Jemma Willard is the female, musical version of Clark Kent. She has the looks, the disguise (office worker by day) and she is on the scene. By night she is putting in the hours, writing the songs and getting her voice heard. And if interviews and introducing stages with the BBC, regularly featuring in both London and Reading what’s on guides, and supporting big names like The Parlotones are anything to go by it looks like her two-fold workload is paying off.
Born and raised just outside Reading, Jemma has been singing since her hairbrush was her microphone and kitchen table her stage. She would take to her platform and regularly perform (her then favourite song) Meatloaf’s ‘I would do anything for love’. Her song choice by all means reflects her inherent Rock side and separates her from the Disney renditions of her peers, a difference which still remains today. Whilst the majority of the female singers out there are serenading us with broken hearts and boy troubles Jemma delves deeper, eloquently voicing her doubts and disillusions; “I would live a 100 years & dream like sleeping beauty, for just one day without my doubts & English sense of duty”. Something that we can all (just as easily as broken hearts) relate to. And her lyrics are resonating with her audience. In an age where we have been given it all yet are still rummaging, Jemma’s inner soul searching strikes a chord.
Jemma Willard’s voice is the kind you don’t forget. Paired with her lyrics, which are written with such clarity and beauty and the combination makes for a unique experience. The words, of desperation and loss, sung in a modern Cranberries style get inside your mind and swim through your veins. Her first album, Absence of an Ending, is about “being trapped in a “normal” 9 – 5 office job & dreaming of a life where I can make a career out of my music. I don’t belong in an office. I feel like a bird in a cage, or like I am always staring out of the window watching other people having fun.” At the moment she is working on new material with her band whilst developing her folk/rock sound with top London Producer Sean Kennedy at Berwick Street Studios, “recording is my favorite part of the musical process, I feel very safe to express myself in a recording booth, it’s almost womb like”.
Go to one of Jemma’s gigs and you not only get to hear her provoking perceptions but her covers (which couldn’t be further from your average ‘karaoke’ rendition). She sings other artists’ songs in such a way that makes them her own, paralysing your memory and usurping the original. Jemma’s all time favourite cover; “I love our rendition of Diamonds & Rust by Joan Baez. It comes out as this amazing rock/reggae sound.” Jemma’s sound and her bands style is so distinctive that it makes chart topping records new.
For a long time Jemma has been dreaming of singing, when she was eight she created Paz Waz the pop star. Originally Paz Waz was part of a school project; the embodiment of who she wanted to be when she grew up, Paz Waz soon became a prominent figure that gave interviews and performances to friends and family. Today it is less Paz Waz the pop star and more the love of singing and working with talent musicians that drives Jemma. Paz Waz may have steered her to Redroofs but this is a girl who is committed to authenticity and originality. When asked if the likes of X Factor beckon Jemma is clear of the route she wants to take “I would rather work my way up getting a good name for myself within the industry, the music industry doesn’t respect TV talent shows & I value the respect of my peers.”
Her music is the perfect marriage between rock, folk and a dash of musicality. A story with lashings of emotion; "with folk rock it is a story within a song” which perhaps explains why her music is so compelling. As a young girl she was fascinated with “Phantom of the Opera” and went through a ‘Madonna’ phase when she “brought back the leather & lace & wore a lot of large crucifixes”. Nowadays Jemma happily admits she has a “very obscure range” of inspirational artists, ranging from Dutch singer Anouk, Australian singer “Missy Higgins” to Bob Marley, Lady gaga, and the Greek singer Peggy Zina. “I listen to a lot of Greek music, its music for the soul”. Jemma’s Greek soulful inspiration is heard throughout her music and can be sited as one of the things that makes it standout.
Growing up Jemma wishes she “had had the confidence as a teenager to form a band & start writing but I am a late bloomer…I was in my own little world. A lot of the time people would call me odd but as you get older & more confident you start appreciating that odd can mean creative – it’s ok to be different.” And it’s this difference that sets her apart, yet speaks with her audience, as it is a difference we all, at some time, experience. A difference that is quite rightly being embraced.
Written by Jessica Tyrrell
“Jemma Willard is the spoonful of sugar you get when you have that bitter and melancholic medicine of folk rock. However, her music is never that simple and with a soul of classical influence you feel the warmth of every bar, just like an old fashioned radiator.” – Jonathan Nicholson, Glasswerk.
"Jemma Willard has a great voice and delivers some beautiful original songs that cross the boundaries of Jazz, Blues,Folk and beyond." - Graham Steel, Events Manager at The Jagz, Ascot.
5 February 2018
Jemma is back! After taking a break to be on maternity leave, Jemma is back with new material! Her band After Eden are playing at Pavlov's Dog in Reading this Saturday night (10 Feb 2018) at 8:30pm. Looking forward to seeing you all there!
15 February 2015
After almost a year away from gigging Jemma is back with her new band "After Eden". The band have their first gig in Reading on the 14th March 2015 at the newly refurbished Pavlov's Dog.
5 June 2014
Chartburst Review: Our EP "Fallen" and i nparticuarl our single "October Song" have a great review on Chartburst this week.