There is a definite pattern to Gemma Hayes’ career. She releases an album, it may win an award, there is huge expectation, then she goes ‘missing in action’, before returning from the wilderness two or three years later.
Think about it. In 2002 the Tipperary born singer-songwriter released her debut album Night On My Side which received a Mercury Award nomination. There was a genuine feeling that here was the next great Irish female artist - but instead Gemma disappeared into thin air.
Three years later she returned with The Roads Don’t Love You which won the Best Irish Female Artist award at the 2006 Meteor Awards. Yet from that moment until this year, there was nothing but silence.
Gemma’s idiosyncratic pattern looks set to be broken this time out. Her latest album, The Hollow Of Morning, released earlier this year. It reached No 12 in the Irish charts and received four star reviews from The Irish Times and Allmusic.com Gemma followed this up with a tour (which took in Galway ) and - in a break from the past - she has not disappeared, but instead is coming back for another round of shows. Her current tour will take in Galway and see the pulchritudinous Gemma play the Róisín Dubh on Tuesday December 9 at 9pm.
When I interviewed Gemma earlier this year, I asked her about her habit of disappearing and returning. “It’s always happening to me,” she laughed. “I’m well used to having to kick start the old engine.”
However this time she is determined to stick around. “I hope I will be out there for longer,” she says. “I intend to tour a lot and I’m my own boss now, releasing the record by myself, so I intend to play until you’re all sick of me!”
Gemma admits that she is a perfectionist and this is one of the reasons why things take so long between albums.
“The reason I’ve been away so long this time is that that’s how long it took to make the album. I didn’t want to come back with a third LP as quickly as possible. It had to be the right songs, it had to be just right before I would put something out again.”
It’s a trait she shares with one of her musical heroes - My Bloody Valentines’ Kevin Shields, who played guitar on two tracks on The Hollow Of Morning.
“The fact that he played on the album blew my mind!” she enthuses. “He’s such a legend and My Bloody Valentine are a definite inspiration for me. Talk about me taking my time, he takes it to another level! It’s very hard to let go when you’ve spent that amount of time with something. Kevin spoke about it to me. The way he sees it is that he doesn’t care how long it takes as once it’s out there, it’s out there forever so you might as well get it right.”
The Hollow Of Morning was recorded in Los Angeles and France with co-producer David Odlum and these days Gemma divides her time between Ireland and LA.
“There is an amazing music scene in LA,” she said. “I’ve met wonderful, intelligent, open minded people and the weather is just fantastic! I don’t think I’ll be laying down roots in LA but I’ll always go back.”
The Hollow Of Morning is an often melancholy album that charts the chaos of a relationship from its beginning to its end.
“It’s definitely about different head spaces, how I affect people and how they affect me, and my internal relationship with myself,” says Gemma. “I cannot write from a place that isn’t my own experience and that includes all the cattiness and the wonderful things. They all get thrown in and come out in a lyric or a chord change.”
Tickets are available from the Róisín Dubh and Zhivago.