July 14, 2020
Tune-In Tuesdays #78: Midnight Ambassador Reflects on Latest Single, “Mirror”
Portrait of André Graca, founding member of Midnight AmbassadorSource: Midnight Ambassador
London-based indie-pop project Midnight Ambassador continues to spread powerful, positive messages — even through their latest release, “Mirror,” which the Midnight Ambassador himself described as a “poem of self-hatred.”
Recently, we spoke to André Graca via telephone for an introspective interview about his start in music and how he has grown as an artist.
Graca was incredibly open and personable as we reflected on “Mirror” and the darker side of self care.
Tell us a little about yourself and your music
I’m Portuguese, I moved to England when I was about 19. I came here to study music composition technology for films and games.
Buut I don’t think my soul was in it, if that makes sense. I couldn’t write what I wanted to write in orchestral.
Fast forward a couple of years later, I went to Hungary for a year abroad. That year was not the greatest and I didn’t have a lot of people to talk to, so I just started writing about myself.
That’s where it all started. I was listening to a lot of alt-J, Glass Animals, Ariana Grande, as well [laughs]. Listening to things all over the place.
What sparked it for me was “Redbone” by Childish Gambino. I started listening to that song and I was like, “Maybe I can do this.”
What inspired you to study orchestral music for video games and film? And what initially sparked your interest in music?
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Two years ago, I started a journey. With no destination at end I just wrote a song in a shower and a couple months later, Serial Killer came out. With little experience in singing or producing indie music I didn’t know what to expect, I just went ahead a did it, because I thought it would be fun. Little did I know what would this one day become. Your love and appreciation for what now is called Midnight Ambassador is what kept me going. Two years of nothing but love from you. To think of the people I have shared the stage with, the people I have met, the people who have joined me along the way, the people who listened. I am so grateful for every single one of you, and I hope you know that. If words didn’t say it I hope I conveyed it. I love you until forever. Thank you. ♥️
I was studying in a conservatory since I was four-years-old, so I was playing piano. I actually don’t know if I started with piano, but I started playing piano when I was six.
Then I just never stopped, really. I started taking more classes — choir, composition, musical theatre. I studied about four instruments in that conservatory.
I was basically playing on the furniture by the end of my time there.
What are some of your core values, both personally and musically?
My most core values are [about] equality. I really stand for equality in everything, even my political views — which I’m not very public about.
But I guess in my music that kind of transcribes, too. For example, “Palace,” I remember it struck pretty close with my LGBTQ friends.
Initially, I must admit that’s not what I had in mind. But I’m really happy people have their own interpretations and I’m really happy that it struck something with the LGBTQ community, as well.
Musically, my values are just make something that sounds good [laughs], which is what I try to do. I don’t care what I write, per say, I don’t care about the genre.
I just want to write something that feels good and at the end of the day something that can be listened to. I want every single one of my songs to be different.
It’s just something I want to do. That’s why I take a lot of time to write songs, ’cause each of my songs are lived in.
One other thing that’s really important to me is mental health. It’s one of the things I’m more open about. I want to destigmatize mental health and talking about ourselves.
Where does the name “Midnight Ambassador” come from? It sounds like you got into music during an introspective time period, so what helped you think of that name?
So [laughs]… Here’s the thing.
As I said, I was listening to a lot of “Redbone.” I didn’t know Childish Gambino did music ’cause I knew him from “Community.”
Oooh, I started digging into this guy, doing my research. I saw that he got his name through a Wu-Tang Clan name generator — and it just so happened that my Wu-Tang Clan name generator was also really good [laughs].
I just saw the name and I was like, “I gotta do something with this.” I think that’s what happened first. I went on the generator, I saw the name, I went into the shower, and then I had the idea for the first song.
Tell us a little about your latest single, “Mirror.” What’s the story behind the track?
This was in a weird week. As I said, I’ve never had the mentality to do EPs or albums. I kinda want to do one song at a time then compile them all together.
It’s like a TV show, a new episode comes out every week or every few weeks. Or if you’re Netflix, it all gets released at once. But that doesn’t feel me, I guess.
For “Mirror,” I was in my room. My room used to be like — originally, I’m pretty sure it was a wardrobe before. It’s a London room, really small. Somebody put a bed in there, charged £1,000, and said, “This is a room now.”
Literally, the whole room is mirrors. As much as you want to try to avoid yourself, all you see is you.
I was like, “Maybe it’s about time I have a talk with myself.” I sat down at the piano with this bass idea I had for like a century in my head. I put it down, I looked in the mirror, and started with the first lyric:
“Man, swear I’m feeling– “Mirror” by Midnight Ambassador
Kinda crazy, kinda hazy
And that man in the mirror hates me”
I was like, “[long gasp] WAIT! This is it.”
So I started talking to myself in the mirror and the chorus came a few days after. I had all the lyrics, I just didn’t have a chorus.
