Mimi Gray is focused on gender equality and supporting emerging artists in the creative industries. As Head of Visual Content at M&C Saatchi London, Mimi sculpts the visual language for brand campaigns shaping the future of advertising. In her spare time, she is deeply embedded in the creative community, curating exhibitions and hosting events. Here, she takes us through the tracks which have fuelled her creative endeavours from pulling all-nighters to those all-important empowering anthems.
YANN TIERSEN – COMPTINE D’UN AUTRE ÉTÉ – L’APRÈS MIDI
The piece of music I listened to on the day I moved to Paris, age 20. My raven-haired head full of hope and clichés about art, romance and being aflâneur. This rose-tinted bubble burst the day I started my first proper job, in fashion. Sweating my eyebrows off in the back of a showroom stock cupboard, attempting to pick apart a tangled mountain of hangers while repeatedly being called jolies fesses (sweet cheeks). Not entirely what I had imagined. Paris was a baptism of fire – the hardest, but the most formative year of my young life. Doing a job, I hated, frustrated with the language, the people and the knowledge that I wasn’t on the right path. Wanting to go back in time to kill Audrey Hepburn, because Paris is definitely not always a good idea. During this year I grew the thick skin and determination that got me to where I am in my career today.
BEETHOVEN – PIANO SONATA NO. 17, OP 31/2 “TEMPEST” III. ALLEGRETTO
The sound of all-nighters. The smell of coffee, the taste of Ritalin. Bitter nights spent hunched over a cheap Ikea desk; conjuring words on books, I hadn’t read. Obscure twilight. Wondering what I was thinking doing a French degree when what I really wanted to do was study art. If the above track was full of naïve aspiration, this piece of music is the complete opposite.
Allegretto: (to be performed) quickly or briskly. Everything at the last minute. Always in a rush.
ALEXISONFIRE – DRUNKS, LOVERS, SINNERS AND SAINTS
A lesson in self-expression. Alexisonfire was my favourite band growing up (and will forever have a place in my black, emo heart). This genre of music taught me to embrace and channel my anger; to use it as fuel for creativity. I didn’t have a hard start in life by any stretch of the imagination, but I was a very angry teen. My mum used to tell me if you go against the grain, you’ll get splinters, i.e. do what the other girls are doing; wear what they’re wearing, bite your tongue, and you’ll have an easier ride. AKA. Terrible life advice (sorry mum). I loathed what I saw around me, and I wasn’t like the other girls. Dresses and frills were anathema to me, with my bruised legs and studded belts. Note to my 15 YO self: love is the cure, but hate is part of the process.
When I listen to this track, my inner emo kid feels strong and accepted. She is the greatest performer: introverted and shy, but outwardly self-assured and cocky, eyes blacked and ready to take on the world. An act of confidence that Meryl Streep would be proud to pull off. Final lesson: to convince others, you have to convince yourself.
BEYONCÉ – SORRY
I tried. It isn’t possible to do this without including a yoncé track. Working in a male-dominated industry; an environment that sometimes resembles and vibrates with the low hum of a gentleman’s club, you learn that your difference is your strength. This song reminds me to hold my own. To speak up and never apologise for having opinions. To help and hold up other women.
Sorry sparks recent memories of curating and installing “XX” – an exhibition showcasing the work of 25 female artists, photographers and directors. One push in an ongoing fight to get more women into creative. To have her voice, to speak her truth, to demand her worth. Apathy is the enemy of creativity.
JOHN CAGE – 4’33”
Silence is a blank canvas. The compositional equivalent of Rachel Whiteread’s ghostly negative spaces, the quietude of 4’33” is spellbinding and minimalist. It forces you inside yourself, to confront your creative demons. Life now is busy. Living in London, in a flat with two other women, it’s rare that I am ever on my own. Being alone can be daunting, but it is fundamental to make time for yourself and space for your thoughts. A safe space for dangerous ideas.
“If my work is accepted, I must move on to the point where it is not,” John Cage.
We tend to look outside of ourselves for inspiration. But what happens when we do the opposite? As I am writing this, I am in silence. I often use music and audiobooks to block out my inner dialogue. I associate silence with night, stillness, solitude: times when, paradoxically, my thoughts are at their loudest. Accentuate the negative. You will find you can do a lot with four minutes and thirty-three seconds.