We sat down with the brilliant singer-songwriter Greg Gould to chat a bit about his career and his latest album 1998.
So, Greg Gould how have you been living your best life in the time of ‘Rona?
Look, I don’t know if you would call this our best life – it’s certainly interesting and whilst there is a lot of hardships, sadly lives lost and affected greatly, I do think the silver lining here is that people will appreciate things more and I hope people don’t take the small things for granted anymore; getting less caught up in things that just don’t matter in the grand scheme.
It’s certainly been life-changing for me and has given me time to really think about things and set some new goals and direction. Really feeling for those in Melbourne right now where it’s terrible – Melbourne is my favourite place in the world and I had actually considered moving there this year – half the artists on my album are Melbourne-based so I really feel for them at this trying time.
So, let’s take you back to the beginning. You grew up in Lake Munmorah in the Central Coast region of New South Wales – what was it like growing up there?
I adore the Central Coast, specially where I grew up. We lived right on the lake so we really were spoilt. We used to Kayak and go bushwalking. We used to ride our bikes everywhere. I was very fortunate to have a very active childhood and a good community to live in. The only thing that was really tough for me was once I started singing in school. I was severely bullied to the point that I remember not having even one friend at one stage of my primary school years. It was tough.
It was at a time where singing, especially if you were a boy, wasn’t cool. The Voice and Idol weren’t around then and as so many of the bullies would tell me “Only girls sing!” ‘The Boy Is Mine’ music video is loosely based off my own childhood. So I was lucky to have an outdoorsy brother who didn’t mind taking me on his bike riding and bush walking adventures with him! haha
Were you encouraged by your parents to pursue your dreams?
Absolutely. My mother was my first Manager haha… They put me into the Johnny Young Talent School when I was ten. My mum has always been super proud and my Dad every year would take me to a recording studio to get my voice on tape to show my growth each year. They were really supportive.
Check out ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ by Greg Gould:
What was playing in your teenage bedroom and who inspired you to be a singer?
Jenny Morris’s Shiver and Tina Arena’s Don’t Ask! Don’t Ask was the first album I ever bought with my pocket money and I wore out my mum’s Shiver album. Music was a real escape for me as a child, especially being bullied. It was my way to switch off and block out what was happening.
Those albums were like my best friends and the soundtrack to my childhood. I can remember singing ‘Chains’ by Tina Arena at the top of my boy soprano voice at the time into a hairbrush!
Your first exposure to the showbiz churn was through Australian Idol. How was that experience for you? What did it teach you about life?
Awful, [laughs]. I was 16 and after I sang my song Kyle Sandilands said before anything about my actual performance “Are you gay or straight?” When I replied that I was confused about my sexuality and wanted to remain label free Mark Holden said “c’mon mate, label free means your gay”.
Once I got back to the waiting room they chucked a camera in my mother’s face and said “How does it feel that your son has just come out on national television?” It was terrible and I stopped singing for about four years.
That led to a significant period of reflection. How did you manage to pull yourself through that process?
I think I always knew that I would always come back to it at some point because I do believe I was put on this earth to perform and sing. It’s a huge part of who I am but I need to deal with everything else and be strong within myself and who I am before going down that road again.
When you eventually came out, how did you deal with that? How supportive were those around you?
I think it’s not easy for most as you never know how people will take it, especially when we are talking 17 years ago. In 2020 it can still be tough but it’s a very different time.
I had support around me but it was a journey. I would say me dealing and coming to terms with it myself and being able to be proud of who I am was the harder part. I am very proud of who I am now but it was a journey.
Check out Greg Gould on Australia’s Got Talent:
It took you a while to re-enter the fray with Australia’s Got Talent. Besides coming runner up, what did you get out of that process?
[Laughs], well I didn’t get 250K, damn it! I got confidence and it was quite affirming for me and it was a launch pad of self-belief for me. I loved it.
Would you recommend it to anyone?
Look, yes as long as you go in with your eyes wide open with no expectations. Be yourself and be confident in what you are gonna put out there. I liked AGT for the fact that I wasn’t on a TEAM like a Team Kelly etc. like The Voice. I just performed what I wanted to perform and they judged me.
You have been honoured by ACON for your work in combatting the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and using your passion, voice and art to stand up for the LGBTQIA+ community. How does it make you feel to earn these accolades and what still needs to be done?
I like to share stories and important issues from the people I love and my community. This is the driving force behind any charity or community work that I do.
I have to believe in it wholeheartedly and the music videos I make are for the same reasons. It’s always gorgeous to be recognised in a positive way for what you do and your art.
There is still a lot that can be done in terms of stigma and I also believe Marriage Equality is only part of what Equality truly is for the LGBT community. I do think we have come along way but there’s still lots to be done.
You lived through the gay marriage debate. How difficult was it for a gay man to live through that?
I was single and had been for six years so it was way more about not being able to discriminate against anyone and allowing everyone the same rights. I think having marriage equality takes away some of the rights to discriminate and it was more for me it was sending a message to future generations that it’s ok to be who you are.
You can be with the same sex and there are no limits to that relationship in the eyes of the world and the law.
Check out ‘Don’t Let Go (Love)’ by Greg Gould:
You were once told by an artist agency that you were too gay and should tone it down. Is this attitude still commonplace in a society like Australia?
It’s getting better but sadly it’s still around. It really should be about the performance, the talent and the person rather than how camp or flamboyant someone is or their sexuality.
That’s what bothered me so much at the time of Australian Idol. What has that got to do with it? It’s a singing competition. Times are changing but we must keep calling it out when it presents because it’s still there. It’s just not to be tolerated
So let’s talk about your success of 1998 which is a collaboration of covers from that year. Why choose 1998?
