Sound Effect - Gemma Cairney

BBC Radio 1 DJ and presenter Gemma Cairney reveals the songs that soundtrack her life - from the first music she ever remembers hearing to the tracks that make her dance, cry and sing along...

Paul Nichols
  • By Paul Nichols
  • 2 Jan 2015
  • min read
Gemma Cairney is the voice of BBC Radio 1’s Early Breakfast Show, waking up listeners every weekday morning with a packed agenda of new music and showbiz gossip. Gemma joined BBC Radio 1Xtra in 2008 as the co-host of the weekday Breakfast Show with Trevor Nelson, and in 2011 she went on to host her own afternoon show on the network.

The former BRIT School pupil began her radio career at Channel 4 Radio, interviewing bands at summer festivals and pop concerts, before moving on to Kiss FM. An all-rounder, Gemma previously worked as a stylist for Florence + the Machine and the Pigeon Detectives, and co-presented Channel 4’s Big Brother’s Big Ears TV show.

The first music I remember hearing was…
Something smooth like Barry White or Alexander O’Neal… my mum and dad were suckers for both. I was obsessed with Barry White’s cover of Just the Way You Are - I remember loving what that song meant.

The first record I ever bought was…
Tina Moore’s Never Gonna Let You Go. I bought the single from Our Price. I was pretty young, too young to go raving or be a part of the speed garage scene, but I remember it enchanting me on Top of the Pops. I sometimes think I’m lucky not to have been an older teen in the nineties, I think I would’ve been led even further astray!

The last great record I listened to was…
I am on a constant mission to mix it up and listen to so many different things. I don’t want to get too stuck into any particular music. I listened to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon the other day when I was doing some work. I know it’s considered a seminal album, but I’m not sure I’ve paid attention before – that’s exactly why I chose to listen to it. I enjoyed the experience, but it did make me feel like I was slipping into some sort of hazy vortex.

The song I wish I’d written is…
Boom Shak-a-Lak by Apache Indian, cos it’s ludicrous and it works.

The song that makes me want to dance is…
Breathe by Sean Paul featuring Blu Cantrell.

The song that makes me cry is…
Bless the Telephone by Labi Siffre. I was listening to the new Kelis album and she covers it. It totally arrested me and I researched it straight away. I found out the original was by Labi Siffre. It’s so simple but lovely.

The song that I know all the words to is…
Appletree by Erykah Badu. It used to be my mantra song.

The song I want played at my funeral is…
Woah. I hate this question. Can’t it be wedding? If so then I think Lauryn Hill’s version of Nothing Even Matters is so beautiful and explains how love can feel.

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