DP The Interview


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 on Tuesday.
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 a band.
"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 for
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 basis.
"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 snappy title.
"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."