The 405 is proud to premiere Gemma Hayes' exclusive new single 'Laughter' from her latest album Bones + Longing. The Irish singer-songwriter's released her debut album, Night On My Side, in 2002 which received instant acclaim and garnered her an international audience. Since then Hayes has released four subsequent albums and has made the move from major label to independent artist.

Her fifth album, Bones + Longing, is the work of a musician who has honed in on the essentials of what she loves, while exploring new textures and sounds.

In her interview with Andrew Darley, she discusses the happiness she has found in being independent, how the media became a distraction early in her career and the history behind her new single 'Laughter'.

'Laughter' has a history in that it was on your album, Let It Break, but in a different form under the title 'There's Only Love'. What brought you back to that song on this album?

Well 'Laughter' is actually the original version. I wrote it years ago but it never fitted the mood of Let It Break so I took the bones of it and wrote 'There's Only Love' which is the same song lyrically and melodically. For Bones + Longing, 'Laughter' was intended to be a bonus track hidden at the end. For a giggle during the mastering process I suggested starting the album it. I know it's not the done thing to reuse a song on another album but I just loved the energy of the original recording.

Do the two versions have different meanings for you?

When I re-recorded it, the song became more poppier and synth-driven on Let It Break. The original version on this album is a much more cynical. Lyrically I'm singing the same thing but I'm singing it in a way that means the laughter that I hear is not real and that's all we ever hear.

On that point, melancholy and exploring the human condition has been a focal point of your music since the first album. However, on Let It Break and Bones + Longing there seems to be direct references to anxiety. Have the past few years been an anxious period?

There's been a lot of upheaval and walking into the unknown. I moved to three different countries: Los Angeles, Ireland and the UK. On Let It Break, I realized that no matter where I was, I was never happy so I needed to figure that all out. It sounds like a negative thing but writing that album was quite hopeful in getting out of a situation. Even though my lyrics may have been a little morose at times, I always ensured there was a lightness in the production to balance it.

Do you think there's a different perspective between these two records?

Definitely. I love Let It Break but I labored over it whereas Bones + Longing was a much freer experience because I decided I not to go for perfect takes but the one that felt honest. There's a lot of first-takes on this record because it's impossible to sing something ten times and still mean it. The sentiment is way more exposed.

There are so many different styles but also productions too. 'Palamino' is very different to 'Chasing' which is very different to 'To Be Your Honey'. Do you feel that you have broadened your palette?

I'd like to think so. I've always been told that my albums meander way too much. Someone said to me that my debut goes from country to folk, to pop and rock all in one album. When I write a song, I deal with that song and give it what it needs. Sometimes when I put songs together, they go right around the houses. The common thread is my guitar playing and my voice.

In terms of lyrics, one song that really strikes me on the record is 'Caught'. Do you think you have become better at capturing big emotions in simpler terms?

No one has ever mentioned that song so thank you for bringing it up! 'Caught' for me is quite an intense song - the sentiment is so strong and it didn't need to be cluttered with anything. It's a song that the lyrics just needed to be heard. It's a very hopeful song.

Another thing I noticed is that its opening line "Alone is such a simple word" is also to first line of 'To Be Beside You' on Let It Break. Is that another connection between the two records?

It is! I actually found on a forum where people had written about lines and words that I use a lot. That line has been with me for ages. It's such an empty line that I didn't want there to be a chorus so I dropped it. Writing this album, I was listening to old ideas and the concept of 'Caught' came to me. I now feel brave enough to put it out there as a two minute song and it says what it does.

Where does the songwriting process begin for you?

The very, very beginning starts with me just day-dreaming. I need to be in a place where I can just drift off and follow a thought. When I do that, I usually hear a melody or think of a line that will inspire the idea for a song. I always start with the melody and lyrics are secondary. A melody will conjure up an emotion and I use that to form the words. Sometimes a melody can say everything I want.

In your Pledge campaign video for this album you made a very good point about how the promotional cycle of a record creates a separation between the performer and the audience, for example, an album could be finished months before it comes out while you've already creatively moved onto the next one. Has releasing music through your own label changed your creative process?

It didn't change what I do but I gave me more confidence. When I was signed, you made an album in a bubble and the record label takes it and manufactures it. They tell me what the release date and all of that. The only time I get to see who listens to my music is when I perform live and when I talk to them afterwards. With Pledge, I was talking to the people who listen to my music before I even made the album. You always go into making a record riddled with doubt and it's not until you fall in love with what you're making that you begin to believe in it. This time around, I realized that there were people who really gave a shit about my music. It gave me such a boost and really inspired me. They trusted me which made me trust myself.

Going back to the beginning, Night On My Side really shone a spotlight on you both in Ireland and internationally. Do you think you ready for that level of success and attention that it brought?

100% not. There was such a hype around it that I took three years to make my second album. Looking back, I feel blessed that it never fully took off. I was fine with the music and gigs, what terrified me was the media and hearing nasty things. I realized that I hadn't built up any form of defense in myself - I was quite young and I cared what people said. I remember being at the Mercury Music Awards with all the photographers and everyone in my face, I just thought it was a nightmare. It was really intrusive and I don't have that thick-skin for this industry. It was youth and me not being sure of myself. I was sure of my creativity but I didn't spend any time on building coping mechanisms. I would be far better equipped for it because it now means nothing to me.

Have your goals changed of what you want for your music career?

When I started playing music, I simply wanted to make the best that I could and have people hear that - it was that simple. I lost that purity and when I got involved in the industry and I got cloudy around what I wanted. There was a moment when I wanted success more than I wanted a connection with people. I have come back to how it was in the beginning.

From your albums to date it's clear that you have a knack for writing great alternative pop songs. PJ Harvey said about in recent years that she could create several songs in the style she knows people love her for but she's not interested in that. Instead she finds it more interesting to push her sound out and unearthing something new music. Would you feel that way about your music?

I wouldn't personally. I love pop music and how pop songs can be universal and break new ground. I know we're all sick of it now but the Goyte song 'Somebody I Used To Know' was instantly hooky, melodic, interesting and brave. I would love to have that thing where millions of people just get it instantly. As a test to myself, I would love to write a universal pop song that breaks new ground.

Looking into the future, have you begun work on a new record?

I've begun writing ideas but it's really far away. I would love to do a piano album but I'd probably need to become better at it. There's hints of piano of my previous works but never fully dived into it. I can hear an old, clumsy piano but it's beautiful as well. I can see my own potential in making a piano album, an instrumental record or forming a punk rock band. Being on my own label, there's a good chance that I will just go ahead and do it. My career is based on the creativity, as it should be.


Bones + Longing is out now and Gemma will be playing in London's Union Chapel on November 30th.