Riveting Riffs Logo One Jemima - Things I Never Said
Jemima Photo Two

 A young Australian singer, songwriter and musician from Newcastle, by the name of Jemima just released her EP Things I Never Said, a collection of five songs that are more value for your money than most full-length albums. Get ready world, because this young woman is going to be a star. She writes good lyrics, has good vocals and has an engaging personality. She also has a very sharp marketing mind.

The first song on the EP, is “As You Are,” and it clocks in at three minutes and twenty seconds and has the perfect blend of retro Pop and modern Pop, with an easy flowing melody. Jemima tracked her own background vocals creating the feel of some of the early sixties all-girl groups. One should not however think of this song as an attempt to merely giving rebirth to an era of music that has long since vanished, by the time she was born, but instead it is an artist who knows what she likes and has taken the best from what she heard as a child, while listening to her parents’ records and bringing to both her songwriting and to the studio a keen sense for what resonates with audiences today.

Jemima Photo OneShe says, “I am twenty-four and I discovered this music by sitting in my garage, as a kid and going through my parents’ records and cassette tapes. I really liked that music. I wasn’t into Justin Bieber or whatever other music kids my age were listening to. It (the music on the records) sounded so intriguing to me and there is such a focus on storytelling, which I loved. It sounded more genuine to me. I went to school as Elvis when I was ten years old. I had the black wig on, and I wore a gold cape. I had this skintight white jumpsuit. I don’t know why my parents let me do that.”

Continuing she says, “The song “As You Are,” is about realizing you are falling for somebody, but also learning to accept that person for who they are. It took on a broader sense when I started working on the music video and it turned into accepting anyone that you love for who they are and not just in a romantic way.

The song is about a particular night in London when I realized I was falling for someone and to whom I am now engaged, and I wanted it to sound like a sixties song. I grew up listening to this music, the Beatles, Beach Boys and Elvis, so I always associated this song with love and the celebration of love. Sixties love songs don’t hold back they (say) ‘This is how I feel about you!’ I just love that, and I wanted to do the (same thing) for this song. I had never done this before, and it was more fun to record than it was to write. That is when we got to add in all of these great retro instruments (a 66 Hofner violin bass played by Tim Schou, synthesizer played by Jemima, sleigh bells – Mat Akenhurst).”

Jack Smith plays guitar, Mat Akenhurst keeps the beat on drums and percussion, Jemima also plays the piano and ukulele and Tim Schou also plays saxophone adding to the retro vibe of the song.

The Hofner violin bass is a hollow body guitar and Jemima says that when she heard it, she went, “Yes, and it makes me smile, because I go that’s the sound!”

She credits sound engineer Paul Pilsneniks for coming up with the idea for using the instrument, “Paul is amazing, and he is so kind. We were one hundred percent on the same page all of the time that we were recording. It was so great to have someone who understands what you are trying to achieve. I am lucky that I have him. He is fantastic.”

The song “Soho,” is an exhibition of incredible songwriting. Jemima does not blur the boundaries, she shatters them, utilizing pre-choruses, double choruses and yes there is a bridge. This is a ballad that paints a vivid word picture that takes the listener from the joy of falling in love with someone with words like “You saw things in me no one else could see / When I believed in nothing you believed in me,” to the despair of heartbreak, “Now I see you with her all the time / As if your future was never mine / The hardest part to admit / Is she seems so perfect.” Then comes the pre-chorus and the longing for the time and place they first met, March in an old bar in Soho.

“Soho,” is also the song from the EP that gets the most favorable comments from fans, which has come as a pleasant surprise to Jemima, because, “when we finished recording it, I felt like we didn’t do the song justice. I thought it was the weakest song on the record, but it is the song that the most people say they like. It is funny how you can never tell what people will be drawn to. You can write a song from your perspective and where you are coming from, but that doesn’t mean that anyone is going to take it the same way. Everyone is going to relate it to their own experience, which is great.

When I feel understood that is what draws me to music, when I think that is how I feel. That describes my situation and I think other people are the same. I tried to make these songs genuine and they are all very real stories. They are my stories, and they are expressive. I don’t hold back from the drama. I love emotional songs.

