Hiya Gary thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.
What made you decide to start to become a musician and performer?
I remember during my first week of high school we had a special assembly where a wind quintet came in to perform for us and to introduce the instruments; french horn, bassoon, clarinet, oboe and flute.
I remember sitting there totally captivated and mesmerised by the alien but glorious sounds that emerged from those metal and wooden tubes.
While most of the other kids sat and giggled, I was transported. To this day I have no idea why, but it was the flute that my heart was drawn to. I couldn’t stop watching the glittering silver light bouncing off of it. The woman who was playing it became my flute teacher the very next week.
Introduce us all to your musical history?
Well, even before that magical music moment I just described, I was developing a love for music deep in my bones.
I remember staying with my Grandmother every weekend for most of my childhood. We were a working-class family in East London and money was very scarce. But my good old nan had a huge collection of records -everything from classical, to show stoppers, the great divas… you name it, she had it. We would spend the whole weekend listening to those records, watching the old musicals on TV, and if it wasn’t that then the radio would be on. So this connection to and love of music was there from very early, even tho I wasn’t necessarily playing an instrument until much later.
I also remember my mum playing music all the time. We’d sing in the car, at home, in Tesco doing the shopping. My mum infused me with a lot of joy and fun around music and instilled so much confidence in me. I have so much to be thankful to her for.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I started playing the flute and piano at 12 years old in my first week of high school. And I became obsessed. I would go in an hourly hour every morning to practice, I’d go to the music rooms at lunchtime and every break and after school. I was in the school band, the choir and every school show. I even did my work experience in the music department of the school!!!
When I was 16 years old in my last year of GCSEs my music teacher said to me “there’s a special place I think you should consider auditioning for”. It was the Purcell School of Music, a private boarding school for young classical musicians. I auditioned, never thinking a kid like me could go to a place like that. But I was accepted on a full scholarship. My mum calls me “the Billy Elliot of classical music”.
Then I went on to win full scholarships to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Royal Academy of Music. I am forever thankful for these blessings that have truly carved the pathway of my life.
What advice would you give other artists starting out?
I actually coach other artists to discover their voice and creative vision. My best advice is to work out what your spiritual philosophy is as an artist…
What do you stand for?
What change do you want to make in the world?
Why do you create and share your art?
What’s your deeper purpose and more profound meaning?
When you get clear on these things, you have a more powerful motivation, it gives you energy and focus, and it keeps you going when things get tough.
If it is all only about selling tickets, getting likes and comments, or followers on social media, life and creativity very quickly dry up and you lose your inspiration.
What made you decide to leave classical music behind?
My love for classical music will always run incredibly deep. It’s the whole reason I do what I do now. I am eternally grateful and infinitely thankful for my classical training and the opportunity to go to those world-class conservatoires.
However, eventually, after all that training and after all that hard work, I felt very depressed and unfulfilled. Something wasn’t sitting right with me anymore.
I was only 21 years old, and this feeling was very strange. I had only ever been in love with music. And now I felt I was starting to resent it. I couldn’t keep up with the workload, the practice hours and the pressure to be perfect.
You have to remember, 20 years ago it was a very different world. There wasn’t so much awareness about wellbeing or emotional and psychological care. It was a case of work hard, regardless of how you feel, and strive to be the best. This can often come at a cost. I felt I was paying that cost. Not only that, it can feel incredibly isolating and lonely standing in a practice room for 4-6 hours a day practising scales.
So I decided to step out of the classical world, a huge decision that would change the course of my life.
What support is out there for new musicians in London?
To be honest with you, I really don’t know. It sometimes feels as if there isn’t any support and that you have to graft alone.
Nowadays you have to be everything; creator, performer, social media manager, promoter, marketer, designer… the list goes on. Unless you have a team or a lot of money, it can feel very overwhelming and sometimes impossible.
