Musician, author and cabaret performer, Ian Elmslie, on his new song “I Miss Him” - which is raising funds for GMFA this World AIDS Day – life during lockdown, and his thoughts on HIV stigma in 2020.

GMFA: First of all, let’s talk about your new song “I Miss Him”, of which your generously donating the proceeds to us.

Ian: The song is a remembrance, an observation of the permanence of grief, how the smallest of moments can spark the most powerful memories. Like too many in our community, I have lost both lovers and friends to HIV/AIDS, and the song is a tribute to them. It made absolute sense to donate all artist royalties from sales and streams to GMFA, in order to support their magnificent and ongoing work.

(Stream or download "I Miss Him" now)

How far do you think we’ve come as a community in regards to living with HIV, stigma and acceptance?

Whilst I am old enough to remember that tsunami of fear, distrust and blame that threatened to engulf us in the 80’s, I choose to recall the response of awareness, support and love that arose up from our community. We chose to unite, both in our private lives and in our public persona, to fight back against the disease and the appalling ignorance that simultaneously reared its ugly head. The various treatments and the advent of PreP may have reduced the stigma, but there is still some way to go in the understanding that “undetectable” means “non-transmittable”. But then, there is always a way to go. We have to keep on keeping on, acting responsibly, taking care of ourselves and each other. 

How much is music a part of your life? How does it inform your life, work, your view of the world?

There are very few moments in my day, indeed my life, which pass by unaccompanied by music. It is my constant companion. I may not be able to remember what I did yesterday, but I can certainly sing along with a song I may not have heard for thirty years! There are so many moments, people and places which are forever associated with music. I have adopted lyrics to articulate what I was either unable or afraid to say to a loved one, and wrapped myself up in the melodies when I needed some comfort in the toughest of times. When I write and compose, I aspire to ignite that feeling in whoever may be listening. That’s the eternal goal, the Everest of songwriting. Not easy, but that’s the challenge.

Who are your musical influences and which current artists impress and inspire you?

It is a perpetual battle to be influenced but not to imitate, unless you are working in pastiche, which I really enjoy. It’s all to easy to say that an amusing song performed with piano and voice is “just like Victoria Wood”, but that ignores the tip of the hat to Noel Coward, Flanders and Swann and Tom Lehrer, all of whom I love. I adore the era of the Great American Songbook, Bacharach and David, the superb singer songwriters of the 70’s, though how much of that affection is reflected in my work is up to the audience. Bowie, Mitchell, Michael, Bush are all particular heroes. I am also a major fan of both Rufus Wainwright and John Grant, and the superb jazz singer Liane Carroll never fails to thrill my soul and hug my heart. Anything written and sung with truth will always get my attention. Anything that is bland and auto-tuned won’t! 

“I MISS HIM” will be available to stream and download on TODAY on YouTube and all the major streaming channels.