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AT FLANNELS:   with Gemma B

AT FLANNELS: with Gemma B

“That’s one of the beautiful things about Belfast; is that it’s a city, but it’s not a massive city, and everyone is so close, it’s quite a tight knit community.”

Singer, songwriter and radio host Gemma Bradley is unafraid to be different. 

Growing up in the rural town of Draperstown, 40 miles outside of Belfast, Gemma was inspired to start making music when she attended Glasgowbury Festival. Taking place in the Sperrin Mountains the festival showcases emerging talent from the local area. While these tended to be indie bands and folk singers, Gemma was motivated by their proximity. “I want to be able to come from a rural area and do that,” she remembers thinking. “I guess that’s what really drove me on to do music in general.”

She’d relocate to Belfast to be closer to the creative scene there, and found that being in the city allows her to be her true authentic self. “Moving to the city really has changed my style, sound, how I express myself as a person. I’m just more free now,” she explains. “I know a lot of people will say there’s a divide because we’re Northern Ireland, but I think through fashion and creativity and music we’re all one.”

Having started songwriting after learning to play guitar, her early sound blended influences from contemporary R&B singer-songwriters like Mahalia, Corinne Bailey Rae and Izzy Bizu to local folk musicians. Moving to Belfast gave her the confidence to lean even further into her unapologetic pop sensibilities: “I absolutely love melodies that are really hooky and grab my attention,” she says. “Which is kind of like my style I guess, because I love things that grab my attention straight away.”
When it comes to her autumn outfits, Gemma doesn’t like to over-think what she’s wearing, naturally choosing statement pieces - like the Tiger Knit Dress and All Over Skirt from Kenzo. “I am a presenter, I am a musician, so when I am wearing my clothes that is another extension of myself and that is another part of me that I’m showing to people,” she says of her transitional style. “I can’t step out the house in pyjamas!”

One of the few Black voices on Irish radio, Gemma has become a champion for local talent and a role model for the next generation. She’s particularly excited about acts who are redefining and broadening perceptions of Irish music with the emergence of new pop, R&B and hip-hop artists from Northern Ireland in recent years. “Those sounds are me in my truest form,” she says. “I think growing up I’ve always been a bit different to other people and I’ve always felt that. So I think that is represented in my music with those kind of sounds that, you know, it is a little bit different, and it’s me. That’s just who I am.”

Interview by Grant Brydon 

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