Then I thought, “What would I say to myself if I was having a go at me? This is me talking, not the man in the mirror…”
“If you don’t wanna hear me,– “Mirror” by Midnight Ambassador
If you don’t wanna see me,
Just close your eyes and say
La la la la la la”
This song is just me having a talk with myself for the first time in a long time, which I feel like I needed.
Break down some of the lyrics for us. Which lines from the song mean the most to you and why?
The name of the EP has already been announced, it’s called “Fragile Igloo.” It’s part of the lyrics [to “Mirror”], as well:
“Man, I swear you’re just– “Mirror” by Midnight Ambassador
My fragile ego, my fragile issues
This place I built, my fragile igloo”
The whole idea is I moved to this place, London, and I didn’t have anyone here. I spent most of my time at work. And if you build your home in the wrong place, it’ll eventually fall down. Just like an igloo in the middle of a warm city, a desert, or wherever it’s not meant to be besides snow.
The whole concept of the EP came from the concept “fragile igloo.” I want to write about “fragile igloo.” This I feel is the most important verse.
The rest of it is literally a poem of self-hatred, which in the end, you can kind of see that I turn myself around and I’m shutting down the person in the mirror. A “you’re just me” kind of attitude.
“Remember when– “Mirror” by Midnight Ambassador
You said that I was just crazy,
Could swear I’m just lazy,
Sometimes you feared for my safety”
This whole last verse before the final chorus is me saying, “No, shut up. You suck, I’m great. You’re part of me. Why am I fighting against myself?”
I guess that’s one of the things you feel when you’re suffering from anxiety or depression. It feels like you’re having a battle with yourself, instead of working with yourself to get better.
To write the song, you literally sat down and had a conversation with yourself. How did creating “Mirror” help you cope with that fragile ego and internal angst?
It’s kind of weird, but ever since I wrote that song I feel much better. I haven’t had as many panic attacks or moments where I didn’t feel so great.
It’s really important to admit that you’re going through a bad period and seek out help. I think the most important thing I’ve learned since this single came out is you not only have to seek out help, but it’s really important to accept help. I think that’s the hardest part.
This came from someone telling me something so simple but it’s so true.
Y’know when you’re really annoyed and someone tries to make you laugh? And you’re like, “No! I’m not gonna laugh, how dare you make me laugh! I’m really angry, can’t you see?”
I think that’s the perfect moment. If you let go and laugh, you’ll feel so much better immediately. That was like a lightbulb moment for me. I was like, “Wait! This is accepting help.”
This song really helped me finally open up to myself instead of keeping it all in. It’s so weird that this song would do that, but it’s true.
Overall, how has making music helped you grow as a person?
Ever since I started Midnight Ambassador back in 2017… I actually started writing in 2016 officially, but it came out in 2017.
It started off in the hardest period of my life. I moved to a new country — Hungary — so for the second time, I didn’t have anyone.
Too many wheels were spinning. My parents were going through a divorce, my grandpa had passed away. Everything was happening.
Things didn’t really calm down for awhile, up until recently. I wanna say things are getting a bit better.
But if it wasn’t for music, I don’t think I would’ve grown. Or I would’ve been in a much worse space ’cause I wouldn’t have the money to talk to a psychiatrist or the resources to get out of the situation I was in.
It definitely helped me grow. It took me out of the worst place I’ve ever been in my life.
What do you hope listeners take away from your latest single?
I hope people are okay with the idea that… yelling at yourself sometimes is okay.
Obviously some of these things are more complicated when it comes to mental health. Some are literally biological where you need medical treatment.
But when you’re having a down moment, it’s okay not to feel okay. It’s the acknowledgement that something is wrong and this is all you.
There may be external factors, but it’s only you that can make a difference in your life. No one else can make a decision for you.
No one else can make… Anything for you, really… You’re the one… You’re the one!
That’s such a great point. Especially in recent years, self care — and, I say this ’cause the next Burgundy Zine is a self care issue — self care has become very popular and mainstream. I think that’s fantastic, but a lot of people refuse to talk about the dirty work of self care; actually venting and letting out all of that negativity.
It almost stigmatizes mental health even more because everyone pushes self love, but part of learning to love yourself is learning to accept all sides of yourself — even the darker sides.
That’s the thing! Y’know those self help books? I’ve tried so many of them, but they all made me so angry [laughs].
It’s always like this one guy who says, “My life went greeeat! Here’s how to do it!” But my life is not your life.
Yes! Or it’s like, “BLOCK OUT ALL NEGATIVE THOUGHTS. NEVER THINK NEGATIVELY.” And it’s like, who are you? Are you an ALIEN!?
“Thank you, doctor! I’m cured.”
Yeah, there are so many steps. It can take years, and years, and years to get remotely better. And it’s likely that’ll still come back to haunt you.
