Gwenno Saunders

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Gwenno Saunders
The Pipettes - Gwennoi.jpg
On stage in 2006
Background information
Birth nameGwenno Mererid Saunders
Born (1981-05-23) 23 May 1981 (age 40)
Cardiff, Wales
Genres Electropop, indie pop
Occupation(s)Musician, singer, dancer
Years active2002–present
LabelsPeski Records, Heavenly Recordings
Associated acts The Pipettes, Pnau, Elton John

Gwenno Mererid Saunders (born 23 May 1981) is a Welsh musician, known by the stage name Gwenno. She performs as a solo artist, releasing her first album Y Dydd Olaf on Heavenly Recordings in 2015 followed by her first album in Cornish in 2018, entitled Le Kov . [1] [2] She was also a singer in the indie pop group the Pipettes.



Saunders was born in Cardiff. [3] She is the daughter of Cornish poet and linguist Tim Saunders [4] and Lyn Mererid, who is an activist and member of the choir Côr Cochion Caerdydd and works as a translator. [5] When she grew up, her father spoke Cornish; her mother spoke Welsh. [6]

From the age of five she attended the Seán Éireann-McMahon Academy of Irish Dance [7] and was a cast member of Michael Flatley's productions of Lord of the Dance [8] and Feet of Flames by the age of 17, playing a lead role in a Las Vegas production of the former. In 2001 she had a role in the Welsh language soap opera Pobol y Cwm on S4C, for whom she would later host her own programme Ydy Gwenno'n Gallu...? She is fluent in Welsh and Cornish. [9] [10] [11] On 18 April 2019 she presented "Songs from the Edgelands", a programme about songs in minority languages on BBC Radio 4. [12]

Music career

Early career (2002–2004)

In the years before she joined the Pipettes, she had been a solo electropop singer, mostly in the Welsh and Cornish languages, releasing two solo EPs, Môr Hud [13] (2002) and Vodya [14] (2004). [15] Saunders represented Cornwall in the Liet International song contest, 2003, and won the People's Choice Award for her performance of "Vodya". In December 2004 Gwenno filmed the song "Ysolt y'nn Gweinten" by Celtic Legend for Classic FM TV. It is claimed to be the first video produced in the Cornish language, the text having been written by her father Tim Saunders with music by Cornish composer and ex Gary Numan keyboard player Chris John Payne.

The Pipettes (2005–2010)

Gwenno joined the Pipettes in April 2005 after founding member Julia left. She is most notable for her lead vocals on the single "Pull Shapes" and the chorus of "Your Kisses Are Wasted on Me". She has more recently posted solo material to her Myspace page, and made a free download of a mini album titled U & I available in October 2007. In April 2008, Gwenno's younger sister Ani joined the Pipettes, after the departure of singers Rosay and RiotBecki. Ani now also releases music with the band The Lovely Wars and solo under the name Ani Glass.

After the Pipettes (2010–present)

Gwenno has toured as a synth player with Pnau and Elton John in 2012. [16] [17]

In June 2012, Saunders released a five-song Welsh language EP, Ymbelydredd, available on hand-painted cassettes on Peski Records. [18]

Gwenno appears on The Boy Least Likely To's 2013 album The Great Perhaps, contributing vocals to the track "It Could Have Been Me".

She released her first solo full-length album, the Welsh-language Y Dydd Olaf, in October 2014 on Peski Records. [19] In May 2015 Gwenno was signed to Heavenly Recordings. The label re-released her debut album in July. [20] [21] The album won Best Welsh Album at the 2015 National Eisteddfod [22] and in November 2015 won the 2014–2015 Welsh Music Prize. [23]

Gwenno also currently co-produces and co-hosts a Welsh radio show on Cardiff Radio titled "Cam O'r Tywyllwch" ("A Step Away from the Darkness") with her Peski Records colleagues. [24] The team was also behind the CAM '15 music festival in Cardiff, which took place in April 2015 and featured the first live performance in over 20 years by Welsh music post-punk pioneers Datblygu. [25]

Cultural influence

In October 2018 the Cornish Language Board claimed that Saunders' album Le Kov had contributed to a 15% increase in the number of people taking Cornish language exams during 2018. [26]

Personal life

Saunders is married to producer Rhys Edwards, [27] and has one son. [28] She was made a Bard of the Cornish Gorsedh in 2019 for "services to the Cornish language through music and the media". [29]

Saunders is a supporter of Welsh independence. She has said: "What if there are other ways of co-existing? What if we can organise ourselves differently? There is an innate anarchy to art and an absolute potential in utilising it for the good whilst imagining better futures. We want to continue a conversation about an inclusive self-determination by drawing on our past, embracing our neighbours across the UK and the world with open arms, whilst also making sure that we’re singing along to the best possible tune." [30]


With The Pipettes

YearAlbumChart positions
2006 We Are The Pipettes 41
2010 Earth vs. The Pipettes

Solo albums

2014 Y Dydd Olaf Peski, Heavenly Digital download, CD, vinylWelsh, Cornish
2018 Le Kov HeavenlyDigital download, CD, vinylCornish

Solo EPs

2002Môr Hud Recordiau Sain Digital downloadWelsh, Cornish, English
2003Vodya Recordiau Sain Digital downloadWelsh, Cornish, English
2007U & INoneDigital downloadEnglish
2012YmbelydreddPeskiDigital download, cassetteWelsh

Appears on

YearNameAdditional Information
2003I'r Brawd HwdiniCompilation of re-recordings of songs by Meic Stevens [31]

See also

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