This time it’s personal

Miles Graham told David Hennessy why his appearance on the Late Late Show was so tough, how his marriage break-up inspired his latest EP and what he does and does not like about lockdown.

The Dublin singer and songwriter Miles Graham’s music is championed by well known DJs such as Laura Whitmore and Cerys Matthews. His new EP All the Right Things deals with the pain of his marriage break-up and Miles says that music became his therapy through that tough time.

Miles Graham told The Irish World: “I think it’s pretty evident that I suffered heartbreak. In writing music in the past I’ve always been creative in the story, in the narrative. It hasn’t been about me.

“This time around it’s a bit more personal because I’ve been through heartbreak and break-up myself so I suppose I used that.

“I use music as my therapy, as writing to get through that period. Some of the songs are what came out of that.

“The EP is called All the Right Things. It sounds like a self-help book. It’s about my journey in the music industry but also it’s about how we all try to do the right things but our right things mightn’t be the right thing for somebody else.”

Recorded in London, the EP is more upbeat than it may sound with the track Don’t Change conveying a strong message about not losing yourself within a break-up and the track Sunbeam a poignant tribute to his daughter.

Two years ago Miles got the chance to perform on The Late Late Show. Playing on the Friday night staple is an honour for any Irish performer but it came at a time when Miles was struggling due to the collapse of his marriage.

“I got a call to go on that institution and I was in no fit state to do it at all. Eventually my manager and my friend Shane and my family in Dublin were like, ‘Look, you’ve got to do this. You’ve worked hard’. Emotionally I was all over the place and didn’t know if it was a good idea to go on live TV to the nation.

“It was something that I had dreamed of growing up as a kid and the Late Late Show being that institution to introduce new artists, it was a huge thing. I was eventually convinced to do it.

“I went and did the show. It was okay. I don’t think it was my best performance ever but it was okay.

“The main concept of the show was the abortion referendum which was obviously a very controversial and dark subject. Then I was supposed to go out and sing this song to bring everybody up.

“That’s life. I belted out the performance but my personal state at the time wasn’t the best. Afterwards I just totally broke down. The guys were in the green room having drinks, ‘Great job, blah, blah, blah. I just went into the dressing room and I totally fell to pieces.”

This was followed by Miles taking a break from music for a while.

“I just literally gave up on music. For the next year or so I was just concentrating on my family. Family’s really important to me and I’ve always been that way.

“Something like that just floors you. I eventually started using music as a therapy to get through that and I came up with this bunch of songs in that time period.”

Miles recently performed on Laura Whitmore’s BBC radio show when he reworked a very appropriate song for those on the front line.

“They normally ask you to sing a cover on these shows so I ended up doing Dido’s Thank You and dedicated it to the front line workers. That got a really good response. It would have been nice to meet Laura and be there on the show but unfortunately we’re in the situation we’re in, I suppose.”

It is not like Miles has not met Laura before as both of them had worked on RTE’s song writing reality show The Hit years ago.

“I was on a TV show about song writing in Ireland way back. She was presenting it. That was the first time I met her and then just pure randomly, I think it was one of the first times I was over in London, I was in Camden just coming out of the underground and just literally bumped into her. I was like, ‘Hey Laura’, and then we just got chatting again, catching up and she said, ‘Oh, I must come along to some of your gigs’. She came along to some gigs and I suppose she’s supported the music since. She’s brilliant. She’s very positive. She’s a positive beacon.

“I suppose I fancy myself as a songwriter more than an artist. I’ve no ambitions to be a pop star or anything like that, or famous for that matter. I just love creating. Since I was a young age I just had that creative urge. Throughout my life I’ve always had melodies going through my head. Didn’t understand what they were at first. I remember walking to school all the time and at that time the mobile phones weren’t as prevalent. You couldn’t record yourself. You had to remember it.”

Despite his early inclination towards music, Miles never thought to pursue it, instead studying IT and working in various other fields. It was when he hit his 30s that he decided to launch his assault on the music industry.

“Then I just had the lightbulb moment. It just hit me, ‘Maybe I should try and have a career in music and it happened around the time of the recession when a lot of people went back into the arts and back into education.

“As a creative person, I have to be creative. I’ve tried not being creative. It wouldn’t work for me to work in a bank or be an accountant. They’re good jobs and suit a lot of people but that’s not who I am.”

Miles got a massive break when he wrote 1994 with a group called L’Tric and Dutch DJ Don Diablo which went to number two in the UK dance charts.

“I finally got a breakthrough in 2015. It’s escalated since then but it’s a tough business, even more so now. It’s a really difficult time. Hopefully we’ll get out of it.”

Miles never expected to be releasing music in these circumstances and says performing without the crowd’s reaction takes so much of the pleasure from it all.

“I love that connection with people and the energy, I miss that now. I’m a people person. I like making that connection with people. You’ve taken away that element that makes the whole working in the industry dynamic, or the little pleasures you have for the work. It seems to be all work.

“I think the world needed a break from itself. I love how the institution of family has come to the fore. Where everything in the media before was very corporate, I was watching Sky News the other day and you see the young kid coming in and asking for two biscuits. Did you see that? I just love that.

“The media needs to see a bit more of family. We all have the same common bond. These common things make us human, keep us together. With all the differences that people can pull out like what’s going on with racism, I think it’s important to highlight our common bond. Hopefully that vein continues a bit.”

Although he is now based in Sligo, Miles is originally from Neilstown in Dublin. Although it may have an unsavoury reputation, he says it had a great sense of community when he was growing up.

“You wouldn’t put Neilstown on your CV if you were going for a job. I suppose Neilstown was known as a rough area full of council estates but it had a lovely community at the same time. Good people. You would knock in for some butter or some sugar and in a way Dublin has lost a bit of that now. When I moved, I noticed that is still evident in the country which is great. I just love that.

“That’s what it was like, growing up. There was the rough side: Robbing cars, anti-social behaviour and whatnot. It’s gotten worse now, moved on to gun crime.”

The EP All the Right Things by Miles Graham is out now.

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