Interview with Chris Grayston

What Open Mic UK can offer a singer. Interview with Chris Grayston

Open mic nights have been fundamental to the entertainment industry for decades. Not only are they a way for music lovers and industry pros to check out local music talent, but they’re also a way for performers to show off their skill in an intimate and exciting atmosphere. 

One particular open mic event, Open Mic UK, is a staple of the UK music competition scene. It attracts nearly 9,000 participants each year and hosts events all across the country.

The unique thing about Open Mic UK is that despite its location it has international reach due to its judges and guests. Past participants and winners have found success globally and scored deals with major record labels. 

We sat down with Open Mic UK’s Chris Grayston to discuss the competition; its reach, and why UK singers should enter. 

iSing: For starters, tell us why you set up Open Mic UK and what makes it unique? 

Chris Grayston: Initially we started the competition with a view to find singers to work with, then as we rolled it out we realized not only was it a good place for finding talent, but also a launch platform for giving unsigned artists and singers a step up to the next level.

iSing: What genres or styles have done the best in the past? Any particular reason for that, in your opinion?

CG: Generally no, but the competition winner has almost always been an act that has written and performed their own material.

iSing: Tell us some of your favorite moments from past performances. 

CG: The obvious favorite moments are when you first hear singer/songwriters like Birdy, Lucy Spraggan and Luke Friend. But just as pleasing is watching acts develop. Emily Middlemas may not be a name that everyone has heard of yet, but we’ve seen her since the age of 10-11 and she will be a star; this year she won our pre-teens/teenager competition, TeenStar, and was featured on X Factor making judge’s houses.

iSing: Do you know if any past winners have gone on to create a career from singing? Anyone get to the record deal level? 

Singer/songwriter Birdy

CG: Yes, quite a few. The most notable ones are Atlantic Record’s Jacob Banks, Warner Music’s Birdy, Sony Music’s Jaymi Hensley from Union J and Jahmene Douglas, Luke Friend, the 2013 TeenStar winner signed to Sony, and Columbia Record’s Lucy Spraggan.

iSing: Can winning the UK Open Mic guarantee the winner a singing career or record deal? 

CG: No, there are no guarantees in life and only the singer can give him or herself a chance for a singing career. However, what winning does is give you mass exposure and access in the eye line of industry judges. The last couple of years we’ve had A&R for the three major record labels—Warner, Sony and Universal—in attendance.

iSing: What do you believe are the advantages of entering competitions like Open Mic UK? Should a performer re-enter?

CG: Development, feedback, exposure, and opportunities. As for re-entering, it’s a no-brainer that singers should look to get involved in just about any singing opportunities, let alone ones that can give them exposure and access to record labels.

iSing: What are the qualifications for entering Open Mic UK? Is it open to anyone? 

CG: Yes it’s open to all ages and all genres. We have age categories 13 and under, 25 and over, and of course in between.

iSing: Can you explain about the process, entry, costs, and so forth? 

CG: Process is as simple as it can be. Enter online on the website with a nominal £5 entry fee. You will then be asked to audition live, and from there if the judges like what they see, you’ll be selected to compete in a Regional Final showcase.

iSing:  What are your 3 top tips to singers for entering Open Mic UK and similar competitions?

CG: Research, plan, and then practice like crazy so that it becomes second nature.

For more information on how to enter please go to

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