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album review and artist reflections
Review, Interview and HTML © 2001,
Russell W Elliot and Mauri Osterholm
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Last updated: 12 March 2001
Many Tori Amos and Kate Bush fans will be well aware of Jemima Price's work--she recorded tribute/cover albums of both of these artists work as Jemma Price. Now Jemima has released her first solo album, Easy (Dressed To Kill Records (UK), DISCD 623, 2000) in Europe as well as the United States. The artist has also performed the role of Fantine in the West End musical Les Miserables. Here you can get to know the artist and her music. Our Scandanavian correspondent, Mauri Osterholm, recently had the opportunity to conduct an interview with the artist. This feature reviews Jemima's new album Easy and incorporates the intimate remarks obtained from the artist during our recent interview with her.
Musical Discoveries: Your music in form of covering Kate Bush and Tori Amos has been well known for us and we have only recently discovered your all new solo album Easy. Please comment on your earlier albums.
Jemima Price: Yes, it was great to record tribute albums for two such incredibly talented artists, and the projects really were an invaluable stepping stone to getting my own songs recorded.
Can we say that you were influenced by these artists? And who are your favorite artists/bands that you find yourself listening all the time?
Both Tori Amos and Kate Bush are not only beautiful singers but also powerful lyricists and talented musicians, so of course they've been a source of inspiration to me. But I'm generally influenced by quite a wide slection of music, and books or stories for that matter, but well, if I had to pick a few all time favourites, Pink Floyd and The Doors definitely take me to 'that place' as it were! Joni Mitchell - another brilliant singer and songwriter, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Jeff Buckley - the man's voice just leaves me a gibbering wreck! On a more contemporary note, I think Eminem is a really original exciting artist at the moment.
Easy. Jemima's new album opens with the sensually sung "House Of Love," a crossover tune blending jazz club verses with popular accessiblity and layered vocals in the choruses. Vocal similarities to Kate Bush are evident but not overcooked--Jemima's tender voice is wrenched with emotion. A certain standout from the album is the rocking "All That I Am" which blends a lush string-based arrangement with the more powerful side of Jemima Price's range, with vocals soaring right through the instrumentals. The folky "Just For Tonight" offers a stark contrast, lightly arranged with evocatively sung lyrics and vocal layers that contribute to the overall sound.
How did you develop your vocal style? Can you tell me a little bit about your "training/education"?
I'd say my vocal style has just come about from singing since day dot! I started performing professionally when I was six and continued for as long as I could get away with it, but I went to quite an academic school so I was finally made to knuckle down to my work and get my exams - getting my worse grades in music in true rock 'n roll style! I ended up going to Drama School in London when I was 18 and subsequently worked as an actress for a couple of years before giving it up in a fit of frustration because, although I was performing, I wasn't totally happy or fulfilled. So I decided to just have the guts to pursue the thing I'd always been most passionate about and dreamed of doing - writing and performing my own songs.
The everso slow and melodic beginning of "The Mission" serves to further demonstrate Jemima's theatrical training through a highly emotive performance. Sung softly, the vocal part also explores her range, again reminiscent of Kate Bush. A dramatic rocking bridge adds significant contrast to the jazz club feel of the opening and closing passages. The acoustic guitar accompaniment of the tender ballad "Brings It All Back" works nicely against Jemima's broad and sensual vocal range. The highly accessible and standout track "Dandelion" blends dance-pop arrangements with lovely soaring vocals, heavily layered in the chorus, and exploring the the artist's vocal skills both in range and power, has certain hit potential. Simply stunning!
How did all start actually? What have you gone through till today, first performance, etc.?
Well, I've been writing songs (of sorts!) also since I was quite young - God they were miserable then! We even had a girlie band at school for a while - complete with pots and pans! When I left school I spent some time in a studio in Zurich which was really the first time I started to record my own material and subsequently did the rounds singing in various bands. I nearly got a lucky break with a band I was in when I was 17. Dave Gilmour--who actually discovered Kate Bush--had got to hear some of our music and there was a murmur of interest, but I guess the time wasn't right for me then.
I'm now much more secure in myself and with what I want to express through my music. So, to bring it up to date, the turning point was just over a year ago when a demo I did at a local studio resulted in the tribute albums. And because they were so well received I then got the courage to put forward some demos of my own material to the record company I was working with. A few months later I had a big smile and a contract!!
Sounds to me that you have taken your debut quite seriously; this is meant in a positive way. Did you write all of the tracks yourself?
Yeah, I take it seriously in as much as I've worked pretty hard, and music is important to me. But that's the only thing to hold close really because the industry side of it is a somewhat fragile thing to say the least, and if you take it all too seriously you might end up shooting yourself! Yes, I've written, or collaborated on with my producer, all the tracks on the album.
The album's slow rocking title track ("Easy") is full of almost spoken vocal effects and sharply contrasts many of the other tunes on the album in its harshness, reminiscent of Britney Spears' videos and Kate Bush's more severe work. In sharp contrast to the above, "Learning To Breath" is a tender but moving ballad, sweetly sung above light acoustic guitar and other instrumental effects within the arrangements. One of our favourite tracks from the album is the highly accessible, fast paced and lushly arranged dance-pop tune "Love Cats." Vocals are mixed way up, soaring far above the instrumentals and not only explore Jemima's range but her power as well.