In describing her songs Jemima says, “I guess in a sense it is like a diary. It was probably more accurate when I was a teenager and now it has become a bit more edited. I also like putting (some) detail in, because I like that when I am listening to other people’s music, as it sounds more honest. It sounds true to them and you feel like you are learning something about them. I feel that the people about whom I wrote the songs probably know that the songs are about them. I am okay with that.”

The conversation segues into talking about whether it is easy or difficult to allow herself to be that vulnerable both in her songwriting and then performing songs with those storylines.

“I don’t think I have had an issue with that before. The first thing that came to mind when you said that is there was one occasion when I was playing a show and I was opening for somebody else. The song “Patient,” is about mental health and at that time I was really struggling with mental health. It was hard enough to play this gig at all, and I cried on stage, before doing that song. I had to stop and then keep going and I have never experienced that before. It was the timing and the nature of the song.

I love ballads and I love personal and emotional songs. When performing them live it is nice to connect with people and to be open with people. It is interesting, because in my personal life I am not really like that. A lot of my personal friends don’t even know some of my most personal stories. I have always felt I am not as good as other people at opening up. It is ironic that the songs are the place when I do open up.”

In a previous interview with another journalist, Jemima said, “I’m also not afraid to write dramatic, emotional music, and we all need a good yelling-in-the-car song sometimes.” We asked her to explain.

“This ties into the thing about not being embarrassed about writing emotional music and in the past I have been. It is bonding with people over that shared experience of pain or heartbreak or longing. It is about feeling that there is something wrong with you and then to put that out into the world and have people get in touch with you and they say that is how I feel. With the song “Patient,” I had a lot of people message me with the most beautiful things, such as, I listen to this every morning or I listen to this to help myself get out of bed.

That is the whole point to me of doing this as a job. If I can write a song and people want to yell in their cars, because they are angry at somebody or they feel desperate, then that is amazing,” she says.

When I was younger and writing songs, my parents would always say, can’t you write a happy song? I used to feel embarrassed. Now I am like give me the ballad. Give it to me. I love it. I have accepted my fate (she laughs lightly).”

That songwriting path that Jemima travels with real life experiences, began as a little girl and her song “My Hero,” about her dog.  

In between much laughter she managers to say, “I probably shouldn’t tell people that, but it’s funny. I thought it was very clever, because the song is vague about who I am singing about until the very end and the last chorus, “My hero is the only one who stands up for me / That’s right it’s my dog.” (More laughter) It is pretty good for eight years old and what else are you going to sing about when you are that age?” Jemima Photo Three

The blend of retro with modern broadens Jemima’s fanbase substantially and the fact that the melody and rhythm are easy flowing, yet upbeat, not slashing in your face instrumentals or lyrics that bite, but instead they come across more reflectively further enhances her opportunity to appeal to a wider age demographic.

“I don’t fit into what modern Pop sounds like. The instrumentation is live. It is not as repetitive, dancy, or upbeat as a lot of the stuff you hear on the radio. I feel like I don’t fit into it right and sometimes I have felt the urge to sway over there. In the end I thought why don’t I write music that I like, because I don’t listen to that music, so why would I write that music?

It is interesting that you should say that it would appeal to a wider demographic, because on Spotify you can see that data about the types of people who are listening to your songs. It is almost fifty / fifty men and women, and the age brackets are really wide. I used to think oh no I am not getting the demographic that I want, but now I think why would I want to limit myself to one target audience when I can be connecting with this wider range of people. That is a beautiful thing,” she says.

The plaintive song “When it Rains, It Pours Down,” begins with the sound of thunder and rain and that was genuine and unplanned.

Jemima explains, “The rain sound at the beginning was a very weird and a serendipitous thing. There was a dry sunny forecast all week and there wasn’t any rain forecast at all. I feel like this story sounds fake, but everybody who was in the studio can vouch for this. As soon as we started recording this song in the studio this massive storm came over and there was thunder and lightning. Paul and I had just been talking about how I wanted real sounds in the songs. “Soho,” has a real London tube recording in it. We looked at each other and said oh my gosh, this is great. He ran outside with a microphone and he recorded it. We just put it in there. Part of me thought is it a bit tacky to put that in there? Then the ballad part of me (she lowers her voice and whispers) no do it!”

