Gemma Laurence…A Clunk Back and Forth Interview

photo credit  Beatrice Helman

Hello Gemma….Welcome to the Clunk Universe

Please give us a description of your surroundings so that we can paint our own mind picture.

Right now I’m living in Brooklyn, but when I wrote “Adrienne” I was living on the coast of Maine, which is one of the most special places in the world to me. Every day for about a year and a half I’d wake up and walk down to this lovely little tidal estuary, past farms and brambles and thickets of pine trees, and just watch the tide come in and out. I’d go in the height of black fly season in August, and through heaps of snow drifts in January. It became this morning ritual for me – to get outside, to take in my surroundings, and just be alone. It was very peaceful. That’s where I recorded all the nature samples that appear on “Adrienne” – the bird songs and rainfall were all iPhone recordings from my morning walks.

You have a new single out ‘Adrienne.’ It’s rather lovely. Tell us about the song.

Thank you! “Adrienne” is a song very close to my heart. It’s this tender little love song inspired by a poem by one of my favorite writers Adrienne Rich. There’s a line in her collection Twenty-One Love Poems that goes:

“You’ve kissed my hair

to wake me. I dreamed you were a poem,

I say, a poem I wanted to show someone…”

Somebody showed me this poem years ago and this is a song looking back on that person through the lens of the poem, trying to paint a picture in all the little details. It’s a song about opening up to somebody for the first time, allowing yourself to let them in.

Would it be fair to say that there are some sound influences here? Such as Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief?

I absolutely adore Adrianne Lenker – her solo work and her work with Big Thief. Her album songs was what got me through the pandemic. She has this unique ability to capture intimacy in these minute details and moments. I genuinely think she’s one of the best songwriters of our generation. She was definitely a big sonic influence for me for sure, along with Gregory Alan Isakov and Joni Mitchell. When we recorded “Adrienne” we were definitely inspired by Andrew Sarlo’s production style and his work with Big Thief and Courtney Marie Andrews.

When did you realise that you wanted to be a singer/songwriter? What was the first song that you wrote and what was it about?

Funnily enough I started writing songs at summer camp when I was a particularly awkward gangly 11-year-old. I wrote this song “Got No Mail” bemoaning the fact that my parents only wrote me letters ~once a week~ as opposed to every day like some of my fellow cabin mates. In retrospect, it was pretty whiney. I mean, what kind of parents write their kid letters every single day when they’re away at summer camp? That’s literally so many letters! Shoutout to my Mum and Dad for loving me but also having boundaries. Anyways, at least “Got No Mail” was a hit. Not to toot my own horn, but my summer camp band Gummy and the Goats did get a standing ovation at the camp talent show.

What music can you remember being exposed to as a youngster?

Lots of Norah Jones and Natalie Merchant, Ralph McTell and Simon and Garfunkel too. “Streets of London” by Ralph McTell to this day is one of my favorite songs of all time. My dad (who’s British and was big into the 1980’s punk scene in London) always used to play me all this 80’s UK punk like

The Clash, The Ramones, Stiff Little Fingers. That’s all got a sweet spot in my heart too. Though I’m not sure how much it influenced my own music (sorry Dad).

What about a tour? Any chance of getting to the north of England? There’ll be a dinner at Clunk HQ in it!

I would love to tour soon! I’m currently playing a lot of local shows in NYC (I have a single release show at PIANO’s coming up on October 16th!) but I would love to make it back to the UK for a tour soon. I’m half British and have spent quite a lot of time in England, so would love to make it back there soon. I’ll let you know – let’s get dinner!

If you could play any venue in the world which would it be and which band/singer would you have on with you?

I saw Johnny Flynn live at The Roundhouse in London a few years back and absolutely lost my mind. What an amazing set. They released a live recording from that show and I’m pretty sure if you listen carefully you can hear me scream “YOU’RE AMAZING!” from the audience. I feel bad for whoever mixed that live record. Anyway, Johnny Flynn if you’re reading this – if you’re ever tryna play The Roundhouse again, hit a gal up.

If we were to visit you in your neck of the woods for a weekend, where would you take us? You are the Entertainment Committee!

Ooo if you were to come to Brooklyn I’d definitely take you out to some great food and live music! Brunch at Clementine (my fave gluten free bakery), dinner at Pilar Cuban Eatery (their arroz con pollo is amazing), happy hour at The West BK’s beer garden in Williamsburg, then head out to an intimate acoustic set at Pete’s Candy Store. Maybe catch a local band at Baby’s Alright for a late night set.

Any bands/artists that we should check out?

I’m working with some fantastic artists right now – Bestfriend is this amazing DIY indie pop duo who are blowing up on Spotify right now. Lola Blanc is this absolutely badass artist/director/filmmaker and much more. She just put out this song “Here Come the Wolves” that I can’t stop listening to. And then of course, The Brazen Youth – what incredible humans and artists! It was a pleasure recording my album with Charlie and Micah. They have an incredible EP coming out soon that I can’t wait to listen to on repeat.

Thanks very much for taking the time with Clunk, Gemma. See you out there doing your stuff some time soon!

Thanks so much!

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