We also noticed that you play piano and guitar as well. Please tell us more.
Umm ... the less said about my piano playing the better! No, I did have lessons once upon a time, but I'm not really very good. I never play in front of anyone - just for myself when I'm writing. Same for the guitar really. I've only just started playing that though.
Please explain the various sequences you go through when writing your music and tell me a bit about the studios that you use in different stages. Tell me a little bit about the folks that work with you in the recording process please.
The writing process normally starts with me just sitting at the piano and having a sing when I get that bit of inspiration. I like it best when the words and music come out at the same time, usually when I'm not thinking too hard about it, just letting it come from the part of me that's not under the jursdiction of sense or reality!! You definitely get the most original and interesting stuff that way. As I said, I also write with my producer--a fantastically mad man called Nick Coler--which usually involves a certain amount of alcohol, a hearty jamming session and a drunken stream of conciousness which we record and then sift through in a more sober state to see what we can salvage!
I've got a little studio where I make rough demos but if we've got a particular track to work on most of the programming is done at Nick's studio until it's ready to transfer to the main studio--which is in Sussex--to record any live music and the vocals. It's run by a guy called Martin Smith, who was also a co-producer on the album. Both Nick and Martin are great and we all drive each other mad in the best possible way. They've worked in the industry for a long time - Nick used to programme for the KLF--yes, the ones that burnt a million quid!--and Martin was a former guitarist in the ELO.
Easy introduces Jemima Price in various styles. We were amazed to hear your voice being perfectly fitted into ballads as well as dance-pop. What was the driving force when selecting the songs into the album?
For me, it's great when an album's like a house with lots of different rooms That way you get a new experience and a different journey in each one. I think that's exciting, and probably why there's a lot of variety on my album and why I chose the songs I did. Each of my songs tends to have a story at it's core and the music is built up around that. You use certain colours to express the subject of a painting, I kind of apply the same thing to my music; there's always a particular flavour of music that best expresses the sentiment of the song. So I do experiment with different styles, but hopefully there's still a thread of continuity throughout all the songs that's particular to me.
An extremely slow opening to the light ballad entitled "Cat Pur" is performed with acoustic guitar and light keyboard only. Jemima's lead carries the main melody while layers contribute to the purring texture. Powerful dance-pop rhythms take over in the middle of the song with Jemima's soaring vocalise further illustrating her expansive range. The album concludes with "One For The Road," a sensitively and sensually sung ballad performed with only piano accompanying. The artist's virtuousity shines through in her performance; Jemima's theatrical training shines through in her emotional delivery.
Do you have a career outside the music? We'd be interested to know the kinds of things you do if this can be shared.
I do music full time really and, apart from working on my own stuff, I do session singing as well. However, when things are slow, I'll do whatever's around for a bit of extra cash--I'm not fussy!
Please tell us about your live performances.
I've got a performance coming up on the 13th March at The 12 Bar Club in London. It's a gorgeous, intimate venue so I'll be playing a mainly acoustic set. Most of the gigs I've done so far have been round London, apart from last year when we went to America. We played a few dates in San Francisco and Sacramento where someone saw us and loved it so much he'd organised a 13 date tour across America by the time we got home to England! Unfortunately, there was a problem with the visas and the tour was pulled just a few days before we were due to leave - and yes, I'm still recovering!
Please tell us about the artwork for the album.
That was all done by a very clever young man at the record company! I've had lots of positive reaction to it. He used the pictures from a photoshoot on a cold and rainy--of course, it is England!--late afternoon in Oxford Street. I love it because although it seems to be rooted in a particular time and place--it's London and it's modern--I'm caught in a blur with a spooky world in the sky behind me, so there's a real sense of suspended reality and 'other worldliness' about it. Cool!!
Artists use to do a little promotion work for their albums. Do you have any plans in this respect?
Well, yes. The way I promote is to gig. The record company is obviously responsible for the technical side - poster campaigns, radio and magazine ads etc. The album is officially released on the 26th March, so I'm sure nearer the time I'll do some interviews and in-stores - yeah, basically do whatever I'm told, that is!
We have a few final questions. We noticed that this album is recorded 1999-2000. So what are your plans--is there some new material ready for the next album, and when will it come out. And what style you think will dominate your future career?
Well, the next steps are just to keep on writing and recording new material with a view to producing another album! The style will be more of the same really, just more defined as I settle into myself as a writer and artist a bit more--basically, just getting to know myself a bit better I think! However, it will probably veer towards the darker side of the last album; a bit more stripped down and less 'produced'.
For those of you familiar with her work on the tribute albums, Jemima's debut traverses new ground while exploring the ranges of her vocal styles. Read further reviews, hear soundbites and order Jemima Price's album Easy from amazon.com here. We're certain that the album will appeal to a broad cross section of Musical Discoveries visitors, and most certainly our Kate Bush fans. Easy should be explored further and is certainly worth a trans-Atlantic journey--a must listen!
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