Gem Andrews Band
Gig Seeker Pro

Gem Andrews Band

Newcastle upon Tyne, England, United Kingdom | SELF

Newcastle upon Tyne, England, United Kingdom | SELF
Band Americana Country

Calendar

This band hasn't logged any future gigs

This band hasn't logged any past gigs

This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos

Music

Press


Surrounding herself with an assortment of useful things; a juke box, a Dansette, a bunch of classic LPs, a handful of musical instruments, a guitar case with an obligatory sticker inviting us to Howl if we like City Lights Bookshop, a yet to be completed scrabble game and a couple of cups of tea (one for our host and one presumably for the photographer), our host sits and sings to her dog in His Master's Voice fashion.

With all these objects suitably scattered, Liverpool-born singer-songwriter Gem Andrews delivers eight original songs and a couple of covers, each showcasing her delicate command over song writing and story telling. Dark in places with one or two moments of beauty, Nicky Rushton's Ladybird for example, which pivots between this and the next world, as a mother and daughter share their last moments together before the willow weeps for both. In places reminiscent of Cowboy Junkies, with the occasional twangy guitar, SCATTER shows both potential and promise and serves as a fine introduction to a singer-songwriter with something to say. With contributions from Beccy Owen, Sue McLaren and Gabriel Minnikin, author of the other non-original song on the album Arkansas.

Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky
- Northern Sky


Gem originally moved to the North East to study music and in particular the Saxophone, at Newcastle University. “Since then I have opened and closed a business, moved to a caravan in County Durham, broke my back, recovered, moved to Vancouver, and finally, last March, returned to Newcastle. On Scatter each song is a piece of that puzzle in some way, it reflects the emotional intensity of those years.”

The Americana and alt. country style of her music is something she developed early on in her life. After receiving her first guitar as a six year old, she also recalled the day her mum brought home Wrecking Ball by Emmylou Harris which “had an effect on me which I can only describe as seismic!” Since then she has studiously followed the country genre and discovered artists such as Neil Young, Steve Earle, Kate and Anna McGarrigle and Nanci Griffith along the way. “There’s something that feels authentic about country music to me, which I find incredibly satisfying.”

Unlike most students, who choose to recklessly spend their loans within months of arriving on campus, Gem’s growing fascination with the origins of Americana led her to save hers up and travel to the Deep South after her first year at University. She spent three months visiting Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans and Austin watching professional singer-songwriters in the local bars. She described this experience as astounding and it helped finely hone her own songwriting style. In 2011 Gem fulfilled a lifelong ambition when she booked a solo tour down the West Coast of the USA.

Now fully ensconced in the North East, Gem will launch her album at The Cluny 2 on Thursday 2nd August with support from Beccy Owen. Gem noted that “every time I resurface to play a local gig, I’m always amazed at the amount of brilliant new musicians on the scene. I love the North East, it’s an exciting time to be here.” Post-launch, she will tour the UK at the end of September and then on to Switzerland in November. We’re hopeful she fulfils her ambition to get a slot at Austin’s famous SXSW festival next year. Her talent’s more than shining through. - NARC Magazine & KYEO TV


It is a bright morning, the morning after the great storm when lightning struck the Tyne Bridge and flood water cascaded down Grey Street. Newcastle upon Tyne is in a state of recovery. Landslides block Metro lines. Limpid pools lie in their tarmac troughs. I make my way past sandbagged doorways, already late.

In a café called Teasy Does It on Heaton Park Road, alt-country singer-songwriter Gem Andrews has made a quiet corner her own. Looking up from the luxury of a steaming Americano and the Guardian on her Macbook, she rises to greet me. “Kayaking to work is fun, when you think about it,” she smiles, ignoring my tardiness.

After touring extensively in America and Europe, and supporting the likes of Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart and Laura Veirs, the twenty seven year old Liverpudlian is currently preparing for the official launch of her eagerly awaited debut album, Scatter.

“It’s great to get something out there,” says Andrews, looking at the album cover with a certain understated pride. “When the first thousand CDs arrived, I couldn’t stand to open the package. I was terrified there’d be a mistake – something would be upside down or the wrong way around. But I got my housemate to open it and everything was fine.”

Andrews has little reason to be nervous. The cover photo of her album is deeply captivating in its own right – a shot which lays bare her diverse artistic tastes and musical influences. “I got that idea from Underground, the album by Thelonious Monk,” she confides, “the idea that every object has been placed strategically and has an importance”. NME and Rolling Stone photographer David Walla was Andrews’s first choice for her album shoot. “I gave Underground to David, and we started piecing together how we might recreate Monk’s cover,” she explains, “we finally decided to take the shot in my living room”.

Andrews sits to the right of the photograph holding her beloved Gibson J45 Custom as her dog, Sugarpie, adopts a classic His Master’s Voice pose. Scattered around the room are mementos from her time spent travelling and touring: a Howl sticker from City Lights Books in San Francisco, a Janis Joplin poster from Vancouver, a Frieda Kahlo print, an Edward S Curtis photograph of a Native America from an exhibition in Arizona, along with a headshot of Andrews’s own mother when she was acting with the RSC.

