5 Minute Interview: Rising UK Singer/Songwriter Rhiannon Mair

Rhiannon Mair is something of a rising star in the UK. In a nutshell, she’s making accessible acoustic folk rock that has plenty of crossover appeal for anyone who enjoys hearing something a little different from someone that definitely has talent. So quit the moaning about X-Factor and wanting more genuine talent on the airwaves. Give this gal a proper listen.

Here’s her lead single – Why Can’t I Be Your Girlfriend?

Rhiannon is technically a friend of a friend of a friend, I think. I was initially going to just tweet the song but once I had a listen I wanted to put something a little more substantial out there to show my approval/support. 🙂

I took some time out of my busy schedule watching the TV show 24 on DVD to ask this talented young lady some things about London life, Sugababes reforming, her music as well as  getting Rhiannon to describe Amanda Bynes definitively.

What’s your sound?

R: Acoustic folk rock

Please sum up your background in a few sentences (growing up, education etc)

R: I was raised by a Welsh lady and an Englishman in a small village called Brantham just outside of Colchester, Essex. I went to a small country school, played in lots of bands. I moved to London when I was 20 to study music.

Who are your influences?

R: Musically… Matthew Bellamy (Muse) KT Tunstall, Bonnie Raitt, Feist, My Mum..

If you could collaborate with one pop artist who would it be?

R: Rihanna

What do you think of people who pursue music (arguably risky behaviour) over a ‘clearer’ career choice with music on the side?

R: I think they are very brave people. It can be very hard at times – up and down. But I think the people that choose to do music full time do it because they wouldn’t be happy doing anything else. Sometimes being happy is far more important than making a butt load of money.

What do you think of that BRIT school?

R: I think it’s right for the right people.

Judging by celebrities, record companies seem to be quite interfering at times – what do you think of them?

R: I think it depends on what kind of artist you are, and the type of deal you sign.

How would you like to see artists compensated for their work in light of illegal downloading and general industry shifts?

R: What Id like to see is a change in people’s attitude towards illegal downloading. You wouldn’t go into a shop and walk out with a loaf of bread, or some milk without paying for it. People have worked hard to get those products on those shelves, and we pay for it, because otherwise it’d be considered as stealing. For some reason, people seem to think that that doesn’t apply to music. They don’t understand that music too is a product that in most cases a group of people have worked really hard on, and should be purchased just like any other product.

What’s your favourite TV show that isn’t Game of Thrones?

R: Dexter.

Girls Aloud had pretty good producers (Xenomania). Yay or nay?

R: Yay.

The Saturdays?

Hmmmmm…

The original line-up of Sugababes returning?

R: YES! Loved them.

What do you think of the X-Factor?

R: Don’t get me started…

Eurovision?

R: Up until this year, I never really watched it. But I think I may have been converted.

What’s your favourite place in London?

R: Soho

What’s your favourite place in the world?

R: A place called Seignosse on the south west coast of France. I think it’s where I’d like to end up later in life.

Have you ever been to a gay bar/club?

R: Yes. Many times.

If you could give Bernard from Bernard’s Watch a piece of your mind for misuse of a watch that could stop time, what would you say?

R: A few things come to mind. I won’t say though 😉

If you had to be a pizza topping, which one would you be? 

R: I’d be the cheese 😉 [ED: Best answer possible. I had a birthday plate of cheese instead of a cake a few days ago.]

My X-Men ability was shattered recently. I used to not bruise unless you hit me hard enough but then I bruised easily last month. What’s your X-Men ability?

R: Hmm I don’t think I have one. But, if I could, I’d like to be able to live without sleep. I’d get so much more done.

Describe Amanda Bynes.

R: Who?

