In my virtual studio last week, I got the chance to chat with my good friend the lovely Graham J. Graham is a classically trained opera singer and now has several jazz and pop-inspired albums that show off his amazing range. He just released his new single For The Best, and has a new album on its way and Christmas music too!
Here’s a preview of what we chatted about, listen to the whole episode for the full conversation and to hear an exclusive clip of For The Best.
Richard Jones: Welcome Graham, how are you? How are you surviving these crazy times?
Graham J: I am doing ok, I have my days like everybody else, but mostly I am trying to keep incredibly positive. Ireland seems to be in its own little world, Dublin itself went into a second lockdown for three weeks, and people inside the county can’t leave it and people aren’t allowed to come in, so that’s been interesting. But I can see my friends and family at a distance, so that’s something, and I am finding the fact that I haven’t been on a proper stage since March very strange. I’ve been singing since I was 4 so that’s a long time of not having regular access to that adrenaline, makes me feel like a junkie coming of crack! But, I am keeping busy writing new stuff and learning. If I didn’t, I would go mad, eat everything around me and drink the ocean dry!
RJ: You mentioned that you were singing since you were 4, how do you begin to sing at 4 years old? What’s coming at you to make you want to sing at such a young age?
GJ: Well the legend goes that the minute I could make any sort of noise, I ran up and down my cot singing all night long. My mother’s grandmother was an opera singer, so music was in our family. They decided to start sending me to things, I went to music classes and it just kind of all went from there. My Nephew is similar, he pretty much communicates through song now and he’s two years old. He’s trying to make sing songy noise and he runs around singing to himself when he’s playing. It’s obviously something in my family… we are all just frigging nuts!
RJ: Do you sing to your family? Are they around when you are singing?
GJ: Oh, they love it! My niece Sophia ,when she was two, was always listening. In my mum and dad’s house I have a studio connected to the rest of the house with a door and a few steps, and my niece would sit on the bottom step and listen to rehearsals as we would have the lads over to do the big rehearsals. We’d have the pianist, the bass, the drums and she used to sit out there for hours, 2 years of age, never making a sound and if anyone would walk past she would shush them and say “Graham’s singing”!
RJ: So was it natural for you to go towards an opera career because of that history in the family?
GJ: I think about it a lot now, again there wasn’t the training here in Ireland other than classical music, it’s only in the last 12 months that Ireland offered a musical theater degree. It’s insane, but I am hoping to be teaching in it, so there you go. So, if you want to study music in Ireland, you have to take a classical education. Now having said that, I don’t regret it and I have had some amazing experiences. It has given me longevity, and training in how to look after my voice and I know how to sing properly. It also gave me a knowledge of how to write music and understand what I was doing. It also taught the foundation of bel canto singing and has given me a knowledge of the musculature of the voice and how to keep it protected, fresh and alive. It did also help build on my range.
Listen to the full interview with Graham J on the Queer Forty Podcast below to find out how Graham jumped from opera to jazz, listen to a snippet of his wonderful single “For the Best”, and learn more about what’s coming up for Graham later this year. You can also listen to the Queer Forty Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, and don’t forget to subscribe!
Some of the questions and answers have been edited from the Podcast, and some questions are unique to this written interview.
Photos by Rafael Riss