The song on which Jemima accompanies herself on piano, is one about moving on from a relationship and beginning the healing process. Things did not work out, but then the other person appears again, unexpectedly. Jemima refers to “When It Rains, It Pours Down,” as her favorite song on her new record. Paul Veitch is the cellist for the song.

“All at Once,” is definitely a song that her fans will be singing along to on their radio, on their phones and especially at Jemima’s concerts. The ethereal vocals and the “come sing along with me” lyrics are a winning combination.

She says, “I wrote this song a long time ago and I wanted it to have this desperate and chaotic feel. The situation that I am singing about is very frustrating. There is also a fragility in that, which makes some parts softer and more vulnerable. For you to be so desperate about this person indicates that there is a lot of insecurity. It also talks about self-worth being attached to this relationship and this situation. That is what drew me to having softer moments and it opens like that. That last double chorus also has a lot going on.

I recorded just a piano version of this song with just me playing the piano and my vocals in the studio and I am releasing that this month (November). I really like the piano version, because it shows the vulnerability.   

Jemima talks about being inspired by Taylor Swift, “When I was a kid, I was embarrassed that I liked her as a teenager. Everybody was into Indie or cool music. In my iPod I changed her name to Mary somebody, so when people looked at my iPod, they didn’t know it was Taylor Swift. Now I have learned to accept this part of me. She was a catalyst for me in a lot of ways to dive into songwriting. I had dabbled in it and then at fourteen when I learned the guitar that was largely because I saw this other young girl (Taylor Swift) who writes every song that she has released and she plays her own instruments on stage. When you think of modern Pop, you don’t see that many female artists playing instruments on stage when they perform. Taylor Swift does it in every show.

As a young teenager you are thinking I didn’t know I could do that. I didn’t know that was an option for me. Taylor Swift is the reason I started playing the guitar and I started being autobiographical in my music. I have met her before and I also respect the way that she is very kind to her fans, her team and her crew. I only have positive things to say about her. She is also very business minded. She is inspirational to me in a lot of ways.”

In light of Jemima being inspired by Taylor Swift we decided to ask her to consider this, that somewhere out there is a little girl who is watching Jemima perform and the way she lives her life, so what does she hope they see when they look at her?

“This is a question that you can’t answer without sounding arrogant, I think. I don’t know, I really don’t know. I guess like I said before for me, as a kid looking at an artist like Taylor Swift. I would love to play as many instruments as I can and thinking that you can do those things on your own. Again, female artists in Pop music, very few of them even write their own music. I don’t know why that is, because surely that is a pretty integral part of being an artist. Maybe, that they can just see (when looking at me) that you can write the songs and you can play the instruments in the studio on your songs and you can play a lot of instruments. You can manage yourself and you can make decisions. Maybe that is the biggest thing, while navigating the music industry.

I am sorry if I keep going on these feminist trails, but there are a lot of times when you are in a room with five men and it is difficult, and I don’t say it like that, but I am hiring you and I make the decisions. I employ these people.

When I released my first song, I did not step forward and say what I wanted. I don’t really like the song. I don’t like the recording of it and I think that shows, because it is not me necessarily, whereas with this EP I was willing to speak a bit more and take charge of things a bit more in a respectful way. As a young girl that is something that maybe you don’t learn until later in life.

I consider myself a feminist and I used to be embarrassed by that (when I was younger), because people associate that with certain things. As I got older, I learned that feminism is just wanting equal rights for men and women. It is not women being above men, but it is just having the same opportunities and the same rights. A lot of people think that it is not relevant in 2020, but it is,” she says.

A few decades ago, a young singer, songwriter and musician appeared on the music scene. She too used one word as her name, that word was Jewel. Jemima, just like Jewel, will be a star someday. She is a unique artist, but her songwriting, lyrically, musically and vocally is very reminiscent of Jewel.

Please take time to visit Jemima’s website. When you are there also buy her music. We gave you a few links in this interview, to whet your appetite, but if you want to continue to listen to good music by good artists worldwide we need to pay for the music, especially in a year like 2020, when virtually all music tours have been cancelled.     Return to Our Front Page

This interview by Joe Montague  published November 17th, 2020 is protected by copyright © and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine All Rights Reserved.  All photos are the the property of  Jemima unless otherwise noted and all  are protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved. This interview may not be reproduced in print or on the internet or through any other means without the written permission of Riveting Riffs Magazine.