Gemma Laurence kick-starts her 2022 with the enchanting and brave “Lavender.”

Indie-folk singer/songwriter Gemma Laurence has had a slow and steady set of releases thus far. It all began in summer of 2019 with the singles “Judas” and “Leave Me out to Dry,” both in support of her debut full length LP Crooked Heart. Since then, we have only had one single to enjoy; 2021’s “Adrienne.”

Now, after 10 months of waiting, we get to hear Laurence’s signature blend of indie, country and folk once again on “Lavender.”

“Lavender” instantly catches your attention within the first few seconds, all thanks to a booming set of kick drum, floor tom and snare. The production then goes from intimidating to welcoming, following an array of acoustic guitar and a fantastic use of the banjo (man, we really don’t hear enough banjo in modern songs).

I think it’s fair to say that Gemma Laurence is influenced ever so slightly by Taylor Swift. The plucky country sounds of Swift’s early days certainly caught my ear, as well as the evermore-inspired artwork on the single cover. However, her voice is entirely its own; I genuinely can’t think of another singer that sounds like her. She’s raspy, full of body, and oh so country.

“Lavender” tells the story of a boy that is forced to adhere to gender norms straight from birth: blue for boys and pink for girls. However, we then learn that this boy likes to try on his mum’s lipstick when the parents aren’t around. Perhaps this particular child doesn’t feel that they are the gender they were assigned at birth, a social idea we’re seeing more and more as our culture moves forward. It could also purely be that this boy does not want to bind themselves with typical gender norms.

The pre-chorus features a heavily distorted sound that muffles what Gemma Laurence is trying to sing, a metaphor for how our main character is feeling. If you listen closely, in this short muffled section, Laurence is saying “I’m crying out, why can’t you see?”. The distortion is an audible metaphor that demonstrates this boy is screaming out to his parents that he is confused about his gender, but the parents pretend not to acknowledge it.

As the song carries on with the same themes of the main character’s internal conflict and wearing colour-coded uniforms just to fit in, it arrives at its last line. This gives us clarity that this boy is in fact not a boy, as Laurence sings:

And I know it’s not easy

To shed your skin and be the woman

You were born to be

A musical flurry of cymbal crashes elevate this final lyric into heights that are spectacularly satisfying. It’s like a firework going off and continuing to dazzle way after it has erupted.

Gemma Laurence has brought a modern social hot potato to a traditional music genre in a way that I think is spectacular. To bring a delicate subject to a country song is a great feat, but to do it so well, with such finesse and flair, is even greater.