Rhiannon Mair covered Adele’s Rolling in the Deep:

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My Top 10 Forgotten or Ignored TV Shows

1. Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23

  • Starring:  Krysten Ritter, Dreama Walker & James Van Der Beek
  • Status: 2 seasons, cancelled
  • Original Run: 2012-2013
  • Rating: 8/10
  • In a Nutshell: Small-town girl moves to NYC and moves in with a sociopathic young woman. When it was on form it was amazing. 2 points knocked off for some crumby jokes and awkward moments. Sadly the show was hitting its stride early on in season 2, only to be cancelled. Boo.

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The Graduate Life In 2013: Anaemic Dreams & An Unhappiness Epidemic?

Bar staff, shop assistants, waiters, administrators and recruitment consultants. Sound familiar? It’s a typical list of the kind of jobs open to most recent graduates. Having ploughed through many unsuccessful and time-consuming graduate scheme applications, young people are then expected to claw at unpaid work experience, as businesses and individuals profit from them. Not much is necessary, a living wage for full-time work, but why does this seem so unattainable?

Buffy Doublemeat Palace

University – one big con?

How long are graduates and young people in general expected to stumble along, as life chips away at their splintering dreams? Young people are sold university as a way to avoid the minimum wage jobs that score so low on job satisfaction and salary prospects yet they are now often spending years and years in such roles after their studies. The UK risks a skill shortage and the rise of a disenfranchised and cynical cohort. We scramble to pay rent and bills, sacrificing interests and hobbies. I can accept the general career progression ladder but it doesn’t have to be so harsh.

The Virgin Suicides Film

The future becomes deathly uncertain when you look around at the combined UCAS points of the average Starbucks and the ‘head in the sand’ attitudes of the privileged. We need to start training young people in a sustainable manner, and stop using the recent recessions as an excuse for everything and exploiting them into university degrees and beyond, which frequently offer little or no real-world value. Maybe we need to make universities more accountable, making sure they provide a lot more uncomfortable details about their courses, such as the amount of (or more commonly lack of) contact time. Maybe with more information for impressionable prospective undergraduates things might improve. Greater transparency is admirable and necessary for lots of things. It seems like universities are just as much a part of the race to the bottom as big business, with more and more so-called ‘independent research’ time in lieu of essays, lectures, tutorials and seminars.

Muted Graduate Dreams

It is with great sadness that I hear about the muted dreams of young people. Sure, there are lots of them doing great and admirable things but as a proportion of the whole I can’t help feeling they are in the minority. If you don’t have the loving support of family, building your way out of basic wages is made insufferably hard. I find using the hardest examples is a good way of looking at things. Without understanding the people most at risk and the ones truly deserving of help, we lose a lot of the compassion we need to function thoughtfully in this world. I know my situation could be a whole lot worse, which is a humbling consideration and one that urges me to publicly comment.

Capitalism? Socialism? What System Do We Need?

History and evolution has taught us that we are not all going to get along. Tribal mentalities continue to persist in some permutation across the world and have been a central issue in many of the most deadly wars as people divide themselves along cultural, ethnic and/or religious lines. History and evolution has taught me that thinking of an alternative to capitalism is very tricky. It’s why I am such a fan of cooperatives – island communities within capitalism, as I like to think of them – and capitalism with a conscience. We need to build each other up, if this world is going to get better for the majority of people scraping by financially. Whatever your political or economic beliefs, we need a system that helps each other. By helping those closest to us, we can begin to understand how our comfortable lives are predicated upon the discomfort of others, in sweatshops, to use a stark example. From the grandest actions to the smallest acts of kindness, each person can be a part of a better world.

Humble Pie & Lessons Learned

rottweiler puppie in backpack

As graduates hopefully move on, it is so important to remember the people we worked with and everyone working hard in a low-wage job with all the uncertainties that entails. Everyone is deserving of respect. A 37.5 hour working week is a 37.5 hour working week. A businessman on a £50,000 salary is working as much as a shop assistant on £9,000, who wasn’t fortunate to be born with a mind that can process and remember information as quickly or born into a family who continually nurture an educative environment. We should never forget the lowest paid as well as the loneliest, hardest and saddest lives being lived across the world (not that they are linked, I must stress). It is my hope that my university cohort remembers the stumbling and helps let it inform our future business, political and very personal decisions.

