Q & A: Gamu Nhengu

Ready for the Limelight: Gamu

Ready for the Limelight: Gamu

After a dramatic appearance on the X Factor three years ago, Zimbabwe born Gamu Nhengu was propelled into the limelight. 2010 saw the then 18-year-old thrust into a media storm surrounding her controversial exit from the reality show prompting 250,000 people to sign a Facebook petition demanding her return. The exit also saw her X Factor mentor Cheryl Cole receive death threats after deciding to take the seemingly less popular Cher Lloyd and Katie Waissel into the final.

Her brief stint on the show also meant her life was under microscopic lens so when questions were raised about her visa she was embroiled in yet another media storm.

Now 21, the singer, who moved to Scotland when she was just 13, has put ‘Gamu-Gate’ behind her and is preparing to release a new single and new album. MOBO caught up with Gamu to tell us more about her single release.

It’s been three years since we saw you on the X factor, what have you been doing in that time?

I’ve been working on the album. When I left the show I had a lot of offers I had to sift through and I had to decide what I wanted to do. In the end, I chose to go with a family owned independent label. I felt really comfortable with them as they gave me the chance to take my time on this record, to grow and to give me time to write all my own stuff. I don’t think I would have gotten that chance if I had picked a bigger label. They gave me a couple of years to write it and now it’s done. And I’m really excited.

You have a new single coming out next month, can you tell us a bit about it and how you’re feeling about its release?

My first single is called ‘Shake The Room’ which is just a really fun song. I’m nervous about what’s to come but really excited at the same time. I’ve been working on it for so long and I can’t wait to know what people think of it.

The video for ‘Shake The Room’ takes on a Motown theme. Is that what you grew up listening to?

I grew up listening to a lot of things but one of my first influences was sixties Motown because that’s what my mum used to play around the house. She used to have this Tina Turner cassette she would listen to all the time. That’s my early memory of music. I’d listen to other stuff including pop and R&B but as I got older I started going back to that old time genre.

You’re releasing your debut album this year, what can we expect from it?

It’s called A Love Like This which will be out early summer. There are 12 songs on it and you can expect to hear songs about love, heartbreak and day to day trials of a woman. I drew a lot of inspiration from people like Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner so expect some old school songs about love with a modern twist.

Do you have a personal favourite from the album?

I’d probably say ‘Shake The Room’ and a song called ‘Broken Arrow’ are my favourites on the record because they’re so free. I love them all, though, they’re my babies.

What artists are you listening to at the moment?

I’m listening to Emelie Sande. Her writing is really beautiful, she’s such a great song writer – I definitely admire her. I love Adele, she’s fantastic. I love Jessie J and Bruno Mars is really good.

When did you realise you could sing?

I performed a lot when I was younger I was always in plays and productions so I grew up doing it to the point where it used to annoy my mum. The older I got the more serious I got and realised I could carry a tune. I just trained the muscle and kept working at it.

Why did you apply for The X Factor?

I was in my gap year and trying to save up for university, I didn’t want to have to ask my mum to pay for me as it was quite a lot of money to ask for. I thought if I got into X Factor someone might see me and ask me to play at their hotel or something, pay me and that way I would be able to save up for my fees. I felt being on the show would be the equivalent of handing out my business card.

There was a lot of controversy surrounding your exit from the show and then about your visa. How did you feel about the hysteria of ‘Gamu – Gate’?

It was a lot to have to deal with. There were things that were said and written that were not true and I had to get my head around that. I had to except that other side of being in the public eye. If anything it made me stronger because it showed me how the industry can be. The visa issue was not as big as it was made out to be but it comes with being in the public eye. It definitely wasn’t as it was portrayed but it comes with the territory.

Did you feel cheated when you were not chosen for the X Factor finals?

As a judge you need to choose the artist that represents you and pick the person you feel you’d be able to help and I guess she {Cheryl} didn’t get that with me. When I left I had so many offers of people wanting to work with me that I didn’t dwell on it. In some ways it worked in my favour as I got to be in the show but also got to leave before it got too serious. I was able to take a step back, grow and work on the album. It’s very much me and I don’t think I would have been able to do that with a big label.

Are you trying to break away from the X Factor affiliations?

I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the Show. The X Factor was my platform, where people know me from. But, I hope as more and more of my own stuff is released, I’ll be known as an artist in my own right.

How are you dealing with being well known?

I don’t really deal with it. It doesn’t really cross my mind that people know who I am. I just stick to being me and focus on my music. It is kind of pointless worrying about it.

If you could collaborate with another artist, dead or alive, who would it be?

I think I’d collaborate with someone who is completely different to me like a rapper. 2Pac would have been awesome. Lisa Left Eye also. I used to listen to her a lot and I cried when she passed away. She’s where I got the inspiration to rap on ‘Shake The Room’. I was a massive fan.

Finally, can you describe your album in three words for us?

Motown, soulful and quirky.

Source: MOBO

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