The Live and Unsigned competition aims to give unsigned artists their big break. St Andrews singer songwriter Gems McAdam is one hopeful, through to the regional finals in Glasgow. Might she be the next big thing? Interview by Rosalie Lindqvist Jones
If you got a mysterious answerphone message from someone telling you to apply to a competition would you do it? Probably not, and it would almost certainly be a wise decision, who knows what dodgy stuff you could be signing up for. However when Gems McAdam picked up a voicemail from someone she has never managed to identify telling her to apply to Live and Unsigned she took the plunge, paid the five pounds admin fee and signed up. This leap of faith is the reason I got to chat to her about her success in the first round and how she was feeling about the upcoming regional finals.
Gems McAdam is a local who has deep roots in St Andrews, she spent her younger years at school here and then swapped roles teaching Music at Madras college. She is also a fantastic singer who performed regularly at The Byre, Aikmans and once even in Costa (she assures me it was more glamorous than it sounds). Always passionate about making music and never much good at anything else she admits she fantasised about being Whitney Houston and used to wander around singing to herself. She has a lovely voice, that she describes as ‘pretty’, ‘it’s just me and my voice’, which sounds quite simply charming.
Despite this delightful sound and great passion Gems is the first to admit that making it in the music business seems like a completely unrealistic dream. This is why Live and Unsigned exists. It is a competition that aims to provide musicians like Gems with an opportunity to get noticed, a platform in which to get heard, quite literally. It searches out talent across the country through a series of auditions hosted by judges from within the music industry. It is a competition not simply based on raw talent, although Gems is pretty sure that without that you wouldn’t get anywhere, but also the effort put into publicity, image and music marketing skills. Live and Unsigned are searching for an act of any age and genre that are ready for the big time, committed and hard working.
The prizes are pretty snazzy, the top one consisting of £10,000 to spend on whatever you need to get your act off the ground, whether that be instruments, recording studio time, advertising or even a manager. However, there are also fantastic opportunities to play at festivals up for grabs. Considering Gems has never been to one before she is pretty excited about the prospect of playing to her friends at T in the Park, a slightly larger stage than usual. Despite these great opportunities Live and Unsigned insist the main idea is that simply by being auditioned you have an incredible opportunity, they hope that some artists won’t even need the prize and will manage to catch an industry eye. Unfortunately Gems is not quite at that stage yet, she still has to battle through the regional final in Glasgow and then, if fate goes her way, stand out at the final in the O2 arena in London.
The auditions themselves sound rather X Factor-esque, with eight judges sitting behind a desk at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow, chipper runners directing people with their clipboards and queues of nervous would be stars humming their songs nervously under their breath. Although I’m not sure the X Factor auditions have a bar, which apparently several artists partook in a little too heavily before their turn in front of the adjudicators. The acts all had to sing their own song in two very short minutes. Happily, Gems ‘Chasing Shadows’ went down a storm, despite her electric guitar failing on her at the last minute and beaming with joy she continues through to the next round.
If she gets through she says she will ‘just die from excitement’ and to actually win would be ‘amazing’. I ask what she would do with the prize money and her answer endears her to me even more ensuring my fingers are crossed for her on the 31st of March; She wants to record and tour Scotland but ‘It’s a bit lonely doing it on your own so ideally I would want to get together a little band to do it all with’.
If you want to have a listen to Gems, visit www.myspace.com/gemsmcadam