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:: Spotlight :: Earl Gray - Not your usual cup of tea

By: Gabrielle Phillips

Earl Gray’ is the final product of many years of singing and song writing by Sydney’s talented music artist, Graeme Pillemer, now working under the Earl Gray stage name. At 23, Pillemer is most commonly known for his leading role in the rocking blues band ‘Voodoo Soup,’ and for winning the main prize at the prestigious Jaxter Songwriter of the Year Awards early in 2005. Gabby Phillips had a short chat to Graeme recently.

So Graeme, tell us a little about yourself. You grew up in North Shore, Sydney?

Yeah, I was actually born in Johannesburg in South Africa… my parents were South African… we came over here when I was little.

How did you take the move?

I don’t remember much about it. We were Botswanas’ though; we already spoke English, so that wasn’t a problem.

And you grew up in North Shore? Are you still living there?

I have actually just moved to Bondi Beach. I’m thinking I might try and get a tan… ha, ha …. I’m feeling a little pasty white at the moment!

What were you like as a child?

I was a pretty congenial, good kid.

What made you turn to music?

Well, I suffered from a problem with my nervous system when I was a kid. I had trouble walking for about a year, so my dad bought me a guitar. I guess he thought that, well, I still had my arms at least.

How old were you when this happened?

About nine.

Does your dad play an instrument?

Yeah, he plays a little guitar.

Do you play more then one instrument?

I play the piano, keys and harmonica.

Did you teach yourself how to play?

I would love to say yes to that question, but the answer is no, not exactly. I was taught some of the basics when I was first given my guitar, and I sort of picked it up from there.

When did you first play in a band?

I was about fourteen or fifteen when I started to play with some other guys from school. We were the best band; really ahead of our time. Not so much me; it was the guy writing the songs. He was amazing. The music he would write is like something you would hear on the radio today. I started writing my own music when I was about seventeen or eighteen and I worked with a few different bands. I guess my next major thing was probably Voodoo Soup.

Tell me about that?

It really liberated me. It’s one thing to play music in your bedroom, and another to get up on stage.

How did you deal with being up on stage? Especially considering you were a quiet child…?

It helps not taking myself too seriously… I just have fun with it.

Some reviewers claim that you're like two different people when you get up on stage. Part of you is still that little shy kid, while part of you is a flamboyant and, “out there” man who loves the stage! Do you feel like it is the ‘real you’ when you're up on stage, or is it like a roll play?

Well, I guess it is a bit like a roll play. It is a performance, and it’s fantastic.

What kind of music do you generally listen to?

Anything; from obscure music to jazz; anything.

Do you find that listening to other music affects your own?

I would like to say no, but I think it is only natural to be inspired by other artists. But I also believe that any music that I play is distinctly my own.

Tell me about Earl Gray, your new EP. How did you get started on this solo project?

I met Tony (Tony Buchan) through Lior… he had been working with Tony. I am a huge fan of ‘The Baggsmen,’ I love their music, so Lior helped to organise a meeting between us.

When are you planning a tour?

I’m not too sure exactly what’s happening yet. I’m heading to Melbourne in early December. I have heard the crowds are really receptive to live music in Melbourne, so I’m looking forward to playing there.

Do you have any advice for young, up-and-coming artists out there?

As Quincy Joyce once said: ‘If it doesn’t give you shape then it wont give anyone else any either.’ Just play what you like and you will be fine.

'Earl Gray' is out now through Creative Vibes.