Just a few weeks after Reuben Gray competed in the Britain’s Got Talent semi-finals, the sixteen-year-old singer-songwriter is set to head off later this week on a tour around the country with Yes Lad. Reuben first appeared on screens in April this year where he performed his original track, Lifeline at the Britain’s Got Talent auditions, which has since become very popular across the internet. We caught up with him to discuss the show, his life as a singer so far and his inspirations for songwriting.
What was your experience like on Britain’s Got Talent, was it everything you thought it would be?
I never really expected anything from it in the first place, so I never really knew what to expect and so when I started it felt a bit crazy and the whole thing was just a blur. It was just such good fun and it was a lot more fun than I expected.
Did you really not know your dad was there?
No, I seriously had no idea, that completely just shook me.
Have you found appearing on the show has given you more opportunities?
Yes, appearing on the show has been such a great platform for me. I get to talk to incredible people and manage to work with some really cool people and it’s actually just very exciting because without the show I’d never be doing what I’m doing now so it’s good.
Did you connect with any of the other contestants?
Yeah, everyone was actually incredibly nice. When we all came out of our semi-final everyone was clapping, it was lovely and we all got selfies with each other and everyone was so supportive. The guys who won it were just so humble, it was really nice.
What advice would you give to anybody wanting to apply next year?
Just take it as a bit of fun, don’t take it too seriously, but if it doesn’t work out that’s fine there’s loads more to do and it is just a load of fun and it’s a TV show. You can’t expect to go out there and suddenly be the biggest thing that’s ever hit the music stage, it won’t work unless you’re One Direction! You’ve got to take it seriously, but I’m saying don’t take it so seriously that your life revolves around it.
Did you notice an increase on your social media following after your appearance on the show?
A slight increase, just a little bit, um no actually everyone was very kind and they all went and found me on the internet and it’s great because three days ago I hit 50,000 Instagram followers so that’s a bit crazy. It’s all going up and it’s very nice.
Do people treat you differently now you’ve been on TV?
No not really, I think my mates sort of take the mickey out of me all the time, everyone tries to keep me pretty grounded but there’s nothing really to keep me grounded with, I mean it’s not really fame it’s like you’re nearly there mate but you’re not really!
Do you get people asking you in the street for photos, do people recognise you?
Yeah I do, but that’s nice, when you get that it’s like ooh you’ve recognised me!
Will you be releasing Lifeline on iTunes or streaming sites?
Hahahaha, let’s just put that as a maybe! It’s kind of out of my hands, obviously as being a part of such a huge franchise, and being tied into agreements with them, any decisions like that aren’t really mine. But let’s just say one day, if there’s enough interest in it.
Would you like to release an album of your original music, and do you have plans to do so?
I would love to release an album of my original music and I have my own plans to do so, but usually it’s not the artist who gets to decide. It would be very exciting and I think there’s lots of scope because I’m only sixteen, so there definitely will be something, because if not, I have failed.
Do you still busk?
I don’t busk anymore. I used to busk a lot and now I’ve found that it’s not really the best way for me. I used to busk when I was little and because I looked small everyone thought ‘oh he’s cute’ and gave me loads of money which was great because I could afford to buy a guitar and teach myself. Now I just do gigs which is a lot more rewarding.
How did you get involved with Scoutabout?
Scoutabout came straight after the show, we got an email from the guy who runs it and he asked if I wanted to play and I went yeah I’d love to. He told me that there’s 6000 kids there and he asked if I wanted to play in the morning, I said end of the night, headline. It was great, we got to play at 9:30pm, it was all dark and everyone had their phones out, it was just brilliant.
Have you had any music or songwriting lessons?
No, I’ve never had a songwriting lesson, I’ve had music lessons, I started playing saxophone and also piano when I was ten and then I started –
Mother – No, piano when you were seven.
Reuben – Okay.
Mother – You’ve done this too many times.
Reuben – Yeah I know, I keep forgetting piano when I was seven. I started writing songs when I was ten, saxophone when I was eleven.
Mother – Ten/eleven…
Reuben – Ten/eleven. I used to write little melodies on piano, and then just started singing. I didn’t really like singing because I didn’t like my own voice till I was about fourteen. I used to write songs for other people in my school for them to sing, so I’d write a song for a group of five guys and girls and we all went to do this little concert for the spring prom, I wrote this song and they all had to sing it, I really don’t think they were very happy about it. Since then I got caught in a practise room one day just playing guitar and singing one of my songs, someone came in and said ‘oh I really like your voice’ and I went oh that’s nice of you thank you very much, then I went and did it myself.
Where do you get the inspiration from to write your songs?
Inspiration for my songs normally comes from normal things that I do, things that I’ve seen or what’s happened to me. I like to think that my music is believable to some sense, and I don’t think there’s a point really when music is not believable because no one’s going to connect to it. It’s normally about things that have happened to me or if not, it’s normally about things that have happened to lots of people, so yeah people can really connect to it. If it’s not about that, it might be something that has just come into my head and I’m like ‘oh that’s a cool thing to write a song about’, it’s quite a weird process. It’s not sometimes straight away that you get a song in thirty minutes, sometimes it takes like a month so it changes a lot.
What instruments can you play?
