The tumultuous life story of Lady Geraldine rivals the plot of any airport paperback and shows you don’t need to fit a certain stereotype to become a recording artist.
Geraldine Elliott aka Lady Geraldine came to music later in life and by accident after overcoming profound deafness and an abusive relationship. It was a chance meeting with a music producer and skipping rope entrepreneur (yes, really) that kick-started her singing journey.
But before we get to that, let’s start with Lady G’s childhood. It was tough. Her early years were marred by constant ear infections and by the age of seven she was profoundly deaf. But as young Geraldine was adept at lipreading (and with her teachers and parents failing to notice anything was awry) this went undiagnosed for years.
“I felt very alone,” she says on the phone from her home in Edinburgh. “School was very difficult for me. If a teacher wasn’t facing me when they spoke, I had no idea what they were saying. I was always getting into trouble. They thought I was lazy or stupid, or both.”
At 13 doctors finally realised she was profoundly deaf. This bombshell was followed by another three years later: at 16 Lady G was, in her own words, “pushed” by her mother into marrying an older man. It was a disaster.
“The day after we married he gave me a hiding,” Lady G says matter-of-factly. “And it just continued. There was a lot of emotional and physical abuse. At one point I went to my mum’s with my baby and asked to stay. She said: ‘You’ve made your bed, lie in it’ and sent me back.”
After five years Lady G found the strength to leave and make a fresh start on her own. Shortly afterwards she hit rock bottom, but then a glimmer of hope appeared on the horizon.
“An ear specialist told me there was an operation that may be able to restore some of my hearing. It was risky, but I found the courage to do it.”
The morning after the operation Lady G had a bowl of cornflakes. “The noise when I ate was horrendous, it was so loud it was almost unbearable, but it meant I had some of my hearing back.”
The surgery restored 30% of hearing in Lady G’s right ear and transformed her life, enabling her to rediscover the world of music. “Imagine being blind and then being able to see colour again, that’s what it was like to hear again.”
Lady G then re-married (a more stable man). His job in the oil industry took them to the Middle East and South America where Lady G immersed herself in the music of different cultures.
She later divorced and established the Edinburgh Dolls Hospital (we told, you couldn’t make it up). It was there she met and became friends with businessman (he of the skipping ropes) Lawrence Riva, who for many years had run Impulse Studios in Edinburgh, where the likes of Wet Wet Wet and the Bay City Rollers recorded.
One day, Riva heard Lady G singing and was impressed. Her invited her to try her hand at backing vocals at the studio he now shares with his brother.
Riva says: “I thought she had something so different, so distinctive. She’s been through so much in her life, I think you can hear that in her voice.”
A strong creative partnership was born and the two have since made several albums together. Riva writes and produces while Lady G provides the vocals and emotional firepower. Their latest creative production is A Trick of the Light, a single inspired by Pete Townshend that follows their trademark classic rock style. (LISTEN HERE)
Lady G says singing is a cathartic experience for her; even if the lyrics of her rocky numbers don’t specifically detail her own trials and tribulations she feels she’s baring her soul.
“When I sing it’s a release. I’m exorcising some of my ghosts. What’s so fascinating is that Lawrence manages to capture some of what I’ve been through in the music.”
Lady G’s music won’t be to everyone’s taste but she and Riva are having too much fun in the studio to worry about naysayers.
“I’m very strong-minded,” she says. “I’ve been through quite a lot in my life and I won’t let anything beat me and I won’t let anything get me down. I’m going to keep doing this until I’m 100.”