Leonard Cohen’s debut album is rested carefully on top of a portable record player, while Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s Love Over and Over takes pride of place on the jukebox. “Kate and Anna McGarrigle are my favorite singer-songwriters,” admits Andrews, “they almost make you want to give up, because they were just so good.” Meanwhile, in Cohen she recognises a songwriter who has the ability to “lend emotional weight and intensity to fleeting moments or the most basic of objects.”

As we talk, a luminous orange teapot arrives at our table and Andrews kindly pours me a cup of Fujian white tea. The café in which she has chosen to meet is a haven from the bustle of central Newcastle, particularly today when the weather seems to have disrupted almost every aspect of life in the city. At the table adjacent to us, two men play chess. Behind them, a woman sits alone reading. Without warning, the wind slams the café door violently shut. Everyone jumps. The rainbow flag attached to the blind flaps violently. A brief reminder of yesterday’s weather.

I ask Andrews about the theme of nature which I have noticed in her songwriting. The final song on the album is titled “Storm”, and is a rich retelling of a dream where the music builds to wrap around the listener like an approaching thunderstorm.

“I have always lived in the city,” she reveals. “When I moved to a caravan on a farm in County Durham we were living in the middle of nowhere. Everything on the farm was in tune with nature and the weather. Even with the slightest gust of wind, our home rocked. You couldn’t help but become part of the landscape”.

Andrews then relocated for a brief period to the west coast of Canada, where she found further inspiration. “I had just gotten out of a relationship and moved to Vancouver. On one of the first nights there I had a dream, and that was the basis for “Storm”. It was my mind’s way of settling things. When I woke up, my enduring memory was of being enveloped by that northern landscape, feeling free from it but also deeply saddened for the loss.”

The title track of the album, “Scatter” also charts the mournful breakdown of a relationship whilst keeping a watchful eye on the freedom of nature. One of the song’s most beautiful lines reads: “I’m lonelier with you than I’ve even been / watch the leaves at the window as the wind catches them / and I envy them”. Andrews admits that the line is a nod to a fellow songwriter and friend, Tania Davis. “I adored a line that she wrote: ‘the leaves are not sad that they’re leaving the trees’ and I was fascinated by the sense that change is the only thing you can ever depend upon.”

The eighth track on the album, “Ladybird” written by Nicky Rushton, is a tender meditation on the reversal of roles between parent and child as the latter becomes the carer as the former grows old. Andrews comments on how she deeply admires the dignified nature of the song, and its use of vivid natural imagery as a daughter leads her ailing mother to the garden: “she points with her eyes / and to my surprise / she said ‘do you see the tree’? / so I showed her with my hand to where the willow tree stands / she said ‘darling its weeping for me’”.

Andrews’s own parents played a significant role in her love of music. Her father, a jazz musician, gave her a guitar when she was six years old. Her mother always used to sing and liked listening to Emmy-Lou Harris and Nancy Griffiths, which Andrews admits “always caught my ear”.

Saxophone was Andrews’s first passion, although she started writing poetry at fourteen and songs at seventeen. “I always loved writing and playing with language, although I threw many of those early works away. I was really ruthless.”

Scatter charts the singer-songwriter’s life from eighteen to twenty six, a period during which she has co-founded the Muma Moonshine Festival, the North East’s only festival celebrating LGBTQ artists, toured the American deep south, west coast and much of Europe, and recovered from a broken back after falling from a horse.

Songwriting has always proved a cathartic experience for her. Andrews speaks of writing as a “way of throwing yourself into another world, having a break from yourself. You write for different reasons throughout your life — sometimes simply because you have to.”

Scatter documents important changes in the artist’s life. The album’s opening track “Part Tenderly” was written when she was eighteen, yet displays a sage like understanding of love. Despite being a song about how to end a relationship, Andrews admits that it was penned at the beginning of a love affair: “it’s one of my favorite songs, and I always found comfort in it. Almost straight away I knew I wasn’t in the right place or with the right person. Performing the song laid claim to that”.

In its entirety, Scatter succeeds in delicately pinpointing specific moments in a love affair. “Alright,” one of the most memorable tracks on the album, is an earnest love song for Andrews’s parents, written from the perspective of her father. Some of its most deeply moving lines include: “if you need some time alone / like a bird in the Spring / I’ll fly north / if you’re craving my company / I’ll be so close to you / you won’t need a shadow”.

I ask her about these lines specifically. Andrews takes a short sip of coffee and pauses. “I think that it is the ultimate romantic gesture” she says finally, “that act of allowing a partner the space to grow and develop whilst still being constant in love and support.”

The following track, “Cold Stone Floors,” provides a dramatic counterpoint to “Alright,” with its edgier vocals and rasping rock guitar kicking up the tempo – a song about giving a new lover a “tour of your darkest moments”.