However, what I am starting to notice as I prepare for the world premiere of my new live music immersion “Luminosity”, is that if you’re a good person, if you’re kind, if you treat others well and connect with them in a truly authentic way, people will eventually want to support and help you when the time is right. It has to be honest tho. You can’t fake it!
I’ve been so moved over the last few weeks as I’ve announced my new concert – I’ve received messages from people wanting to help out with my sound and lighting, filming and photography, and generally just people wanting to spread the good word and help me sell tickets.
I’ve been in this game for 20 years. That’s a long time spent making friends, connections and building relationships. Building relationships is the most important thing an artist can do after becoming excellent at what you do (that is always first!)
For me, the most important form of support one can receive is the support from the tribe, from your community, from your peers, from other human beings who want to be part of something exciting because they like and love you. It’s the truest and most effective form of support that exists.
And then of course, your friends are the deepest support you could ever wish for. My friends have supported me through some deeply challenging moments. Creating your family of friends is so important as an artist.
What would you like to see more of in London?
The thing I would like to see more of in London is actually what I’d like to see more of in the world, and it’s something that I am actually trying to create myself.
I want to see more connection and community. I want to see more of us coming together to help each other rise and succeed.
I want to see more people stepping into other peoples lives to give them what they need to flourish. Perhaps you have a skill or a talent that is exactly what someone needs to help them make the next step.
If we all did this a little more instead of only focussing on our own success, we would all be so much better off.
Sure, we can talk about this from the perspective of artists and creatives, but it’s even bigger than that. It’s just life in general. I want to see us coming together in groups and creating better things for our futures, and whether you do that through your music and art or through your bakery, coffee shop or charity, it doesn’t matter.
Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories?
No. I haven’t got the time or energy to get sucked into the rabbit hole or drama. As someone with ADHD I have a very addictive nature and I can easily become absorbed in such theatrics for many many hours, days and weeks.
I would rather spend that energy on creating the best art I can and doing something good for the planet. Personally, I feel conspiracy theories breed fear. In my work, and especially in my show “Luminosity” my aim is to spread love, inspiration and healing. So the two just don’t resonate for me.
What useless party trick /talent do you have?
I can do a double pirouette, a triple if you’re lucky. And I can only do it to the right. I often whip out this little trick at parties. Another skill I have is that if I trip or fall while I am doing it I can make it look fabulous as if it was supposed to happen. LOL!
What was the most fun you have had on stage?
It was literally, last week when I did a very intimate and private showing of my show “Luminosity”. I used a friends living room and transformed it into a magical little sanctuary with fairy lights, and lamps and cushions and I presented it to a close group of creatives, friends and colleagues. And literally, to just share my heart, to bring people together in community and connection and just do what I frickin’ love… it doesn’t get better than that for me.
What was the worst experience on stage?
OMG! I spent a good number of years performing as a singer and actor in musicals. I was in a Christmas show once, and I ran on stage with a handful of gifts for one scene and fell smack bang on my face and gave myself a nosebleed right there in front of everyone! AWFUL!
Tell us something about you that you think people would be surprised about? People tend to think I’m posh from a middle-class upbringing. And it couldn’t be further from the truth. People are always surprised to hear about my childhood growing up on the council estates of Walthamstow in the 80s.
Name a four-piece band made up of legends – who would be in it? (drummer, bass, lead singer etc)
Bach on Bass
Shostakovich on Drums
Vivaldi on Harpsichord
Whitney Houston as lead singer
If you could play any music festival which would it be?
I’d love to take my show “Luminosity” to Latitude Festival and definitely Glastonbury. It would suit an intimate tent immersive experience with visuals and surround sound. I’m not into playing the biggest possible stage I can with the maximum amount of people. I am into playing the right place, with the right people. I think too many artists are chasing fame, recognition and numbers of fans or streams, rather than trying to connect with the right fans and performing at the places that are really in alignment with what they do.
What’s your biggest achievement as a musician?
