Interview : Jordan Gray, The Voice UK
Having legally changed her name to Miss Jordan Grey, transgender Jordan has been performing as a singer for the last ten years, but the first eight of those she performed as a male. As a full time singer, Jordan’s life is devoted to music and she performs at a range of gigs every week as well as a variety of festivals. She recently appeared on hit BBC show The Voice and in the Blind Audition she performed ‘Just Like A Woman’ by Bob Dylan, impressing the judges. Despite none of the judges turning around for her, it’s just been announced that she has a second chance to make her mark in The Battles round as part of #TeamPaloma.
CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR AWESOME PERFORMANCE ON THE VOICE UK, AND BEING A PART OF PALOMA’S TEAM. HOW WAS THE EXPERIENCE AND WHAT TRIGGERED YOU TO APPLY TO TAKE PART?
Friends and fans have been pushing me to try out for The Voice for years. I was cynical and sceptical, like a lot of people, but there was always an integrity and sincerity about The Voice that did appeal. I was eventually scouted and took the plunge. The entire process has been an emotional roller coaster that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Regarding my return… yes, I’m back. It’s official. Paloma announced my return on Nick Grimshaw’s Breakfast show on Friday morning. Round 2 *ding ding*
WE LOVED THE SONG YOU PERFORMED. WAS IT DIFFICULT DECIDING WHAT SONG TO SING AND PERFORM?
Me and my Mom sat down around my piano in Scotland and decided on a few tunes between us. I landed on Bob Dylan’s ‘Just Like A Woman’ because I figured that if I didn’t make it through, I wanted to go out singing something I believe in. I have tried to re-appropriate that song as a new Trans* anthem. Because that’s how it feels to me.
WOULD YOU APPLY TO TAKE PART ON THE X-FACTOR?
A lot of my fellow musos have applied (including a number from this series of The Voice) but the format is not for me. I’m not what they’re looking for.
“I was cynical and sceptical, like a lot of people, but there was always an integrity and sincerity about The Voice that did appeal. I was eventually scouted and took the plunge. The entire process has been an emotional roller coaster that I wouldn’t trade for the world.”
Jordan Gray performs ‘Just Like a Woman’ during The Voice UK 2016 blind auditions. The YouTube video has been viewed over 150,000 times.
YOU RECEIVED LOTS OF PRESS AND HEADLINES AROUND YOUR APPEARANCE ON THE VOICE
The press have been absolute darlings! Seriously, I was nervous as heck but they’ve dealt with my Trans* narrative wonderful for the most part. I’m proud of them. And grateful to have been given the platform to insight social change. Or at least get a dialogue going?
WERE YOU ENCOURAGED TO FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP?
I grew up in Thurrock, Essex. It wasn’t easy in any respect but there have always been small creative bubbles billowing and bursting on the Essex scene. I confided in every creative person I knew growing up and between us I’d like to think we changed Essex a little bit for the better. I’ve never been prouder of my home county.
WHO WERE YOUR MUSICAL ROLE MODELS GROWING UP AND WHO IN THE INDUSTRY TODAY INSPIRES YOU?
Growing up, Michael Jackson, Jeff Buckley, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Marilyn Manson, Johnny Cash – mostly men, mostly dead. Today, I would have said Paloma Faith – even before all of this kicked off. She’s one of the most perceptive people I’ve ever met. Every time we meet, our small talk turns into life-changing advice.
“Trans people have a responsibility to be the best possible version of themselves. Allies have a responsibility to be informed and visible. The media has a responsibility not to sensationalise and society has a responsibility to listen, question and make up their own minds.”
QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS :
If you could have witnessed any music event in history, what would it be?
Seeing Jeff Buckley perform live in concert.
What song do you like to sing in the shower?
‘Please Come To Boston’ by Reba McEntire.
You’re headlining Wembley! What would you have on your rider?
Water, a well known sub sandwich melt, and Tottenham cake.
HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU THINK POSITIVE AND DIVERSE ROLE MODELS ARE TO ENCOURAGING KIDS OF ALL BACKGROUNDS TO AIM HIGH AND FOLLOW THEIR DREAMS?
I think having a Trans person on a show for the sake of them being Trans is massively reductive. But The Voice have dealt with it wonderfully (another reason I chose them). Children need simple (almost archetypal) examples of different subcultures to help them build a broader view of the world. To get to be that for a child is an honour beyond anything I can express.
WE’D LOVE TO HEAR MORE ABOUT YOUR WORK WITH CHARITY EDUCATE AND CELEBRATE
To my knowledge, Educate and Celebrate began life as an independent company providing diverse ‘LGBT and beyond’ based literature for young children (I was a massive fan of “Rabbityness” by Jo Empson). They grew and became a flagship government scheme and I was drafted is as a kind of Trans* ambassador to speak to very young children about diversity and their place in the whole scheme of things. We did a lot of beat-boxing. Kids LOVE beat-boxing.
THERES BEEN LOTS OF DISCUSSIONS ABOUT WHETHER THE ‘T’ SITS COMFORTABLY WITHIN LGBT. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
I think that anyone that wants to dismantle a social contract/convention that provides love and support for a repressed group of people needs to re-examine their life choices. Gender and sexuality are not intrinsically linked, yes. We all know that. ‘L, G & B’ are sexuality-based. The ‘T’ is gender-based. But what’s the problem? Nobody ever said ‘LGBT’ was a sexual term. One big happy family.
“We all know that. ‘L, G & B’ are sexuality-based. The ‘T’ is gender-based. But what’s the problem? Nobody ever said ‘LGBT’ was a sexual term.
One big happy family.”
What a performance. Jordan and Theo Llewellyn take on ‘This Woman’s Work’ by Kate Bush on The Voice, 27th February 2016. Jordan made it through to the next round.
WE’RE SEEING LOTS MORE TRANSGENDER PEOPLE IN THE MEDIA AND ON TV WHICH IS FANTASTIC. IS THERE STILL WORK TO DO?
There is always more work to do and we have this wonderful window of opportunity to steer society in the right direction. Trans people have a responsibility to be the best possible version of themselves. Allies have a responsibility to be informed and visible. The media has a responsibility not to sensationalise and society has a responsibility to listen, question and make up their own minds.
HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU THINK AWARENESS RAISING INITIATIVES LIKE ‘TRANSGENDER DAY OF REMEMBRANCE’ AND ‘LGBT HISTORY MONTH’ ARE?
These ceremonies/celebrations are as important as you want them to be. On their own, they won’t changed peoples minds. If a person is fundamentally opposed to Transgenderism on a moral level – a ‘Trans Day of Remembrance’ will only to serve to entrench them in that view. These days/marches/events are opportunities for open dialogue, never for militant protest. For me, they are important.
IT’S INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY ON 8 MARCH. IS THERE A FEMALE THAT HAS PLAYED A BIG PART IN YOUR LIFE, BEEN A BIG INFLUENCE ON YOUR CAREER PATH OR INSPIRATION?
My mother, pure and simple. She has ploughed her love and support into me for two and a half decades and I truly feel like an example of her life’s work.
WHAT’S THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE SOMEONE HAS GIVEN YOU?
‘Be yourself, don’t worry about sounding like a woman when you sing.’ Advice given to me by Paloma Faith.
WHAT DOES 2016 HAVE IN STORE FOR YOU?
Tune in to BBC1 and let’s find out together…
The first battle round of The Voice will be broadcast on Saturday 27th February on BBC One at 7.00pm.