Hailing from Newton Abbot, Devon, Alice Jemima has been developing her songwriting and musical style over a number of years now. Her self-titled debut album was released at the start of this month and has been enthusiastically greeted, not least since she has created something of a unique sound, combining impossibly soft, smooth and delicate vocals with creative pared-back beats and hook-filled tunes. The heart of the album’s appeal though is ultimately really simple – great songwriting.
As always, we were keen to see how the live performance compared to the slick recordings so headed along to catch her London headline show at The Lexington earlier this month. Her shy, super-modest between-song demeanour belies her impressive ability to deliver the songs with a beguiling, mesmerising sense of something special.
Jemima seemed genuinely thrilled to have virtually filled the venue’s sizable if intimate-feeling space. It was a Monday night too which somehow always seems to make an impressive turnout even more satisfying for an artist. We caught up with her after the show to find out a bit more about an artist whose star is very much on the rise…
SYNC: So tell us a bit of the background to the Alice Jemima story and how your musical passion first developed?
ALICE JEMIMA: When I was younger my mum played violin in a tango band, so from a very young age I went to a lot of festivals and gigs with her.
I’d tried playing a few instruments myself before picking up the guitar when I was 8. Nothing else had really taken my interest, but as soon as I learnt the guitar, that was it – I haven’t really stopped playing since! Then a few years later I started writing and singing.
SYNC: Having discovered your musical path at a young age, how has your musical style – and own music tastes – evolved? Which other artists have played a part in that?
AJ: When I started songwriting I was listening to a lot of singer songwriters like KT Tunstall, Jack Johnson, Nerina Pallot, Corinne Bailey Rae. Then as I got older I started listening to a lot more electronic/indie-pop music like The XX, Flume, Lana Del Rey. Maybe it hasn’t changed all that much, possibly more the production side has.
Alice Jemima – Electric
SYNC: How did the cover of No Diggity come about? It seems such an unlikely-yet-inspired song to do in that style.
AJ: It was after hearing Chet Faker’s stripped-back version of it, which I instantly loved. Although I hadn’t planned to record a cover of it, I was just playing around with some chords and beats on Logic and then started singing No Diggity over the top of it. It wasn’t supposed to be that, but it worked, and now it’s officially out in the world!
Alice Jemima – No Diggity
SYNC: How would you describe your own songwriting process? What are the elements that enable your songs to convey such emotion and feeling?
AJ: It depends really, sometimes I’ll just pick up an acoustic guitar and write something straight away, and other times it’s a slightly slower process where I’ll produce a more beat-driven track and write over the top. I suppose the more ’emotional’ songs I tend to write on the guitar, possibly because I’m singing whatever’s on my mind or what I’m feeling, right there and then.
Alice Jemima – Liquorice (live)
SYNC: How long has the album been in development – and how does it feel for you now that it’s out there for the world to hear?
AJ: I guess you could say this first album has been in development since the day I started writing! Some of the tracks on this album are ones I wrote when I was a bit younger. I spent a few years trying to find the sound I wanted, so the ones I wrote when I was younger have definitely come on a bit of a journey – and evolved.
It almost feels like a weight has lifted now it’s out there! That may be a funny thing to say, but some of these songs I’ve wanted to put out into the world since the day I wrote them, so it’s a great feeling now they’re all there for people to hear. And now I can start writing another!
SYNC: What are the plans for the rest of 2017 – are there more live dates and perhaps festivals in the diary?
AJ: I’ve just been out to the US to play SXSW, which was so exciting, and I played three shows out there. On 5 April I’ll be playing a headline show in Paris at Pop-Up du Label. I have more festivals and shows coming up – but they’ve yet to be announced. So, more news soon!