This is to Mother You
The Story of the Song
“I’ve always said that GEMS needs a song! Now GEMS has a song. It’s as though it was written just for us. Thank you, Sinead and Mary.” – Martha B
In Summer 2009, iconic musician Sinead O’Connor invited GEMS member Martha B. to join her and Mary J Blige to re-record O’Connor’s song “This Is to Mother You” to raise awareness and funds for GEMS programs. The song expresses a simple promise to vulnerable children in America and around the world: You may not see us, but we see you. And we will love and care for you.
Production on the song began in January 2009 when Sinead and GEMS began to assemble the creative and production team for the project. Sinead’s immediate choice for a vocalist to sing with her was the incomparable Mary J Blige, who responded immediately to Sinead’s invitation with an enthusiastic YES. With this settled, the project quickly added producers Martin ‘Doc’ McKinney (Sting, Alice Smith) and Ali Shaheed Muhammad (A Tribe Called Quest), who spent three months developing the instrumental track for this new recording. On August 13th, Sinead entered the recording booth at the legendary Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin (also known as the ‘U2 Studio’) to lay her vocals for the song. Here in New York, GEMS and the producers waited with great excitement to get the ruff mix of O’Connor’s vocals, and then went to work scheduling Mary J Blige and newcomer Martha B to record at Germano Studios in Soho. On September 10th, Mary and Martha entered the studio to complete the vocal tracking for the song.
For Martha, who has always dreamed of being a professional singer, the experience at Germano Studios was a once in a lifetime first. Not only did she have the opportunity to observe the skill and artistry Mary possesses in the studio, she also got to meet her idol and then step into the same recording booth and lay her own vocals. She was a quick study, adopting the studio ‘lingo’ and patient demeanor that Mary demonstrated during her session. At midnight that night, producers called it a wrap, and the new charity recording of This Is to Mother You officially entered post-production. Along the way, Martha impressed the producers with her calm under pressure, and her unique and powerful voice. Commenting on the experience, Ali Shaheed Muhammad said: “I feel like we are witnessing that special ‘first time in the studio’ moment for an artist with a long career ahead of her.” As GEMS re-iterates to its members everyday, all is possible when you believe in your potential and work hard to reach it.
Visit GEMS’ Youtube Channel to watch exclusive behind the scenes video of the artists.
Both icon and iconoclast, Sinead O’Connor has been making music, rejecting stereotypes and defying expectations for more than a quarter century. At the age of 14, she wrote and recorded the debut single for the Dublin-based Irish band In Tua Nua. In 1987, she wrote, recorded and released “The Lion and The Cobra,” which Rolling Stone called “easily one of the most distinctive debut albums of the year,” and charted with her first alternative hits “Mandinka,” “Troy,” and “I Want Your (Hands On Me).” In 1990, her sophomore album, “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got,” peaked at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 while her Prince-penned single, “Nothing Compares 2 U,” reached #1 on the Hot 100 and earned her a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Performance. Her groundbreaking video for “Nothing Compares 2 U,” featuring Sinead’s unforgettable performance in single-shot close-up, took home the Best Video trophy at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards, marking the first time a woman had ever won the Best Video category. A longtime advocate for the needs of abused children in her native Ireland, O’Connor was a natural addition to the GEMS family. Learn more at SineadOConnor.com.
Mary J Blige
There’s little, if any, denying that Mary J. Blige is one of the greatest singers of our time. The proof is in the consistent #1 albums and singles, six (6) Grammy awards, seven (7) multi-platinum records and 15-years of love from the public, critics and fellow artists. Since her 1992 debut – the modern classic What’s the 411 all the way to 2005’s stunning The Breakthrough Mary J. Blige has helped to redefine R&B, and more importantly, been an artist that uses her gift to lift spirits, touch lives and bring her heart, soul and truth to those who are willing to listen. In 2008, Blige founded Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now (FFAWN) to create safe spaces and services for abused women and children in her hometown of Yonkers and around the world. Learn more at MJBlige.com.
Martha is an up and coming young music artist who first came to GEMS at age 14. Having successfully completed GEMS’ Youth Leadership Training Program, at 21 years old, Martha now serves as a strong model for survivor leadership for both her peers and the general public. An avid Mary J Blige fan, Martha is deeply grateful for the opportunity to work with Mary and Sinead. It is a dream come true.
Music & Lyrics by Sinead O’Connor
Produced by Martin ‘Doc’ McKinney and Ali Shaheed Muhammad
Mixed by Joe Zook
Engineered by Tim Martin (Dublin) and Christian Baker (NYC)
Vocal Production by Sinead O’Connor & FOC 187 (Dublin) and Mary J Blige (NYC)
Executive Producers: Rachel Lloyd and Bridgit Antoinette Evans
Supervising Producer: Paul Heck
Management for Ms. O’Connor: Fachtna O’Ceallaigh
Management for Ms. Blige: Jaha Johnson and Kendu Isaacs
Cover Art: Neka Bennett
Press & Promotion: Muhammida El Muhajir/GEMS
Special Thanks (Public Relations): Lai Ling Jew
Videography: Dave Jackson (Dublin) and Joe Williams (NYC)
Video Editing: Deirdre Bell for Red Car and Muhammida El Muhajir
Published by Warner Chappell Music
Mary J Blige appears courtesy of Matriarch/Geffen Records
This Is to Mother You was recorded at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin and Germano Studios in New York City. Mastered at Joe Lambert Studios in Brooklyn.
GEMS wishes to extend a heartfelt thanks to Fachtna O’Ceallaigh and Sinead O’Connor for their immense generosity and kindness, Mary J Blige, Jaha Johnson, Kendu Isaacs, Madeline Nelson and FFAWN for bringing such heart and commitment to our table, Martha B for gracing us with her beautiful voice and spirit, Doc McKinney and Ali Shaheed Muhammad for creating such a beautiful new recording, Lisa Braude and Monica Talavera for quietly allowing two ridiculously busy producers to work far beyond the call of duty on our behalf, Paul Heck for lending such a high creative standard and resourcefulness to this effort, Lai Ling Jew for sharing GEMS’ story relentlessly with anyone who would listen, Dave Jackson of Maddog Digital in Dublin and John Williams in New York for donating their services as cinematographers for our studio sessions, Deirdre Bell of Red Car for donating her services as editor of select video clips, Anna Keturah and Windmill Lane Studios for donating services and space for Sinead’s Dublin Session, and Troy Germano for welcoming our team into his New York studio, Sarita Naranjan Bhatt, Ashton Kutcher and Call2Action.com for donating social media advice and technical assistance, Yobie Benjamin, Bill Shipsey, Steven Saftig and iTunes for bringing the song to a wider audience, Brad Navin, Nick Gordan and The Orchard for distributing our song, Katherine Dobbins and the Council of Daughters Promo Team for generously volunteering to help us spread the world, Muhammida El Muhajir and the entire GEMS staff for fighting so passionately every day for our girls, and finally, thank you to everyone who chooses to buy our song. Only with your support can we hope to someday end the trafficking and exploitation of children.