By Nicole Hanratty
Posted May 27, 2013
One listen to “Shake The Room” and it’s clear, the artist whom made Simon Cowell a “Walking On Sunshine” fan has come back strong from her three years out of the UK X Factor spotlight. The 2010 contestant Gamu Nhengu is a Zimbabwean-born singer whom has taken her time to develop her sound and forthcoming debut album.
A bit of a controversy surrounded Gamu’s departure from the show when Cheryl Cole decided not to keep Gamu, which caused a massive uproar by Gamu’s fans. One week after it aired there was news that Gamu’s mother had to straighten out their visa paperwork (which was fixed with one brief court appearance.) Rumors began to circulate that Gamu was actually removed from the show because of immigration concerns but says Gamu, “I don’t see how it would have been an issue. I went home and when it was aired, I had known for weeks that I hadn’t got through. And when I got through, yeah, when it was aired, like a week later, that’s when these supposed controversies came out. So it was definitely a very big chunk of space in-between those two incidents. But it came to people’s minds who see it on TV and then read in the papers, it’s the same, it happened at the same time. But it didn’t happen at the same time.”
Having moved to Scotland when she was just thirteen Gamu still has a lot of family in Zimbabwe and identifies herself most certainly as a Zimbabwean baby, but says she has grown into a Scottish woman. Although Gamu’s spent almost an equal amount of time in Zimbabwe and in Scotland–and most definitely sounds like a Scot–she says she feels like she’s got two homes, “if that’s not too greedy.”
Although I was speaking to Gamu while she was in Scotland, it felt as if she was in the same room as me. Gamu’s every bit a fashion loving spunky 20-something year old on fire with fresh energy and her voice over the speaker phone filled my office with her vintage spunky vibe. While Gamu says she would like to attend Uni one day to study philosophy this girl seems to have a pretty good philosophy on life already, “you just have to grow up and deal with it.” We chatted fashion, memories of Zimbabwe and dancing like a dork. Read my interview with Gamu and get ready to “Shake The Room!”
Nicole: Hi, Gamu.
Gamu: Hi, how are you?
Nicole: I’m great. How are you?
Gamu: Yeah, I’m not too bad. I’m not too bad.
Nicole: Well, it’s an honor to speak with you and meet the girl who turned Simon Cowell into a “Walking On Sunshine∫ fan.
Gamu: Yeah. [laughs]
Nicole: I mean honestly, who doesn’t love Katrina and the Waves?
Gamu: Exactly! It’s a classic.
Nicole: Well, so we’ll start there. That song sort of kick started your career, and it seems very much that with the release of “Shake The Room,” you are now walking on sunshine. So maybe you could tell me what that feels like?
Gamu: I don’t know. I mean I took a break after I left X Factor, and I was just kind of trying to get my head around just the whole kind of being in the industry and being in the media and stuff like that. I took three years out. So now that “Shake The Room” has come out, it’s really exciting because it’s been kind of like three years in the making. I’ve waited a long time. So I’m really excited to get it out, but kind of nervous, as well, because it’s a song I wrote. I’m definitely very, very excited.
Nicole: In the initial video I saw of you making it on X Factor, you said that when you were going to go off to Boot Camp, you were going to go show them your personality within your music.
Nicole: I’m wondering what you think “Shake The Room” tells us about your personality?
Gamu: I don’t know. That I’m a dork and I have really, really embarrassing dance moves?
Nicole: [laughs] No way! I’m not buying it!
Gamu: [laughs] I guess “Shake The Room” is just such a fun track, and it’s a really, really good kind of example of what the album is going to be about. It’s kind of like old school, but still really fun and young. And I am only 21, but I have been listening to all of this like Aretha and Tina and stuff like that since I was really young. But then with the old school dances and the fun outfits, it’s just really, really girlie and fun, and that’s just what I am, really. I’m not—well, I can be quite serious and things like that, but I’m just a really big dork, really.
Nicole: Well, because you brought up the dresses and referencing the video–which is so much fun—in it you’re pulling together like you said the vintage with something that’s current and hip. Could you tell me what inspired making that video and how you chose those particular dresses?
Gamu: The one that we chose I think we just liked it, because it wasn’t going to be too complicated, and it was just going to fade in from the different eras, which is what “Shake The Room” is all about. It was just going to be really simple. We didn’t want anything that was going to be too much and detract from the song itself. So the simplicity of the video was really, really good. And I think with the video just it being me by myself, I think it was just kind of a sign to show that I’ve just kind of done everything by myself. I haven’t let like external influences kind of like influence my music or influence the decisions that I make, because I took so long. So I think that was the idea of it being me by myself just to show that I have taken my time, and I’ve done it by myself. And the different kind of outfits and the different eras and the color grading and stuff is to show kind of the different eras that have inspired my music.
Nicole: Well, I think you pulled it off beautifully.
Gamu: Well, thank you. Thank you so much.
Nicole: I noticed very much in your fashion choices, you do seamlessly mix vintage and modern and you pull that into your own personal style. I’m curious what inspires your fashion sense and do you ever have a desire to design your own label?
