaction to the rapturous reception she received from a packed to the gills Vicar St. for what, I’m reliably told, was her biggest solo headliner to date.

Read More

Dublin date for Gemma Hayes

Irish singer/songwriter Gemma Hayes is to play a one-off date in Dublin next year.

Read More

Gemma Hayes live at The Village

Read More

Happy Sad

In a slightly unfathomable move, the lead single from Hayes’s second album makes its appearance a couple of weeks after that record’s release, by which point it will have become clear that the singer has managed to sidestep that difficult second album problem with aplomb. All of which leaves ‘Happy Sad’ a bit redundant and most probably with little chance of troubling the upper reaches of the charts. Record company tactics aside, though, this is a lovely, warm and fuzzy song that moves the Hayes sound forward, if not in giant leaps.

Read More

The Roads Don't Love You

Read More

Gemma Hayes announces tour and album details

Seeing as she’s got a new single and album on the way, Gemma Hayes is going to be playing a few domestic shows to celebrate.

Read More

Gemma Hayes: back with second album and live date

Gemma Hayes returns to Dublin on October 19 for a see-the-whites-of-their-eyes show in Whelan’s.

Read More

Festival queen

She’s been a regular festival goer since she first attended Féile at the age of 14. Gemma Hayes waxes lyrical on the joys of those sprawling, big days out

Read More

"Today I ran for miles..."

...and on the strength of the amazing reviews she's been getting Stateside - not least from Billboard and the Village Voice - Gemma Hayes' American career is set to run and run

Read More

3 Miles EP

Read More

Celebrity author: Gemma Hayes

Read More

Gemma Hayes

The Hayes live experience is nothing less than first class

Read More

Hanging around...

Gemma Hayes will be - on her extended nationwide tour, doubtlessly selling out in a venue near you as we speak

Read More

Night - and everything else - on her side

Gemma Hayes is nominated for 2002 Mercury Music Prize

Read More

Let A Good Thing Go

Read More

Hero worship: Gemma Hayes

From Nirvana to Low to Papa M and back again: Night On My Side creator Gemma Hayes on something old and something new

Read More

Confessions of a Catholic Girl

Jesus died for somebody's sins but not Gemma Hayes'. By Peter Murphy.

Read More

Might on her side

Gemma Hayes's debut album collects great reviews from such tastemakers as Music Week, the Sunday Observer and (ahem) Ok Magazine's 'Hot Stars' (the last of whom reckoned, 'She's not just a pretty face - she's actually very good.' Cheers, thanks...)

Read More

Hear Gemma Hayes' Debut Album Night On My Side In Full

Read More

Night On My Side

Hayes has a wonderful sense of melody - virtually every line she sings is memorable and unusual

Read More

Gemma Hayes

The beauty - and there's a lot of it - of a Gemma Hayes show, is not in the centre but the periphery

Read More

Here comes the night

Gemma Hayes' debut Night On My Side arrives in May - preceded by Whelans soiree

Read More

Working to a calm

Channel 4 to broadcast Gemma Hayes fly-on-the-venue-wall mini-documentary in early February

Read More

4:35am

you couldn’t ask for a more soothing accompaniment to late summer evenings

Read More

Halcyon Hayes

JOHN WALSH talks to GEMMA HAYES about her debut EP 4:35am and what it was like recording with Mercury RevA?s Dave Fridmann

Read More
 

Advertise With Us


For information including benefits, key facts, figures and rates for advertising with Hot Press, click below

Advertise

Find us elsewhere