Honestly, I think that it’s that I’m still doing what I love after all these years. It’s been a rocky road, deeply challenging, I felt like at some points I gave up, I had periods where I didn’t do music even. And here I am, still doing it. I know my gift, I know my passion, I know my message and I am not stopping. I think to keep going in an industry that is so tough, is a massive achievement for anyone.
Right now, what’s pissing you off?
My iPhone telling me I have no storage left when I know I do.
Talk me through the thought process of Luminosity?
Luminosity is an alchemical and musical adventure through the wonder of our universe and the creativity of the cosmos.
It is a deep and contemplative concert of original music that explores how everything came to be, what you are actually made of and how we can use this knowledge to activate deep wisdom to live more flourishing lives as a whole Earth community.
Through the medium of captivating music and thrilling sonic sound worlds, I guide you on an inspiring journey that brings you back to the truth of the magnificence of your existence and the miraculous existence of all things.
The piece is inspired by a book I read earlier this year called “The Universe is a Green Dragon” by the world-renowned cosmologist Brian Swimme. The book was so inspiring that it pulled me out of a dark place of stuckness and stagnancy in my creativity and life in general.
The reason it was so inspiring is that it described so beautifully the truth of how we and the universe exist. It activated a deep, profound feeling of gratitude for being alive. And it is this feeling that I want to pass on to others through my music. So I created a show all about it. I actually received a personal blessing from the author of that book to use portions of spoken text from it.
During the show, I use mp3s downloaded from NASA of the sounds stars make when they explode. I’ve made them into virtual instruments that are used as seasonings throughout the piece.
My hope is that people leave transformed in some way and appreciate their lives in a deeper way.
How as been putting on a project of this size?
When something is aligned and is coming from a place of pure truth and integrity it is a very different feeling. Artists spend a lot of time trying to force things into reality, trying to justify or prove that they’re good enough. I know this only too well. I did this for many many years.
With “Luminosity” I’ve experienced nothing but ease, flow and grace so far. This is a new feeling!
Putting on a show is usually wrought with stress, anxiety and pressure. But I am not feeling that this time, even tho it’s the most important show of my life.
It comes back to what I said earlier about meaning and purpose. I feel that the message of this piece is so deep and so important and so needed right now, that it has to happen. I am definitely feeling some mysterious force holding and supporting this process. That’s not to say I am not nervous… I am. This is my London debut performing my own music and it’s the public world premiere of the piece… it’s a big deal.
What was the biggest learning curve?
The biggest learning curve continues to be how I run my personal life behind the scenes; my physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual wellbeing. I think that these are actually as important as learning the craft of your instruments, songwriting and stagecraft. What is the point of being the best you can be if you’re depressed?! We see too many incredible artists end up addicts, unhappy, and at worst, dead.
So for me, it is as important to keep exploring how I can look after my wellbeing as I work to make “Luminosity” a beautiful and captivating show. What point is there to inspire others and then make your way home feeling terrible about yourself!?
Would you change anything now?
This is a very interesting question. “Luminosity” is always changing. This 2-hour immersive experience is partly composed and planned and partly improvised.
I want the piece to reflect the ever-expanding and changing nature of the cosmos. Nothing ever remains the same in our universe. Everything is always becoming something else, whether it’s a mountain being eroded over millions of years, a puddle of rain being evaporated, a star exploding or a planet circling the sun.
During “Luminosity” I may suddenly break out into a moment of spontaneous improvisation. This is actually an aspect of all my music and performances. Improvisation keeps me on the edge, and it keeps it fresh, exciting and magical for the audience.
What are your plans for the year ahead?
I want to take “Luminosity” to the festivals and on tour. I want to make it into a music film and some kind of immersive residency somewhere. I have so many ideas and plans for this piece and I think it’s going to stay with me for a very long time.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
And I’d love to invite you to download a free 90-minute ‘Inner Visioning Music Alchemy Journey’ – it’s a transformational and healing session I run every month on the full moon, using my improvised music as the gateway into deep contemplation and insight.