We know him as the pop voice behind dance cover hits Smalltown Boy (Bronski Beat) and Your Loving Arms (Billie Ray Martin) but Sydney’s Michal Nicolas is also a keen gay businessman.
This year he launched his own brand of sexy underwear (www.teamm8.com) and is also trying his hand at lifestyle television as producer and presenter of the webcast project called Boy Around Town. Few would doubt his entrepreneurial drive but on the cusp of releasing a new single he faces the challenge of breaking out of a “cover” artist syndrome.
The music business is a hard taskmaster. No matter how well a single sells, if it’s a cover of a previous hit it’s still seen as secondary to original songs. That quirk is not lost on Nicolas whose claim to fame has largely come from cover singles.
“It’s a very bizarre industry,” he says. “But if paying your dues is one way to get there, then I feel like I have certainly paid my dues.”
Nicolas’s new single Another Day is an original. Two years in the making, it not only marks a stylistic shift (the move is toward the meatier side of the emotional register) but it’s also completely independent. It says a lot about Nicolas that with a serious record deal on the table he chose the less mainstream path.
“This is gonna sound so corny but at the end of the day I didn’t really feel like I had a choice,” he said. “I just wasn’t able to conform and play that other game. It was either like you continue making music your way, which is how I’m doing it now, or the other way, which just wasn’t an option for me.”
Even with the help of a few upbeat dance mixes, Another Day falls down on the serious side of pop. As Nicolas says, it’s “not a very happy song”. It was inspired by a relationship break-up and emotional turmoil that followed. And, as Nicolas points out, there were lessons learned from that episode.
“The lesson for me was you do get through it – even though when you think you can’t, somehow you find the strength and you do. And when you do that, it’s the most incredible feeling. You feel like you can do anything.”
There’s no doubting the “can do” approach serves Nicolas well. In many ways it puts him in that elusive category of the “aspirational” contemporary gay man. It’s the sort of category niche that consumers love. But it remains to be seen whether the gay community itself can embrace such ambition.
Nicolas points to the support he’s received from the Sydney gay community to date but admits the “tall poppy” syndrome has come up in conversations with friends.
“I had lunch with a mate of mine the other day and we were talking about ambition and how it can be viewed sometimes as a negative thing,” he says. “I believe everyone has a drive and we each have to tap into what motivates us – you know within yourself whether your drive is a good thing or a bad thing and for me I hope it’s a positive thing.
“I’m my own worst critic anyway so nothing anyone says about me is gonna be more damaging than what I already think about myself.”
Another Day is released 19 November. Details: www.michalnicolas.com.
From bnews – www.bnews.net.au

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