Jem was born in Wales, a misty and oddly shaped country part of the United Kingdom, responsible for bringing the world Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, Richard Burton and Sir Anthony Hopkins, among other things. From the age of 13 she was singing and writing songs; basic recording equipment was ever-present, and she decided that one day she would be a singer. Keeping her dreams of this future career mostly to herself, however, after finishing school she headed to Sussex University to study Law.
While in Brighton, Jem's great passion for music drew her into the music industry, but at this point it was the behind-the-scenes side that attracted her. She hurled her energies into club and festival promotion, became a DJ agent, and finally helped set-up and run the specialist breaks label Marine Parade. After a time, however, it became clear something was missing. She realized that she'd been circling her own artistic instincts and it was time to take a leap of faith. But that great leap forward first required a small step back.
In November 1999, Jem surprised her colleagues by leaving everything behind and retreating to the creatively inspired air of Wales and a lifestyle of sofa-surfing. Moving from the limits of her dictaphone, she assembled a mobile studio and got cracking on her songwriting and music production craft. This turned out to be a fruitful time. She completed a strong collection of four demos and things began to move quickly from there.
Jem moved to London, where she continued her nomadic existence and started collaborating with other writers/producers. Two days into her first writing session with acclaimed electronic producer Guy Sigsworth (Bjork, Frou Frou), the song "Nothing Fails" was born. This collaboration between Guy, Jem and subsequently Madonna, appears as track 6 on Madonna's 2003 album, American Life.
Her love of beats and bass also lead her to Brooklyn, where she teamed up with NY hip-hop producer Ge-ology (Mos Def, Talib Kweli), and in autumn 2002 she met her co-producer Yoad Nevo. Together they succeeded in fusing her many musical influences to create a fresh and distinctive new sound. The aptly titled song "Finally Woken" found its way to influential Los Angeles radio station KCRW 89.9 FM. Music Director Nic Harcourt began spinning Jem's original demo (made in a Welsh high school in a government-granted studio) on the nationally acclaimed program Morning Becomes Eclectic, and it created a proper stir. "As soon as I heard the demo from this Welsh songstress, I had no choice but to put her on our playlist," said Nic Harcourt. "The beautiful 'Finally Woken' first made its way across our airwaves in March 2002, and 'Flying High' has become one of my favorites." With each play causing an assault on the station's telephones, her demo tracks quickly made her one of the most listener-requested artists at the station and landed her in their coveted top five played artists, and all prior to any record label being attached.
As fate would have it, A&R exec Bruce Flohr was one of those listeners, and he wooed her to sign onto Dave Matthews' ATO record label. Jem's debut EP 'It All Starts Here...' was released on ATO Records in October '03. The hit TV show The OC took notice of Jem immediately, using numerous tracks in its first season and offering Jem an appearance in the show's May season finale. She recorded and performed a cover version of Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed" using the Rabab, the national instrument of Afghanistan, to play the well-known instrumental hook.
'Finally Woken' was released in the US in March 2004 and worldwide in 2005, it has gone on to sell a million records worldwide and has been widely acclaimed.