I play the piano, the saxophone, the organ, the guitar, I tried the flute, I can’t play it! I’ve got a triangle and I have this weird banjo/ukulele thing. I can play the ukulele, what’s the other thing? There’s like um I’ve got a massive like old harmonica, what is it?
Mother – Harmonica?
Reuben – I’ve got a harmonica I can play one of those, and a massive squeezebox thing which is like really old. (it’s an accordion!)
Mother – You’re like the one-man-band.
Reuben – I’m a one-man-band yeah. I taught myself the guitar since I played the piano, so if anyone’s looking to get into music, don’t start with the guitar in that sense, start with the piano because that’s going to teach you everything you need to know. I just play the instruments which I feel help me with my writing and producing and that sort of stuff.
You’re going on tour with Yes Lad, how did this come about?
I got a tweet from Yes Lad saying ‘we really like Reuben Gray’, someone said ‘Yes Lad, what do you think of Reuben Gray?’ and they said ‘Reuben Gray is awesome’ in their tweet, I was like oh that’s very nice of you to say that. About a week after the semi-finals, I got a message from their manager Nigel Martin-Smith and they said ‘do you want to come on tour with us because the lads really want to meet you and go on tour with you’ and I was like yeah, why would you turn that down, going on tour across the UK sounds really cool to me so I’m excited about that, starting soon actually.
Have you been rehearsing?
I’ve got a gig on Wednesday (last week, 19th July) at the O2 Academy Islington.
Mother – You’re rehearsing on Monday, aren’t you, with them.
Reuben – Oh right, really, thanks for that, didn’t know about that! Before BGT I was going around London the whole time gigging. I used to play at loads of different Open Mics and stuff nearly every weekend. Nearly every day in the summer, me and a mate would be going up to Open Mics and he was like my over-eighteen guy that got me in, we’d be playing loads of that and that was kind of how BGT kicked off as well, so yeah, it’s really cool.
You obviously have your own shows coming up, where can people see you?
I’m actually supporting Jack & Joel (supported last week). I’ve never met them before in my life, they came up to me the other day and said ‘do you want to support us?’ I was like where are you playing and they said the O2 Academy at Islington and I was like yep I’ll support you. I’m playing an exclusive piano bar show in Oxford in the theatre and that’s going to be really cool because it’s a really intimate gig, it’s like 800 people max and it’s going to be an hour of me taking all the songs back to their roots, it’s an opportunity to play live behind a grand piano again. I’ve got plans for a couple of headline shows around the UK at the end of this summer, also some big plans for later on in the year, something else regarding shows.
Mother – You can talk about the Coffee House Sessions.
Reuben – I’m doing the Coffee House Sessions, those are mostly aimed at uni people so they go around uni bars and you play like a twenty minute set, but it’s run by some pretty cool people.
If you could tour with anybody who would you like it to be?
Do they have to be alive?
Mother – Top five.
Reuben – Top five? Okay, Prince, Michael Jackson, Elvis, then you got to go with my two picks from recent years which would be McFly and Matt Corby definitely. I’d like to tour with lots of other people as well, so pretty much anyone who’s above the million mark, anyone who will have me really! The Vamps were very nice when I met them on BGT, so if they ever need a touring act, no I’m joking, actually, I would yeah they were very nice they liked one of my tweets the other day so I was like oh thank you very much.
Do you have plans to release merchandise, and what would you like to sell?
I don’t know if anyone really wants to buy a picture of my face to be honest with you, I know that I really wouldn’t want to buy a picture of my face but I’m not the ordinary person. I don’t think what everyone else is doing like t-shirts and stuff but I think the coolest thing ever would be to have a signature guitar or something like that, that’s my dream. I know James Bay just got his new epiphone, he just released that and they created the exact same model and sold it all across the world so that would be the coolest thing to have a signature guitar, like John Lennon definitely!
Are you involved in any charity work for the armed forces or any other charity?
I’ve written songs for Armed Forces Day which I’m trying to do something with, that song is I’m Not Terrified and that’s all about general army guards because my dad was in the army. I want to do something with that, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it yet, I want to do something regarding the army.
Who do you aspire to be like in the music business?
There’s a couple of people, I think prolific songwriters in general, so people like Prince, I don’t aspire to be like him exactly, definitely like to get to a level where people all sing your songs, you play shows that are that big, a good example of that is someone like Ed Sheeran whose songs are so good and it’s all about his songs, he manages to play Wembley for three nights in a row and it gets sold out and everyone comes and screams every lyric which is definitely a dream. In general, I’d like to be just as good a musician as I can be and have people respect me for doing what I love.
What are your plans for the next year, will you be going to college?
My plans for the next year is to be doing as much music as possible. My ideal situation is to scrap the rest of school but I’m not so sure if the parents are going to be too happy with that! There’s lots of stuff going on behind the scenes and it’s all very exciting and if anything gets pulled off then hopefully I can jump out of school, but so far it’s looking like I might have to be there for the first bit of September. In my head, my plan is to do September, maybe a bit of October, then October half term hits and they go ‘Reuben, you can’t cope with this now, we have to go to America!’ so that’s what my aim is, so if anyone’s reading this right now and thinking oh we need someone to go and do a record or something, hit me up because I’ll do anything!
Mother – But you have got A-levels.
Reuben – I have got A-levels but they’re not very important on the grand scheme of things, so if anyone’s thinking of record deals, come over, I’ve got lots of songs for you!
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