Sadie’s silence protest
Singer-songwriter Sadie Jemmett reveals the story behind her new single, her nomadic history, and the time she spent working as a juice seller a Camden Market
25 January, 2019 — By Róisín Gadelrab
Sadie Jemmet’s new song, Don’t Silence Me, will be launched at new venue Camden Chapel on March 14. Photo: Katie Nolan
I HOPE the song will be something people can sing out, even if they feel they can’t talk about what’s happened to them. I want it to be an anthem where they can at least sing and feel they’re not alone and that there are other people singing with them.”
Singer-songwriter – and one-time Camden Market juice seller – Sadie Jemmett is discussing new song Don’t Silence Me, inspired by the #MeToo movement and the personal experience of a close friend.
The single, out on March 8 (International Women’s Day) and due to be launched at new venue Camden Chapel on March 14, was written in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby revelations after friend Mhairi Morrison confided in Sadie that she had been drugged and assaulted by a famous film director.
“I could tell she was not in a good place,” says Sadie. “I could hear in her voice that something was very wrong. She had met this famous film director. He’d mentored her, given her a few breaks, introduced her to a few key people… he started to make moves on her and she very clearly said ‘I’m not interested’.
“One night she went out with him and he basically drugged her and she woke up in his apartment and didn’t know how she’d got there. He’d assaulted her although she’ll never know what happened.
“That makes it worse because you have no idea what’s happened, it’s a particular kind of thing to not have any memory.”
Soon after speaking to Mhairi, Sadie watched a documentary on Weinstein.
“I was thinking about my friend,” she said. “I grabbed a pen and paper and started to write down things as I was watching – I thought, I seem to be writing a song. So I wrote this song for my friend.”
A few months later Sadie was deliberating on songs to include in forthcoming album Phoenix.
“I wasn’t sure about this song,” she says. “It’s quite strong, clear, what I’m saying and I thought, what are people going to think? I took it to Vancouver and the producer said, ‘we have to absolutely record this’.”
Sadie sent Mhairi the recording.
“She had been through a very difficult time, through a state of PTSD, as had a lot of people who had had similar experiences, having kept it hidden for so long,” says Sadie.
“She was starting to come out of that and I sent her the song and she was really taken with it, really pleased and happy and loved it.”
The song came at the right time. Mhairi had started to find her voice, to tell her story and decided to crowdfund to make an accompanying video for the song, directed by filmmaker Jenn Page. Within 24 hours she had smashed her funding target, winning support from high-profile survivors from the #MeToo campaign. More than 40 women, including Lili Bernard, Louise Godbold, Chantal Cousineau, Sarah Anne Masse and Tasha Dixon, appear in the Don’t Silence Me video filmed in LA, many of them survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault, some of whom were victims of Weinstein and Cosby.
Sadie’s ability to write affecting songs comes from a nomadic history.
“I had a very unusual upbringing,” she says.
“I didn’t grow up conventionally, I grew up with different families but would go back to my dad at weekends. Mum was a free-spirited and complicated woman, so by the time I was 16 there was nobody really saying ‘come home, don’t stay out late’, so I decided to live on my own and pursue my dreams.
“Looking back on it I wish there had been a few more boundaries. There wasn’t really anything to run away from.”
Sadie began playing guitar aged 11 after a teacher’s wife took her under her wing. She soon worked through the songbooks of Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez.
“It was incredible, like I found a friend playing guitar and singing,” says Sadie. “It gave me something literally to hold on to and helped me deal with a lot of difficult emotional stuff you’d have when not living with your mother but living nearby.”
Having moved around for most of her life, Sadie had no qualms volunteering as backing singer for reggae band The African Ambassador after moving to study in Edinburgh.
“I was quite outspoken and said, ‘I think you need a backing singer’. They said, ‘do you know anybody?’ and I said ‘me’.
“I was underage for most of the clubs we played. I learned about performance because they were playing some quite big venues, supporting Desmond Dekker at one time. I learned about standing in front of a mic and singing in front of an audience, mic technique and harmonies.”
Sadie went on to busk in Berlin, live in London and work on an organic farm in Scotland all before the age of 21, going on to become a seasoned singer-songwriter and performer.
She adds: “I have a lot to write about, a lot of experiences to draw on, there’s quite a rich tapestry of experiences that I can access.”
Her song, Five Things That I Noticed As I Walked to Camden Square, is a reflection of the time she spent selling juice in Camden Market.
• Find further information about the Don’t Silence Me project at www.dontsilencemetoo.com or visit the Facebook page.