Masterful singer-songwriter and storyteller Alan Bonner writes music to entertain, comfort and stimulate. Graham Robson caught up with the wandering troubadour to find out about his new album, The Way Old Friends Do, which celebrates the work of ABBA, and his plans for the future…
Hey Alan, tell us a bit about yourself…
I’m a singer/songwriter and a performer. I’m gay and live in the North Laine above The Brighton Tavern.
How have you been spending lockdown?
Aside from music, I also work as a support worker with the homeless so as a front-line worker I’ve been lucky in that I’m still able to go to work and earn. Musically speaking I’ve done a few gigs online and some fundraising events for the Save Our Venues campaign and to raise funds to save The Brunswick and other grassroots music venues that are struggling due to the pandemic. I’ve been writing a little. I’ve been reading a lot. I have a new album that just came out this week so I’ve been quite busy promoting that online as well.Has lockdown affected your creative output?
My Brighton Fringe show The Way Old Friends Do – A Musical Celebration of ABBA has been postponed and me and the band had been working on this show and the album released alongside it for a year, so to have it put on hold has been a blow, but we will be putting it on for the rescheduled Festival whenever that may be. The response to the album has been amazing and we can’t wait to take it to the stage as part of the Fringe as soon as we can.
What do you miss the most?
I miss connecting with an audience, I miss being able to look into the eyes of the people I’m singing to. You can’t do that online. I miss playing piano in the basement of The Brunswick. I miss pubs, I spend a lot of time in pubs, in fact I live in one. The Brunswick, The Albert, Latest Music Bar, The Amsterdam Hotel, Legends, The Bedford Tavern, The Brighton Tavern, of course, I miss all the wonderful venues we have in Brighton. We can’t afford to let them go under.
Have you been watching much online?
I have a lot of friends who are drag queens, comedians and cabaret performers so I’ve been watching a lot of their stuff. Love to Ruffles The Clown, Snow White Trash, Spice, Paul Diello, Spit the Ink, Piper Murray and Katrina Quinn
Do you think lockdown is disproportionately affecting the LGBTQ+ community?
I think lockdown has been incredibly tough on the LGBTQ+ community. Isolation is difficult for anyone but I think for those of us who aren’t in couples there is another level to that, we have needs, humans beings want to interact by nature and we all need intimacy to a certain extent
As a single gay man, I feel it too. There are concerns about how LGBTQ+ venues that were already struggling will survive financially and how that will impact our community. I feel for the older generation of LGBTQ+ people who are now more isolated because they aren’t able to meet with friends in venues so I think it’s really important that we come together as a community and look after each other, especially the most isolated and vulnerable.
On a positive note one of the things I love about Brighton is the sense of community, I see real acts of kindness every day and we have always been good at coming together when the chips are down and it makes me really proud to live here. We will get through this and come out the other side stronger for it.
What are your plans for when this is all over?
My Brighton Fringe show The Way Old Friends Do – A Musical Celebration of ABBA. It’s a musical cabaret featuring me and a five-piece acoustic band reworking ABBA classics and deep cuts. It will go on in either October 2020 or May 2021 depending on when the festival is rescheduled and the album of the same name is out now.
I’m also writing original material for my next project but that’s a fair way off. I was due to play Pride this year but will now be playing Pride ’21 instead too. Other than that, I expect there will be lots of drunken hugging.
Go easy on yourself, if you’ve put on a little weight or are drinking too much don’t beat yourself up. Do a little yoga. Call your friends and tell them how much you love them, tell them often, and always make sure the wine is good.
Alan’s new album The Way Old Friends Do, which is his take on the songs of ABBA, is out on all platforms worldwide, including Spotify. To see the video for the first single above or check it out on Youtube here The Day Before You Came.