The privately recorded debut album 'The Rescue' by GEMMA McQUEEN has met with enthusiastic responses from both the media and the general public alike. Geoff Howlett talked to the songstress.
It's rather rare for a debut, self-financed CD to land its artist her own TV series but that's what's happened to Gemma McQueen! Thames Valley, one of the bevy of cable stations now covering Britain, were so enamoured with the wistful, Celtic sounds of Gemma's 'The Rescue' album that first they decided to film Gemma at a live gig and then, even more thrilled by the Reading-based singer's consummate professionalism, offered the singer her own show! The Gemma McQueen Show, a Christian and secular mix with special guests, is shortly to go into production. "It's all pretty thrilling," remarks Gemma. "I look upon it as definitely God opening the door."
The origins of 'The Rescue' relate to Gemma's interest in the charity CLAPA (Cleft Lip & Palate Association). "As a singer-songwriter," she says, "I felt that 1 could contribute towards raising the profile of CLAPA, and raise funds for further medical research into methods of corrective surgery, by writing and producing an album of songs with Christian lyrics that I hoped would appeal to the Christian, but that also would be acceptable to the non-Christian."
Having impressed people with her vocal skills from an early age, singing took a back seat in Gemma's life when she married. When she finally felt that the Lord was telling her to start singing again, it was in the mainstream market and a demo tape was sent to Bruce Welch at EMI. His reaction was quite extraordinary, as Gemma recalls. "He rang me up from his car, listening to it, and said it was great." More openings began to appear, culminating with an audition for the part of Kathy in Sir Cliff Richards' Heathcliffe. "It was really great", she says, "I, obviously, didn't get the part but it was a remarkable experience."
'The Rescue' was written in just two weeks. "Yes, two weeks", she laughs, "including the bridges, the arrangements, everything. I get a melody quite quickly but the lyrics and arrangement would take a little longer. My lyrics are born out of the emotions that I feel."
The Celtic style was chosen so that its general appeal would also reach the secular listener. Track three, "I Will Stay", has simple - yet powerful - lyrics and rejoicing sounds. "It's about the fact that I know that God will never let me go," Gemma reveals. '"I will stay by you'. In other words, He will stay, He will keep me. As the promises in the Scriptures say, He will never leave me, because my name is written in His book."
Recording took place at Wpkingham's No Machine Studio where Gemma met kindred spirits in John Goodall and Neil Sadler, whose own Celtic background proved invaluable. "We all gelled immediately", Gemma enthuses, "and I'm really grateful for all their help."
The whole recording process took just over a month, with the music taking most of the time within the financial budget available. The sleeve's graphic design was done locally, thus reducing cost but not quality, while Digital Audio, Yorkshire, manufactured the CDs. Gemma continues, "For two years I have been fully focused on this project, which has been far more than a full time, unpaid job. It's also absorbed a great deal of our finances and the complex procedure of being the writer, singer, producer, manager and administrator has been exhausting."
Publicity and advertising all add to the artist's time. "I've been interviewed on several radio stations," says Gemma. "I've spoken at the ladies branch of the Chamber Of Commerce, where my album was played throughout dinner. This and other official bodies have been invaluable as regards raising funds for CLAPA. As for my album, it is still down to my own determination and constant focus to achieve sales."
With her cable TV series, and 'The Rescue' picking up airplay as far
afield as the USA, things are clearly on the up for this most gifted