But taking all that you’ve learned across those years can make those hauntings a little better, one step at a time.
Yeah! Finding ways to cope with it, rather than repressing it with fake positivity. Whether it’s a therapist or a psychiatrist, all of that is so important.
Professional help is very important, I keep saying this and people are like, “What do you mean!? Going to a psychiatrist means I’m crazy!”
And I’m like, “Yeah, sure [laughs].”
So, what are your overarching goals as a musician?
It’s kind of hard to say. I just want to be remembered for something good. The uncertainty of music is you never know if you’re going to grow or if you’re just going to be a small artist forever.
Whatever I end up being, I just want to make sure the influence — big or small — that I have is good.
I just want to spread good messages through my music and give a little home to whoever needs it.
That’s my goal. The more I progress, the more that’s what I want to do.
What have you learned from your experiences in the music industry so far?
Oh boy [laughs].
There are loads of internal music industries, I guess. The one I’m taking part in right now in is the pop/indie industry. The label business, the booking agent business.
I mean… It is what it is. It’s definitely a tough industry to break into. It’s really, really hard to create a reputation with whoever it is ’cause there’s a lot of bad and good music out there.
The first assumption people make is that it’s bad. It’s really hard to get a shot from someone, but it’s like water hitting a stone — eventually, it’ll break.
It’s a really tough industry, but honestly I really like it. I don’t know if this is some sort of masochism for the music industry [laughs], but it’s such an interesting thing.
For example, streaming happened like 10-years-ago and look at how the music industry changed. Or COVID-19 happened and look at how the music industry changed.
I just like that it’s such an adaptive industry, however hard it is to get into.
I hope to see the bigger end of the spectrum. Like I said, I’m still a small artist and growing. But the bigger things I see, the more access to the things I see, it’s so cool. I like it so much. It’s great!
You had also mentioned your debut EP, which is coming out later this year. Could you tell us a little about it or is everything still on the down-low?
Yeah! I can tell you almost everything about it.
“Fragile Igloo,” as I said, is about moving to a new place and it all starts with “Burned Down Cigarettes.” This was the breakup of me and an ex-girlfriend. It was not easy for me ’cause she was the only one I had grown a relationship within the city.
It started there and I was working a really, really terrible job at this restaurant where the manager was verbally abusive.
That’s where “Pleasure” comes in. All my love questions my love for music, should I keep doing this?
Then “Mirror” comes in and this introspection keeps on going.
And then the final song, which I started writing the lyrics for yesterday! I don’t know what it’s about exactly, but I kind of want to talk about what it’s like to be single in a big city. I don’t know if you ever had the pleasure of going through the world of dating apps and all that crap.
What would you say you’re most excited about having everything put together in an EP?
Knowing that I’ve concluded another story, another season, per say.
I love TV shows, I used to watch so many of them when I was in high school. I can binge a show in a day. If I had any talent for writing, I would’ve wanted to be a TV show writer or something like that.
Knowing that and seeing the response in growth combine all into a little disc. It’s kind of cool.
It crystalizes a period in your life. It’s like going through an old diary.
That’s a really great way of putting it. “Crystalizing it.”
It’s really cool, especially with this past year, 2019 to 2020. It’s insane how much have things have grown, especially with “Pleasure” being the kickstarter of it all.
It reached 250,000 hits today, which is insane to me. I still remember when I released it, it was like 100 streams on the first day. 250,000 is just beyond anything I’ve ever imagined.
It’ll be cool to just see it all compiled. I want to release [“Fragile Igloo”] in September, October, hopefully. It depends on when the studios open because of corona.
Along with this last song, are you planning on anything else with the EP? Perhaps another lyric video or a music video?
Official lyric video for “Mirror” by Midnight AmbassadorSource: Midnight Ambassador – Mirror (Official Lyric Video) | Midnight Ambassador
A lyric video is the most likely to happen. I’ve been in talks with this guy from London, he’s really cool. We met before the outbreak happened.
We were going to shoot a music video — this was during the release of “All My Love.” Then I released “Mirror.”
When we were going to start planning the video clip, corona happened.
So most likely — it depends on the song, like listening to the final song of the EP — but I want to make a video clip either for “Pleasure,” “Mirror,” or whatever the last song is going to be called.
Hopefully one of them will get a music video. I really need a music video [laughs].
Do you have any additional comments or final thoughts to share?
I’m thankful for all of these opportunities — including this interview. It only feels like the growth of this project that started in the shower three years ago has taken. Talking to people from all over the world is such an experience.
I can’t wait to actually be on a stage, be in the states. We were in Canada last year, which was insane. We traveled across the continent for the first time, me and my band.
I’m just really thankful for everything and I hope you guys are enjoying the ride as much as I am.
Give Midnight Ambassador’s “Mirror” a listen on Spotify now!
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