Here’s something unusual. Our specialist subject is female singer-songwriters, and in the chair we welcome Rosabella Gregory, who has no interest whatsoever in trying to persuade you she’s the next Amy, or Dusty, or Joni.
Gregory, a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music, is too much her own musician to pull any of those comparitive tricks. She arrives at her self-produced ‘Uncovered’ EP, newly digitally-released by Bermuda Records, with a rich resumé to her name and an equally tasty stew of influences.
Her delightfully involving songs feature page-turning narratives and piano detail as elegant as classic architecture. They speak as much of classical music and American folk as they do of classic songwriters, fuelled by a personal soundtrack that has embraced both Beethoven and Billy Joel, both Tori Amos and Metallica.
All of that cultural DNA makes up the singular style of the Hertfordshire-born daughter of an Egyptian father and Indian mother, who came together from disparate cultural backgrounds and raised the Gregory sisters within a stone’s throw of remote Dartmoor.
With a grandmother who studied, also as a pianist, at the Vienna Conservatoire, music was part of the bloodline. Less clear is the creative influence of her 98-year-old grandfather who, according to Rosabella, is under the impression that Cliff Richard is still the king of pop.
But it was that close-knit upbringing in the Devon village of Ivybridge that not only cemented the family together but made Rosabella know, beyond doubt, that she wanted to pursue the mysterious allure of a musical vocation.
She believes that her awareness of different cultures from an early age helped to open her eyes and ears. “There must be something in my parents’ union that affected all of us kids,” she says, “that you had two people seemingly from opposite ends of the spectrum. I have so much appreciation for how radical my parents’ move was. Ivybridge was cut off, and you can imagine we were probably the only mixed family there for miles. We were in a little bubble, I guess.”
She took ballet and piano lessons, and was writing at the tender age of seven on an old upright piano that her mum and dad bought for a tenner at a local auction. It’s proved to be a smart investment.
The wiley, windy moors that Kate Bush once sang about have been muse to many an artist, and the young Rosabella was definitely affected. “I can relate to the idea of sitting at my keyboard, and looking out of the window at the moors, being the point that every song probably came from, because I had a yearning to belong.
Rosabella collaborated with her unidentical twin, Dina, in a partnership that continues to this day. From early on, it was a successful partnership. At a young age, they were winning such prizes as the ENO Original Opera competition in 1992, the BBC Pebble Mill Song For Christmas in 1993, the Yamaha Rock and Pop Awards 1994 and the Vivien Ellis Prize 1997.
She certainly is now, thanks to the many, varied experiences she’s gathered since. As Dina went to Oxford, Rosabella “blagged” her own university interview for Cambridge, but then opted instead to go to King’s College in London, where “I was almost kicked off the course for playing piano at three in the morning.
Gregory graduated to her own publishing deal with Bucks Music and live bookings far and wide, including Ronnie Scott’s, the Jazz Café and the equally history-steeped Bitter End in New York. Her great versatility is underlined again by a list of credits that includes string arrangements for Faroese rock band Gestir and erstwhile English popsters Busted, and live and television work with Craig David.
“I’m not singing about me. I’m a conduit to the stories that I sing about. For an artist like me, the main goal is to get that one person connecting to you.”