Oct 14, 2021
By Caleb Campbell
Photography by Beatrice Helman
Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Gemma Laurence debuted back in 2019 with her full-length debut, Crooked Heart, introducing her delicate, heart-wrenching songwriting talents. Laurence has spent much of the intervening months on the coast of Maine, holed up amongst poetry and nature as she crafted her next set of tracks. Today she returns with the first taste of her upcoming sophomore album, her new single “Adrienne,” premiering early with Under the Radar.
This new single also marks Laurence’s first discussion of her queerness in her music, painting a longing portrait of past love. Laurence describes her music as “Sapphic folk,” placing her very much in the vein of Phoebe Bridgers, Hand Habits, and Tomberlin, with hints of influence from lilting English folk songwriters like Laura Marling. Yet, while those stylistic touchstones shine through, Laurence also brings an emotive personal core that is all her own.
“Adrienne” is instantly transportive, inviting you into Laurence’s yearning reverie as she recalls stolen moments of tender love. Each misspoken drunken confession and each vision of warm morning light feels real and tactile, colored by interlocking guitars, swelling pedal steel, and waves of harmonies. Laurence crafts an expansive soundscape then brings it to life with intimate detail, as birdsong, rainfall, and the hiss of a tape machine punctate Laurence’s crystalline vocals. The resulting track feels lived-in and achingly authentic, a work of singular autumnal beauty and a gorgeous return effort from Laurence.
Laurence says of the track, “‘Adrienne’ is this tender little love poem for somebody from the past. It’s inspired by a line in Adrienne Rich’s Twenty-One Love Poems that goes: “I dreamed you were a poem, I say, a poem I wanted to show someone . . .” I kept running that line through my head again and again while I was isolating last year, thinking about the joy of meeting someone you want to show to everybody you love, but at the same time relishing the quieter moments of intimacy with them. I wanted to paint a picture of one of these quiet scenes: waking up in a lover’s bed at 6 A.M., the sunlight dancing across the wall, the smell of coffee boiling on the stove.
I workshopped the track with Steve Varney (of Gregory Alan Isakov), who became an amazing mentor for me throughout the pandemic. Then the song came to life when I recorded it with my friend Charlie Dahlke (of The Brazen Youth) at Ashlawn Recording Company. We incorporated all these found sounds from iPhone recordings that I had taken on rainy walks in the woods at home in Maine, and then added harmonies from Jess Kerber, guitar riffs from Will Orchard, pedal steel from Matt Phillips, and then Charlie worked some synth magic at the end of the track to open it up into this cool Phoebe Bridgers-esque outro. I recorded the guitar and vocals alone, just as I’d written it, and we ran it through a tape machine for this grainy 70’s folk nostalgic vibe.
‘Adrienne’ is not only my first release in two years, but it’s also the first song in which I open up about my sexuality. I’m queer and it’s a huge part of my identity. It feels important to explore that in my music.”
Check out the song below, out everywhere tomorrow, October 15th.