Gamu: Yeah. I don’t really know what inspires my fashion sense. I just like anything that is different, and I definitely like mixing vintage with modern, because then you’re not just like taking clothes off a mannequin in a shop. You’re creating your own thing. I’m just all about thinking artistically with everything that I do, and I would definitely like to start off my own, or just design my own fashion line at some point. It’s always been something that I’ve wanted to do since I was really young. So if get to do that, that would be really cool.
Nicole: Can you share with me a few memories of growing up in Zimbabwe?
Gamu: School, school that I was not very fond of. I was a massive tomboy when I was younger. I was just such a boy, and I just remember always getting into trouble for doing something I shouldn’t be doing. Jumping people’s fences, always getting hurt falling out of trees. Just like do stupid things on my bike and getting hurt. I was such, such, such a massive tomboy. But I also remember just loving music. And I remember like TLC and I remember like Salt-n-Pepa, just listening to that kind of music and being like oh, yes, that’s what I want to be like. So that’s what I remember about being at home.
Nicole: Most girls your age are thinking about dating and having fun, and you seem to have …
Nicole: You seem to have such a reasonable head on your shoulders. I’m wondering, do you think that comes from having a single mom?
Gamu: Yes. I was just about to say that. Definitely. Definitely. You know, Mom has to be mom and dad when she’s at home. But when she’s working, then I had to be mom, you know, so you just kind of have to grow up really quickly. You have to learn to do a lot of things that other kids wouldn’t be able to do, and to just learn to start helping your mom. So when mom is bad cop, you’re got the good cop. When mom wants to be good cop, then you be bad cop to the kids. Because I’ve got two little brothers. You just kind of have to, you just have to grow up and deal with it. So definitely.
Nicole: Do you play any other instruments—or do you just sing?
Gamu: Yes, I kind of started to learn kind of like the guitar. My boyfriend is a guitarist, and he’s kind of tried to teach me and stuff, but I have no patience. It’s so bad. Like he taught me like three chords, and I just stuck to three chords, and I was just writing music with them. And he was just like try others. I was like I don’t have time to learn the chords! I just want to write music. I think I just take, I take it for granted that I can write music—I can write a song, without any instrument. I’ve always been able to do that, so I think I’ve always taken for granted the fact that I don’t play an instrument. I’m like, meh, I don’t need it. But I really should. I really should concentrate on my guitar. It’s sitting at home, just kind of gathering dust. Sometimes I like to put my clothes, use it as a hanger.
Nicole: I’ve heard that you’ve say that your mom likes your room tidied every day. I’m wondering aside from tidying your room, can you tell me three things you do daily without fail?
Gamu: Three things I do daily—well, I shower. I’ve got to, I shower. I eat. I shower, I eat … and I write music, I guess. I’ve got to write something every day. Yeah, those are the three things that I do without fail.
Nicole: Is there a tour in your future?
Gamu: Yeah, we’re working on dates just now, and I think in the next two weeks, I think, they’re going to be posted on the official Twitter website and Facebook. So I’m very excited!
Nicole: I hope I get to come see you live.
Gamu: I hope so! That would be awesome!
Nicole: It was so great to talk to you today, Gamu.
Gamu: Thank you for calling me. It was fun! Thank you so much!
WE ASKED GAMU
What song title best describes your personality?
Gamu: Probably Nelly Furtado’s Like A Bird because I’ve got a short attention span and birds sing. And they like to move from one thing to another.
What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Gamu: Flavor of ice cream! Blue Moon. Blue Moon is, it tastes like a vanilla, but it’s like blue, like a turquoise, and it’s got marshmallows in it. And it’s just the best thing in the world!
What is your favorite brand of jeans?
Gamu: Oh, I like the Topshop Jamie Soft jeans. They are really comfy. Because I have a big butt, and it’s pretty hard to shop for jeans. But they are super comfy. So yes, definitely.
What is your all time favorite book?
Gamu: Oh, I read this book—you know when you read a book and you really get into the character’s lives and everything and you feel like you’re totally best friends at the end of it? See, I kind of feel like that with every book, but I’ve recently finished reading The Fault In Our Stars. Have you read it?
What are your favorite stores to shop in?
Gamu: Urban Outfitters. Definitely. I love Urban Outfitters. Every time you go in, they’re playing music from the 90’s. I just love that. I love that. So yeah, Topshop, Urban Outfitters, and Zara for like little tidbits. Because Zara kind of looks like, they do pieces kind of like Jason Wu and Balenciaga, kind of like those kind of discrete kind of designs. Like the jackets and stuff. So Zara is really good for that. Yeah, I think those few. I go to H&M for like other stuff.
What is the last album you purchased or downloaded?
Gamu: I just re-downloaded “Stripped” by Christina Aguilera. I had it on CD and I think I sat on it. I got an iPhone and I just thought I might as well just put the album back on to my phone, because I haven’t listened to it in ages. Awesome album.