Last week, a new cover of the iconic Queen hit “Under Pressure” was released by the very talented Graham J, taken from his new album “Songs My Disco Taught Me” (releases March 2019).
Queer Forty caught up with Graham to talk about his career, the changes he’s been making since his New York appearance, and why he chose “Under Pressure” as the first song to release.
Q40: Graham its great to see you, how have things been?
Graham J: Oh I am doing so well, it’s been a crazy time since I was in New York, I now have my own label and just about to release my new album “Songs My Disco Taught Me” which is a whole album of lyrically beautiful pieces such as “One More Try” and “Take On Me” and lots of mad camp fun things!
My version of “Don’t Leave Me This Way” is outrageously melodramatic and full of Tchaikovian melodrama. The strings really make it sound so lush and combining it with a Disco beat is hysterical!
You have just released “Under Pressure” from the new album, why that track specifically?
I’ve chosen “Under Pressure” as it’s a song I’ve always heard played and instinctively sing-a-long to. When I sat down to study the incredibly complex song, I was struck by the powerful meaning of the lyrics. It was the first time I’d ever looked at them properly. These lyrics are incredibly pertinent to the troubles we face in the World today.
When you think about global poverty and people cracking under the pressure of trying to make ends meet, not much has changed since the eighties. The message of the song is simple… We’ve forgotten to care about each other. We need to remember how to do so.
You released it on a very significant date too…
Oh yes we actually released it on the anniversary 37 years to the day of the original Queen/Bowie Release, which was not planned at all, but a completely wonderful coincidence!
We were lucky enough to hear some exclusive rough cuts of the new album and love it, why did you choose that era to tackle?
As a child of the 80’s, I was surrounded by some incredible aural and visual stimulation. Top of the Pops was a regular feature in our living room. We would crowd around the TV to watch the latest acts and I remember seeing the video for “There Must Be An Angel” for the first time with Annie Lennox dressed up as an operatic Diva at the court of the Sun King. I remember the cool countertenor singing in the background… Little did I know years later I would become one! The same thing applies to my first hearing of the incredible voice of Jimmy Somerville.
It was a natural choice for me to choose songs by these artists for my new album #SMDTM. I learned a lot about theatricality and story telling from Freddie Mercury and David Bowie. I can still vividly recall watching the footage of Live Aid on TV and seeing Freddie Mercury’s command of the huge crowd in Wembley Stadium and realizing that’s what a star was.
You have started your own label MREX too, which is incredible!
I have indeed launched MREX, not only for myself and my music, but also to be a label for other artists like me. I was lucky enough to be introduced to Steve Wardlaw by a mutual friend. Steve said he liked my music and was interested in the fact that I crossed so many styles. While trying to help me, I told him that I really just needed time and space to create and breath. I wanted the freedom to choose my own path and not have to worry about whether a song was too long for radio play or that it might be too political. I also told him how I was tired of seeing artists struggling to make ends meet. There have been a load of amazingly talented individuals who have struggled to be heard because they didn’t have the right look or sound. Conversely, I was tired of seeing pretty, empty-headed mediocre boys and girls getting on because of their looks and autotune.
Steve is a huge fan of music and he asked me if I was in a position, what would I do about it? From that conversation in a bar in Dublin, MREX was born. MREX will specialize in jazz, cabaret and alternative music. We will have a focus on LGBT+, artists but that doesn’t mean we won’t help artists that are not LGBT+… It’s all about talent. If you have something to say and we can work with you, we’ll do our best to help you!
That’s great, where can we next see you live?
If you’re in Dublin, come and see me on November 25 with Kevin Murphy, aka Wilderdrop. We’re combining jazz & cabaret with rock & roll, and a few of our original songs too. We’re challenging each other to perform material outside of our respective comfort zones. Kev is also a former runner-up in International Mister Leather. We’ll be recording some videos for YouTube and I’ll be doing Paranoid Android, can you imagine?!
Graham’s new album will be out in March 2019 – sign up to his website to keep up to date: www.grahamjsings.com
Click hereto go to Graham’s Spotify