PHILIP KEY meets
a singer he thinks is called Gayna Florence Perry. But there's more
to her than meets the eye …
On a first meeting,
Gayna Florence Perry comes across as bright, amusing and outgoing. The
singer from Liverpool has an infectious laugh and a sunny disposition.
But one suspects there is a lot more beneath the superficial showbusiness
gloss, a mind at work that is constantly examining and evaluating.
It is a feeling enhanced when you study details of a new show which
she will be per¬forming at the Voodoo Room in Liverpool's Life Cafe
It's My Party carries the description: "A restrained gallop through
a minefield of disas¬trous relationships." And she admits that
the song series - all-self penned - is based on per¬sonal experience.
Not that Gayna is giving too much away - not even her name.
When we meet for our interview in a Liver¬pool pub, she is Gayna
Florence Perry. But, as a performer, she once went under the name of
Gayna Rose Madder.
"I took that name after having a dream about it," she announces.
"Madder is a paint box col¬our and I had a dream that I was
being inter¬viewed and the interviewer asked why I called myself
Rose Madder. I explained that it was a pigment of my imagination."
Now she has reverted to her real name. Well, almost. Gayna and Florence
are real but Perry is not her surname. "I had a different surname
but I'm not pre¬pared to divulge that," she says mys¬teriously,
before bursting into laughter.
Born in Liverpool, music properly came into her life when she went to
art college. "Like everyone who goes to art college, I got into
"I did various jobs but I was always in bands when I was doing
them. Then I was offered a fairly good con¬tract, a teaching job,
which would have meant a career." She turned it down.
"I made the sensible decision to stay in music and commit myself
to a life of penury."
Eventually, she moved to London where she established herself as a singer
while taking on teaching jobs, generally on the music side.
She sang with jazz groups and clas¬sical ensembles - by this time
she was Rose Madder - and was doing well enough, including making a
number of recordings on independent labels.
But, two years ago, she decided to return to Liverpool.
"There were a number of reasons but it was mainly for my health.
I suffer from asthma, and in my last year in London I ended up in hospital
twice with asthma-related problems. Liverpool is better than London
me - good old clean Liverpool!"
She still had music contracts in London and for a while had to com¬mute
between the two cities. But, after taking an academic job in Liv¬erpool
- "to pay the mortgage" - she set about helping start up an
enter¬tainment business with two friends and working on a musical.
The business Strange Attractions has taken around 18 months to set up
and will have its own website.
The musical is It's My Party, not so much a traditional musical as a
series of songs linked by occasional verse. "I recorded the music,
the whole thing is self written and is entirely based on my own experi¬ences
- so I can't blame anyone else."
It is a new departure for her: "I am moving into a completely new
area," she says.
"I looked back on some of my songs and I realised there was a theme
run¬ning through them all. And I have always felt that a positive
thing to do with experiences is to do something creative with them.
It all started to fall into place very quickly.
"It is all done to music, some of it songs, some of it narrative
- I hate to use the word poetry because it sounds so pompous, and it's
not exactly poetry but lyrics spoken rather than sung."
But are the songs about relation¬ships or other matters? "What
other matters are there?" she laughs. "But they're not about
bombs, politics, causes or religion. Everything one does in life is
really an interaction with someone else, and not just on a one-to-one
"I hope the songs are insightful and humorous in places. My own
life has involved a series of interesting rela¬tionships in the
broadest sense, just interactions with people - you can can have a relationship
just going into the bank to draw out money."
When pressed, she reports that she is unmarried - "never have been
and don't want to be." But then she points out that perhaps the
show's sub-title might be a bit misleading, partly for the need of a
"Really, the central relationship has to be with yourself and that's
what you've got to get right. If you do get that right, you stand a
better chance of having non-disastrous relationships.
"In the show, I try to explore that in a light-hearted way and
hopefully give people a laugh and a sense of identification."
The Tuesday performance is part of a bill by women performers staged
by the new company Strange Attrac¬tors for the Merseyside Women's
Festival: American-born, Liverpool¬based singer Andrea Brown will
be giving a vocal tribute to female divas, Karen Jones will sing blues
and jazz, and poet Morag Reid will also be performing.
Gayna's contribution will be high¬lights from her musical. The full
show will run around two hours, this selection - chosen for the women/s
festival - will run just 45 minutes.
The full musical she hopes to stage soon: "It's important to me,
in that I have put a lot of time and energy into it," she says.
"But, if for some reason it doesn't happen, I will still go on.
I have committed myself to a life in music and I will just go on and
do something else."