EAST VILLAGE, NY—A singer-songwriter needs a story to share, and Sadie Jemmett has had more experiences than all of the population born in her village in Cambridge, England. Throughout her childhood, she was shuttled between her father, an actor, a mother who also was an actor and became a priest, and a succession of families with whom she boarded. By age 11, she’d already run away from half a dozen homes. In yet another foster home at age 12, she discovered music and subsequently taught herself guitar, her first anchor in life. At 16, she started life on her own and moved to Edinburgh, from where she began a year on the road as a backing singer for a reggae band. She became an au pair in Switzerland, enrolled in and dropped out of a drama college in London, spent a year working with adults with learning difficulties in Scotland, joined a band in London and another band in Berlin, hitchhiked through Spain and sang in bars, wrote the music for a couple of plays and wrote songs and poetry in various cities in Ireland.
At age 21, she returned to Sussex, England, enrolled in a drama course and formed the band Soil, then joined a touring theatre company, writing the music and performing in the show around Europe as far as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. She settled in Paris and collaborated on the music for Resonance, which won a Moliere award. It led to more theatre work, including writing the music for a production of Brecht’s TheGood Person Of Szechwan. In the meantime, however, she had a child. Back in London, living with her daughter Thalia in a two-room flat in Camden, she began performing as a solo artist. Jemmett’s debut solo album, The Blacksmith’s Girl, was the distillation of Sadie’s life story. Mostly written over 2010, the confessional songs were about coming to terms with her often traumatic past. These Days is her 2014 follow-up album which tells about her maturation into the life as a working mother playing and living in London, England.
In more recent times, Sadie Jemmett performed in a stage production at the Ellen Stewart La MaMa Theatre in Manhattan’s East Village. Tonight, she returned to the neighborhood to perform at Annie O.’s invitation-only music series at Chez Andre in The Standard hotel. Performing solo on acoustic guitar, many of the songs offered panoramic views of people and places in northern London or evoked universally-shared sentiments of love and loss. The songs were moving and beautiful, and her soft and soulful vocal delivery was honest and compelling. At times, she sounded like a traditional balladeer, a poetic troubadour from the 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene. Her lyrics revealed someone who was sorting out her jagged life but who was also in the process of coming to peaceful terms with it. Ironically, Jemmett’s performance was less confessional or cathartic than one might have expected from someone with such a remarkably peripatetic journey. She barely scratched the surface of the unique and wildly restless spirit that nurtured her to find expression in the arts. This indicates that an even richer wealth of creativity is yet to come from the talented and accomplished singer-songwriter.