Why Is Unhappiness So Appealing?

Some people seem to outwardly turn their backs on happiness. They walk away from what can be blindingly obviously good for them. They drop what they’ve been carrying and let the twisted vines of anger and negativity climb their way up and consume them, almost voluntarily. We lose far too many people this way. Perhaps we’re all one shock away from this, I’ve been thinking. A protracted custody battle can leave a man broken enough and homeless enough to find nothing good left in the person they once loved and an empty calm in drunkenness. A family that were never there for a young woman compounds the recent argument with her best friends, tearing apart the social fabric that precariously held her up, where now self-harm just doesn’t feel enough. There are so many stories and versions of events which can take down even the strongest. It is everyone’s duty to understand the fringes of attempts at life. We’re not all lucky enough to want to live and to have the drive to fight.

Faith Buffy

I wanted to talk about the ones that struggle, largely hidden from clear view, and talk to the same ones and let them know I give a shit about them.

In the Darkness

The darkness in despair can feel like a thrill, tricking and deceiving; a thrill that makes your life exciting and worth the pain. We shouldn’t all have a house, partner and two kids in mind when we think of happiness (I don’t really at this point) but I do like to think trying crystal meth isn’t such a cute idea, despite its allure thanks to Breaking Bad! 🙂

Even in the darkness, it’s about building yourself up, block by block. I wanted to stress this because it can be done and despair can lock onto you tight. Before long it’s like the cold hands of a killer and no one can find you. Don’t let the darkest emotions seduce you and reduce you too much. They’ll exhilarate and then, like the iciest of one night stands, leave you nursing yourself alone. Sure, it can make a great story and make you feel pulsating and alive but inevitably at a toxic cost. By all means, experience things. Don’t be afraid to lose. I love spontaneity but be mindful about being in control. You can be crazy and wild without tearing apart a future that can and will get better. Just be mindful in your thirst and pursuit of experience.

Positivity vs. Negativity

As a tinkerer of sorts with words, I find the darkest emotions are the most beautiful to write about. Sadly for many musicians, for instance, it takes personal tragedy for them to truly connect to an audience. My opinions on many, many people have changed and softened upon hearing about their troubles. It’s human and humbling to learn from other’s misfortune so let’s learn. No doubt they would want some good to come out of their situations.

Saying that, it can be the most obvious and annoying thing to be told to try and be happier. ‘No shit, Sherlock’ can spring to mind as a response. Being told to cheer up won’t always help at the time but take it as a warning sign: that person could be tiring of your negativity. They might be too sensitive but you might find yourself growing apart quickly. It could be a great thing, some ‘friends’ can be bad for you, but it’s not always like that.

I lost a lot of friendships this way. I lost myself in anger too often because I hated the world and every ‘delusional’, ‘happy’ person in it. Through some great people and experiences and the continuing support of a family, I found that going where I wouldn’t normally go taught me so much. I don’t want anyone to give up before they can get to a similar point.

The Reward in Effort

Serenity

We’re not all therapists and we don’t have the time or energy to help everybody. We can’t all be superheroes and superhuman when it comes to the ones who can’t seem to help themselves but it can help to understand that they need to be shown the best sides of humans. In a thousand different, small ways you can be part of that. Random, small acts of kindness can snatch someone back from a spiralling fall. You may never know what a kind word can do for someone but it can’t hurt to try, right?

Why Are Gay Men So Angry?

I saw the article in the Metro today about being angry and I wrote a few words over the weekend that fit quite snugly next to the story. Article:

http://metro.co.uk/2013/03/11/anger-is-an-energy-what-makes-you-lose-your-temper-3532757/

Are We Too Angry?