So, it was initially to be released in 2018 which would have been the 20th Anniversary of all of the songs but sadly I lost my step mum Sharon to stage four lung cancer so I took some time off making the album as we were in the middle of it when she passed.
I was born in ’88 so there was a nice synergy there and Billboard named 1998 the best year of the ’90s for music and if you have a look at the set list on my album you will see why – so many bangers!
Have you been surprised by the continuing global success of the album?
I am super grateful that people are loving it and its connecting especially at a time like now. I loved doing this type of collaborative record and see myself doing another one like this in the future.
How do you continue to manage your international brand from a land down under?
[Laughs], now I have that song stuck in my head! I haven’t really touched the surface of what I want to achieve overseas. COVID stalled that a bit so I’m looking forward to a lot of international plans in 2021. Thank goodness for the internet at these crazy times!
Check out ‘The Boy Is Mine’ by Greg Gould:
How did you get so many stars to work with you on that album?
I was lucky enough to know most of them either as mates or had performed at corporate gigs or met them through mutual friends. Others I just contacted on Facebook or Instagram, [laughs]. I was blown away by the interest and honoured with the people that joined me on this special project
You donated all the profits to Dame Olivia Newton John’s Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in memory of your late step mother. What work are they doing to assist cancer sufferers?
At the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre the patients experience world-leading treatment and what I really love is that they have wellness programs to support patients in body, mind and spirit which is so important.
In terms of research they have over 200 clinical trials in progress, providing access to new, breakthrough therapies – they are a really special centre and I’m proud to be supporting them.
Each song seems to have a clear message. The first song to be released from the album was ‘The Boy Is Mine’ with Peyton and has a strong anti-bullying message in the video. How important is social messaging in music to you?
It’s kinda become just as important as the music itself for me. When choosing the songs I perform now, I think how would I make the visual and what’s the message behind it.
I like making real life stories that are relatable and I really enjoy giving these songs perhaps a new narrative unseen before. ‘The Boy Is Mine’ is a great example of that, where we flipped the narrative from two women fighting over a man to a mother who’s fighting for her son.
You have self-directed or co directed the videos for your releases. Where does this talent come from and what is it like working with people like Maria Mercedes?
I have always been creative with my shows and the aesthetics and I am a very visual person. I didn’t realise just how much I would love it till we did the ‘Don’t Let Go’ video. Maria is a dear friend and a dream to work with. We loved collaborating both in song and behind the camera and we definitely will do it again soon.
‘Love Like This’, which is a collaboration with iconic House vocalist Inaya Day, was chosen as the official anthem for Sydney Pride 2020 and you were then selected to represent Sydney at the inaugural Global Pride 2020 festival, performing with Inaya and sharing the bill with Todrick Hall, Melanie C, Kesha, LeAnn Rimes, Olivia Newton John, Elton John, Deborah Cox and Adam Lambert.
Firstly, how did you get Inaya to perform on the album and secondly how did it feel to be part of such a stellar line up.
Inaya was one of the people I contact on Instagram and asked to do a track together. What was really special about this collaboration is that I didn’t realise when I pitched ‘Love Like This’ to her that her late brother Schon had co-written the song with Faith Evans.
Doing Global Pride was a real honour to represent Sydney Pride and to have Inaya with me – it was truly special.
Check out ‘Today’ by Greg Gould:
The second single released is a double track ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ and ‘One of Us’. This is a new arrangement of classic ’90s music featuring Tania Doko from Bachelor Girl and Eric Bazilian from the Hooters. How did that come about?
Tania and I became friends a few years back and she introduced me to Eric when she recorded her vocals for ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’. What a special version this is. I am such a fan of Tania’s voice and to have the guy who wrote ‘One Of Us’ on the track with me is a complete honour.
What makes these two tracks so different from the originals?
I think the entire vibe is different, less production; stripped right back so its more vulnerable and all about the lyrics and the way its felt.
Being so far apart, how did the three of you manage to work together?
They were both in Sweden at the time and recorded in the same studio together; Erics studio. I did my demo first and they put their thang on it. It’s my favourite track on the album by far.
What are you like in the studio yourself?
I can be a perfectionist but it’s all about heart and feel for me. I want people to believe every word every run every breath I take because I really do mean what I am singing. I like to switch the world off around me and really feel like it’s just me and the mic; mood lighting is a preference, [laughs].
Check out ‘My All (Mi Todo)’ by Greg Gould:
Who are the artists that inspire to continually improve?
Oooh… I’m inspired by live music. I like to go to gigs and see real singers out there giving their heart and soul. I draw influence from so many artists so it’s hard to pin one down. I am very driven and passionate about what I do so good music keeps me going and seeing people do what they love.
What do you have in the musical pipeline?
I definitely what do get my debut original album out next year but I’ve got one more surprise coming up early 2021, first!
- What’s your favourite song of all time? Gosh that’s so hard as I have many but cos its on my 1998 album and I love it – I’m gonna go with an Australian song and my girl Tania Doko’s ‘Buses & Trains’. I also can’t go past Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’.
- Your favourite sound? R’n’B soul.
- Love is…? Honesty.
- What do you do when you’re not Switched On? Cuddle up and watch a rom-com.
- Favourite place? Melbourne and New York.
- Your ultimate duet partner? Tina Arena.
This is supposed to be a fun question: Your family gets a call to say you are in a bit of bother. What have you done and where have you been?
[Laughs,] hmm, well I don’t have a car anymore ’cause I moved to the city a few years back and didn’t need one but I did crash a fair few cars; some worse than others. I even got caught in a flash flood once so there was a fair few phone calls made with those memories attached, [laughs].