She's a Gem you may not have heard of yet, but there's no doubt
that alt-country singer-songwriter Gem Andrews is a name to watch
out for. She's played in various places around the world, supported
the brilliant Laura Veirs, lived in Vancouver for a while to
complete her debut album, and is now preparing to release the
finished product. Oh, and she's also co-founder of a LGBT music
festival in County Durham. Busy, busy lady.
Gem started writing songs at the age of 14, while growing up
listening to Fairport Convention and a lot of Irish folk. But it
was only when she heard Emmylou Harris' 1995 album Wrecking Ball
that she discovered Americana: "It's Harris' covers album, so
through it I discovered Neil Young, Steve Earle, Kate and Anna
McGarrigle, Nanci Griffith, Gillian Welch and so on."
Her love of Americana led her to travel across the Atlantic: "I
spent three months playing open mics across the Deep South in 2003.
[...] I got to meet a lot of musicians, especially in Nashville and
New Orleans, who'd been session musicians for a lot of the greats
of country and blues. I was nineteen and blown away by these
The "authenticity" of this type of music appeals to Gem, which is
why it is important for her to identify herself as a lesbian
musician: "I aim to be as honest as possible in my lyrics - part of
my experience is a gay one and that naturally weaves itself into my
The songs are a bit Laura Marling-esque - enchanting folk
ballads, often narrating a dark and melancholic tale. Right from
the word go, we are hit by her sense of loss and heartache. The
album opens with Part Tenderly, a break-up song that has
pain-filled lines like: "It's worth leaving, worth leaving to
understand/ That we're made for better things you and me."
The title track Scatter is one of Gem's favourites: "It's a song
with my good friend Gabriel Minnikin on harmony vocals and I really
love the typical country style of female and male voices together.
[…] I wrote it after having a writer's block lasting almost two
years. Scatter reaffirmed that I was still a songwriter, so I'm
pretty close to it."
The album took five long years to complete, but it's not the only
project Gem's been working on. It will be Muma Moonshine's fourth
birthday this year, an LGBT festival designed to celebrate
Americana, folk and country music. Artists on the line-up include
Kathryn Williams and The Cornshed Sisters.
Where will our readers be able to catch Gem next? Well, she'll be
playing at Northern Pride later this month and will begin a full UK
tour in the autumn. Make sure you keep your eyes peeled!
Scatter will be released on 2nd August
For more info, visit: gemandrews.co.uk
Listen to her music here