Posted on 15 October 2019 Return
We caught up with one of the 90's most respected vocalist of that dance music era, Gee Morris-Osborne, who's we know as the great vocalist behind the 90's band called Innocence. The most memorable song was 'Natural Thing' which came out in the early 90's and became an instant dance floor/club hit. Natural Thing only came out on white label in US but the band didn’t actually get fully established until Feb 1990. Soon after the band had split and she continued her solo career under her real name Gee Morris and released her very own album on Epic Records entitled Gee Morris, produced by her husband Billy Osborne (Drummer for Alexander O'Neal) and Steve V. Nothing can stop one the hardest working vocalist in London as she's still on the circuit singing and performing with the likes of Alexander O'Neal in prestigious places like the o2 London and all over the world, so we had to run real fast to catch her to ask these few questions.
1. What pushed you into singing and were you doing this from an early age?
"There was no pushing - it was as natural as talking. I don't actually remember what exactly influenced me to start singing, but there was a lot of it around - I would say my earliest memories would be around the age of 4 years old, in the church I attended as a child, in primary school and on the TV and radio at home. I enjoyed most genres of music, especially if there was singing involved. I have always been creative - writing, drawing, painting, dancing and playing a few instruments and particularly loved the art of singing as I didn't need to involve anyone else but myself - no teachers or unaffordable fees (fees were always the main obstacle in me learning stuff I wanted to do - instruments and dancing), just me getting into the flow of the records/music and the fantastic songs be it gospel or secular - emulating the people I saw on T.V especially 'BBC Top Of The Pops'. I have to say, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and a lot of different artists from that era from the TV and radio was a major influence back then. I'd perform the songs at school in the playground with my friends... Ah Good Times!"
2. Before Innocence were you in another band, if yes who and what happened?
"I was only ever in one band/group before Innocence, and that was in my church (SDA). The group was known as 'New Life', basically I stayed whilst I was attending church and I left as an adult - but we still meet up from time to time all these years later - wonderful people, some still doing music as a profession... Once the bug gets you it's hard to let it go."
3. How did the hook up begin with the Jolley fam and Brian Harris and how did you become the 'front' girl?
"Back in the 80's I did a lot of session work with various artists, producers and agencies. I had not long joined the newly established agency 'Session Connection' when I was asked to do a vocal session for JHJ (Jolley Harris Jolley of the Trident Studios back in the 80's) and basically they liked what I did and me, and asked me back to vocal a track they wrote for me - Natural Thing. I didn't become Innocence until Chrysalis/Cooltempo became interested and I was needed for the project to go ahead - so I was signed to the production team as Gee Morris AKA Innocence."
4. How and when did the record deal with Cooltempo come about, did your band get the attention and investment they needed from this label?
"I was told by production team that Cooltempo became interested when they got wind of the interest and release in New York in 1989. Some months after the recording I didn't hear anything again until then, as I was needed to cement a deal with Cooltempo and as they informed me later, they had lost a lot of control over the project with a previous artist by letting them sign direct to the record company, anyway Cooltempo were fully behind the Innocence project until they fell out with the production team over music politics, after the 'Build Album' then backing kind of fizzled out - Innocence just got caught up in the cross fire."
5. When and how did Circuit become Innocence, It appears that they were already a band, What lead them to getting you on board as during 91 they too were on Cooltempo releasing songs like 'Make This World during the same time as the band Innocence, was this not a conflict of interest?
"I wasn't aware of the release of the single until after the fact, but I'm guessing as I was in the loop on a need to know basis, that Circuit was maybe JHJ's pseudonym used in U.S. (don't quote me on this 'cause I'm guessing, but I know they released tracks as the 'Tambourines' earlier in their careers) to release Natural Thing on New York recording label Collision/Profile - so that's probably why there was no conflict when the white label was released. I did try to go check them out online as I never heard of them or the song you mentioned, but couldn't find anything. Maybe you guys can send me a link to something - I do commend you on being so knowledgeable. I have in the past been and maybe still am way too naive and trusting to a fault - to my own detriment - but have learned a lot the hard way."
6. The single, 'Natural Thing' was one of your biggest and most successful releases, who wrote that and how did the idea come about?
"Anna Jolley composed the lyrics and melody of Natural Thing, so I don't know how the idea came about as she never said, but I changed a few lines and the way it flowed and generally put my stamp on it during the recording process. Keeping in mind it was originally just an experiment, hence me not being credited as co-writer."
7. What lead to your departure or split from the group?
"There were issues between the head of Cooltempo and the production team. To be honest I didn't really get into it - I tried to stay neutral & creative - staying out of the politics. The project kind of imploded after they fell out."
8. You went solo under the sole name of 'Gee Morris' releasing songs under Epic/Columbia and even TSR. Did you believe that this was a good move, how did it work out for you?
"I was approached by Sony/EMI Germany to make a solo album as Innocence was so popular over there - I did a LOT of performances over there. Record promotion in Germany works a lot differently than it does in the UK - to be honest it didn't really understand it, so left it in the hands of the record company. Don't know about Epic/Columbia or TSR though. My brother-in-law arranged some projects in Germany with Riviera on Lounge music; Candy Station also in Germany, Gotta Music in France and a few other production houses in Europe as a featured artist. Unfortunately both I and my management were hands off so don't know what happened with these projects - leaving them under the watch of my brother-in-law."
9. You now sing as backing vocals for Alexander O’Neal, How did that come about?
"Alexander O'Neal is actually a longtime friend and Godfather to my last child, so when I was no longer committed to Cooltempo, I filled what was to be the temporary gap, with what I was used to do before Innocence - backing and session vocals, beginning with backing vocals with Alex, moving on and including artists such as Shola Ama, Fierce, a few other artists, including Featured artist with Maizie Williams Boney M, whilst recording, co-writing, vocal production and private vocal coaching/tutoring with both established and up and coming new artists partnered with Stevie V and Billy Osborne IV. This ended up being a longtime thing, spanning over 25 years now, because music is what I do. Alongside the music I studied and qualified in HN Dip Level 3 Massage (in Swedish Massage, Aromatherapy Massage, Indian Head Massage & Reflexology Therapy), and Beauty & Health Therapist/Consultant."
10. What's in the future for Gee, Will you continue as a backing vocalist or will you surprise the UK and rekindle your solo career?
"Still working/touring with Alexander O'Neal and Boney M; always writing/composing, vocal coaching/tutoring and production. Innocence still have some ardent fans who would love a rekindling of the Innocence fire - is it enough take the UK by surprise, who knows? We didn’t expect the response the first time round. Looking forward to performing at lots of festivals next year and reconnecting with Innocence fans out there. I am currently in the process of recording a new Innocence Album project with Brian Harris, a couple of Solo EP projects, an Alexander O'Neal Band Album and some projects on the go with some fellow artists and musicians. Did some co-writes on Alexander O'Neal's '5 Questions - The New Journey' Album, British Funk Association - Full Circle, Beggar & Co - Brass Strings N Things, Legacy and Sleeping Giants Albums. On top of all that I'm a mom of 4 now grown-ups and as of July this year a grandmother to five - always busy."