From my experience, too many gay men are angry. We grow up in a world seemingly full of loveless voices. A million praises can be undone by a few, viciously hateful toads (no offense, actual toads). It is imperative though that we must let ourselves be happy. It is a big win for yourself and a classy middle finger to the hatemongers. Try to condition yourself to manage your negative internal voice. Reflect on recent behaviour. Do you really hate that person that much? It’s a battle to reorder the way you think. I’m still battling hard. It can take a long time, broken up by stops and starts. Bad things can set you back and good things can propel you forward. Please, stay on course as much as you can. We don’t have to be so angry. I’m sure the Tombliboos below would agree.

tombliboos

Uncomfortable Version of Ourselves

Many religious voices tended to tear at us as we precariously grew up. Too many times, hate clings to religion to justify itself. Jesus by all accounts seemed a loving man, whatever you believe. Quite how the haters work around that still puzzles me. Saying that, my mind is dragged back to the frequent jibes and gay jokes (as well as actual stones) thrown at me at school, as a few too many stood idly by, but luckily I’m not letting this make me angry anymore. Instead I’m trying to fight. It’s a work in progress but I’m trying to let go of poisonous habitual thinking and learning to let myself be happy and let myself be happy for others.

Taking one example: sneers, whispers, social exclusion, turned backs and plenty of fights are just some of the behaviour I’ve regularly experienced (admittedly I’m guilty myself) from observing gay men in bars and clubs. But where is all this getting us? Gay bars seem to be declining in popularity, based on anecdotal evidence, because we can meet guys online and even at places like the gym (I can’t be the only one…I’m assuming) and many of the bars are tired, static places, which doesn’t help. Like any good bar needs to do, you need to take a deep breath of fresh air sometimes. A lick of paint can help as well as a new way of managing and promoting.

We can still poke fun at each other (as a self-professed comical genius, I have perfected the eye roll, for instance) but there’s no need to take it too far. For example, if you don’t like a ‘camp queen’ trying to be happy in some bar next weekend, you’re the only one losing if you spend any time hating him. Let him have his specific kind of happiness as you are owed yours. If you are going to make a joke about someone in a bar, don’t internalise it, make it subtle and make it funny. Non-gay bars are no better, I know, but such a comparison is a diversion tactic. Try and remember you probably have shared experiences of growing up. Picking on someone is not impressive, unless it’s in a silly movie or TV show, e.g. Jill Tyrell in Nighty Night. 🙂

Changes

team-america-world-police

Changes can be uncomfortable and long. Montages in the movies can be an unusually cruel reminder of this. As I pursue happiness as a process and not an end result, I have come to make some difficult and questionable changes, which haven’t always worked. Try and bounce back, I often tell myself. It took a year for me to bounce back from one particular blow in 2011, so stick in there if you’re not feeling hopeful.

Keeping it fresh, however old you are in whatever small ways you can, is so important to gay men’s health and happiness. We don’t have the same social expectations in life and role models are hard to come by that don’t eventually let us down. Set realistic expectation and you can find a role model in yourself, I’m quite sure. Thank yourself for how far you’ve come. Acknowledge the hurt, process it and don’t let it command your happiness. Gay men don’t have to be so angry, I know and I hope.

Jason Parmenter

5 of My Top TV Shows and Why

TV doesn’t need to do much for me to make me watch it but my favourite shows requite a lot. I’ve got quite a few favourite TV shows but I thought I’d share with you a few of them in a bit more detail. Please let me know what your favourite TV shows are and why because I want to judge you. 🙂

1. Nighty Night

Nighty Night follows an eccentric, self-proclaimed 20-something in leafy England as she tackles the travails of new longings and loves, as her husband lies in hospital ‘dying’ of cancer. Protagonist Jill Tyrell, a beauty therapist, runs her own salon alongside her long-time confidant and friend, Linda. As her husband is cooped up in hospital, she chases after her new neighbour, Don, while befriending his wife, Catherine – who suffers from MS. As clueless as she is conniving, Jill is the sort of cultish, chilling brilliance TV needs.

Deliciously dark, the first of the two seasons was impeccable in its delivery of screwed up situations and built up its own astonishing vernacular. Critics and lots of gay men loved it but as is often the case it never quite got the success of other, weaker UK comedies (don’t mention Mrs Brown’s Boys or Miranda to me).  If you haven’t caught it yet, I insist you at least look at the clips available on youtube. Fav Eps: All of Season 1

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The Best Things about Growing Up [Part 1] – Popularity

The It Gets Better campaign raises some interesting questions. For those who don’t know, it’s an internet-based project that grew as a response to suicides that related to real or perceived sexuality. People essentially upload videos letting people know life gets better, particularly after school and college.

Honestly, I haven’t watched many, if any in full, because I don’t think I believed them before. Words are easy, good moods can promise the world but the sharpest edges in life had taught me to recoil quickly and distrust happiness as a fool’s game. The way I used to think saddens me. To be distrusting of life at a young age makes me want to reach back through time and let me know it gets better in my own special way. The good news is that I managed to find a way out of what was quite self-destructive ways of thinking and it is only in the past year or so that I feel I am really shedding the layers of anger that had built up. I’ve started to ask myself why I’m happier in more detail recently; when before introspection was unpleasant. And because of it I wanted to say a few things about popularity at school and how it can morph into something very different, something wonderful and something to pursue.

Tai-Cher-and-Dionne-prepped-up

School

School can be hard. Without the ‘freedoms’ adults take for granted and without knowing anything much else, it can feel like being in prison for an indeterminate sentence with no explanation. The It Gets Better campaign got me thinking about popularity and what it means to different people. For some it is about contentment, knowing and trusting a small group of people; for others it’s an insatiable climb. However you view popularity I hope you can understand that some people at school aren’t content, rightly or wrongly. Many of us dream of fame for a reason, even though that reason can be hard to unravel. My point is that it’s a real dream for many to be ‘popular’ and I think it’s important for teenagers to understand that popularity in the working world plays out very differently.

Popularity

Popularity at school is a mess. For those blessed with kind souls and happy dispositions, school is frequently no less hard but in some ways it can be a hell of a lot easier. In a school a mistake is often long remembered and can be used as ammo unexpectedly for maximum embarrassment. Some people cope with this far better than others. You did well and I’m happy for you. For those who didn’t, I want to say it definitely gets better. You can find your popularity in a small group of people as much as you might have thought you could only find it as a celebrity of some sort. Reorient your expectations and accept quality over quantity and you will find a little bit more peace.

Being Human

Human beings need to fight, in my opinion. Complacency and perfection suit very few people. That does not justify the savagery of imperialistic wars and free-market capitalism, for instance, but it raises some things to think about. I’ve said before I think life is about the pursuit of happiness. You must find your riches in experiences and the things that build you up, which allow you to become a better person. I realise there’s no set path and precious little guidance along the way to help everybody. For those without the right guidance it might take a little longer but put yourself out there in a new way, if things are getting too hard. Trust me on that.

buffygrave

In Conclusion

I feel lucky enough to call 3 people my best friends now.  I realise this could change in an instant. Quietly and infrequently (I’m not a sadist) I like to remind myself of that so that I remain grateful for them. School made it seem like what I had was not enough, as I was picked last for team sports and never had anyone visit my home, apart from a funeral when I had one stay over. I learnt from my (often self-imposed) loneliness. It just took me a lot longer to understand the world enough to get better, that’s all. I learnt from the knocks and I learnt a lot from hope.

Life never justifies itself. It’s a hard lesson to learn but there’s a lot to learn in life. If you’re struggling maybe watch a sunrise, visit somewhere new, do yoga, do something unexpectedly nice for someone or maybe even pursue a new career. The options abound so please, go ahead.

Jason Parmenter