Some may think it’s risky waiting four years to release a follow-up to a debut album. But in the case of singer-songwriter Jem (Jemma Griffiths) — who recently issued “Down To Earth” — timing is everything.
The 33-year-old Wales native, who now lives in L.A., doesn’t have the typical pop star story. “When I was younger I didn’t have that ‘I want to be a star’ thing,” she admits. Following her parent’s wishes, she went to college to study law, with no plans to practice it. Although she has written songs on her piano since age 10, her family didn’t realize the extent of her passion. “I just knew in my heart that I loved writing music and what it did to my soul.”
This story first appeared in the October 6, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
After receiving her law degree, Griffiths entered the music business by becoming an agent to U.K.-based DJ/record producer Adam Freeland while running his record label. She then started to record her own songs, influenced by a wide range of music from soul to hip-hop to classical and dance beats. Soon after, she ventured to L.A. and got a break at KCRW radio station, where she dropped off her demo. They played her music for a year before she teamed up with producer Guy Sigsworth back in the U.K. Sigsworth produced her songs and then they went on to cowrite “Nothing Fails,” which ended up on Madonna’s 2003 album “American Life.” Shortly after, she was signed to Dave Matthews’ label, ATO Records.
Following the 2004 release of her debut “Finally Woken,” Griffiths’ songs appeared on shows like “Desperate Housewives,” “Six Feet Under,” “The O.C.” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” She even showed up on “The O.C.” as a wedding singer covering Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed.” In 2006, she started working on her follow-up, which was ready last year — but then her label underwent reorganization, delaying its release.
This situation would put some artists into a state of hysteria, but not Griffiths. Last year she kept busy writing a TV pilot with her actor fiancé Joey Mendicino. “To be honest, it hasn’t bothered me because then the ‘Sex and the City’ thing happened and I feel like everything happened at the right time.” Griffiths’ song “It’s Amazing” scored placement synched to the scene where Carrie dyes her hair brown in the movie, and the tune ended up on the soundtrack album.
And perhaps “SATC” rubbed off in other ways. When she tours this fall, Griffiths plans to ditch her trainers from her first tour and be more fashion-forward. “I haven’t performed in heels yet,” she confesses, but looks forward to road testing brands like Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin. “I have to find some [heels] where I’m not going to break my neck.”
And although she favors Diesel and Juicy Couture in her everyday life and Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana for events, she’s hoping to work with a particular designer on her tour wardrobe if she headlines rather than supports. “I’m not going to say who, but I’d like them to put together some clothes that make it a show like art so that between the visuals and the music, it all kind of connects,” she says. “I think if you’re going to do a show, it’s good to put on a show and I think fashion is superimportant for that.”