A talented team of musicians collaborate on the album, including the outstanding multi-instrumentalist, Gabriel Minnikin, who plays electric and twelve string guitar, banjo, mandolin, autoharp, accordion and harmonica. Andrews’s own vocals are feminine yet forceful, her phrasing both sensitive and intuitive. And while her song arrangements offer rich atmospheric settings for her heartfelt lyrics, they neither intrude nor overpower. The result is a deliciously dark alt-country debut for this talented singer-songwriter.

Sunlight splashes off the puddles outside. “I’m pretty wired, Darren” admits Andrews, toying with her fifth cup of coffee. I think it’s a signal to wrap things up. Before leaving, she shows me a film to which she has written the soundtrack. It’s a documentary called 100 Faces directed by Alan Lyddiard, which tells the story of Newcastle’s homeless and vulnerable populations. Andrews’s music wraps tenderly around their words. I learn later that the documentary was screened recently at the Royal Opera House in London – perhaps another subtle indicator of the musician’s burgeoning success.

As we walk towards Heaton Park before parting company, our conversation turns once again to nature and the weather. Andrews describes how she has always been interested in the way that America’s terrain and climate dictate the lives and livelihoods of its people, and in turn find their way into the American folk song. I suggest that the landscapes represented in her songs are classically English, despite her album having a distinctly American alt-country aesthetic.

“I find a real honesty in American songwriters such as Steve Earle and Townes Van Zandt, but it’s important to write about what you know,” she replies, looking thoughtfully at the puddles, “and just sometimes that includes this crazy British weather.” - The Flaneur


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 stories."

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 songwriting."

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! - Diva Magazine


The debut album from Liverpool singer-songwriter Gem Andrews is a lush piece of work; lots of strings, textures and harmonies. It’s a long way from most alt.country singer-songwriters too, being much more in the tradition of Joni Mitchell, Bjork and Margo Timmins (“Cold Stone Floors” is very late Junkies).
It’s also the classic album of two halves. On the first five tracks the arrangements tend to dominate the songs and particularly the vocals, which isn't ideal. Once we get to the home straight though things pick up.

“Garden” has a lovely lilting piano melody and the following title track (also curiously with a remarkably similar melody and style) is lovely. The vocals get to breathe a bit more, and so the album standout “Ladybird”, a poignant song about the narrator’s mother recalling her youth one last time before she dies, really hits home. Some great choruses help things along too, in particular on “Goldfish”. Overall though this album is as much about atmosphere as words, and you could easily sit back and just let it wash over you. Toning things down a bit would help and allow Andrews obvious talent to shine through better. - The Americana UK


For once, you really can judge a CD by the cover, as the superb photograph by D Walla that adorns SCATTER perfectly reflects the music like a mirror. And that’s a compliment coming from me.

Gem Andrews has been on the North Eastern music scene for a couple of years now and has gradually built up a reputation as a singer-songwriter in the tradition of a young Joni Mitchell but, even after seeing her play live earlier this year, I wasn’t prepared for how wonderfully wonderful her debut album is.

On stage, Gem cuts a lonely figure with her guitar. But, on SCATTER, we get string arrangements, cutting pedal-steel, an accordion, haunting piano interludes all tied up in production values that would impress Phil Spector.

The tinkling piano and tapping drums that begin album opener Part Tenderly stopped me in my tracks. When the strings come in beneath Gem’s warm voice my heart skipped a beat. The tale itself is rather good too.

All of the songs throughout SCATTER are quite gentle in an alt-country style, but never twee. For the most part they sound as good as anything that has come out of Nashville or Austin in the last few years.

Cold Stone Floors is about as loud as lo-fi gets. Possibly the best song that the Cowboy Junkies never recorded had me pressing the repeat button 3 times in succession. It was a similar story with the spectacular Alright with its key changes and lines like, “I’ll kiss the whisky from your breath” and “If you are craving my company/I’ll get so close to you/ you won’t need a shadow.” Songwriting like this, which is both simple and awe-inspiring, is a very rare commodity these days.

Ladybird appears to be about the death of a mother and is full of charming imagery, and even has some birds chirping at the end. I just love it.

SCATTER by Gem Andrews will sound just as good on a Sunday morning while reading the newspapers as it will when it’s used as a soundtrack to a thousand misunderstood, broken hearted and lonely teenage girls who are wallowing in their own misery.
- No Depression Magazine


Discography

'Scatter'. Debut album released August 2012.

Photos

Bio

Born in Liverpool, England, singer-songwriter Gem Andrews sings heart-achingly beautiful dark country ballads, filled with intoxicating romanticism and wrapped in haunting melodies.

Gem's much anticipated debut album was released on 2nd August 2012 - featuring contributions from artists including Beccy Owen, Gabriel Minnikin and Sue McLaren, this collection pays homage to Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Lucinda Williams and The Be Good Tanyas.

Gem has taken her live act across the Deep South and East and West Coasts of the USA, to Germany, France, Italy and Denmark as well as playing extensively in the UK. When at home in the North East she occupies herself with playing and organizing alt-country gigs, and has supported Raul Malo, Kathryn Williams, The Cave Singers, Laura Viers, Justin Townes Earle and Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart.