Interviews

Aiden James

With his “Best Shot” single a hit on iTunes, the singer-songwriter talks about going electro with his new record and shares why it’s important for him to be an out musician.

Singer/songwriter Aiden James struck a chord with music listeners with his latest release. “Best Shot,” the electro-infused first single off his third studio album Trouble With This recently climbed to number 28 on the iTune’s top 100 chart. James took a moment from his tour schedule to speak with The Advocate about his music, family, ambition, and the pride he feels being an out musician.
The Advocate: How would you respond if I say, “folk rock has gone to the gays?”
Aiden James: I would say you’re absolutely right. [Laughs] I don’t know, I wouldn’t consider myself folk anymore. If you were to take one of my songs and depending on what production you put behind it, it could be anything. You know the electronic production I have on my record is pop. Like, David Grey came out with White Ladder, it’s that singer songwriter kind of pop so I think folk rock and me, I don’t listen to it and I certainly don’t consider myself folk rock. But yeah, it’s very gay, everyone’s doing that.
How did you react when “Best Shot” went to the top 30 on iTunes?

It’s very validating. You put a lot of work into a record and it’s some really bum nights and a year of my life. It’s like being on RuPaul’s Drag Race and winning the drag challenge. [Laughs] It’s very surreal to see your dreams materialize and come true and it shows the power of fans and how much power people have when they click “buy” and download it really has a powerful impact on an artist… read the full interview on Advocate.com.

Alex Woolfson and Winona Nelson

‘Artifice’ is the latest gay sci-fi webcomic, featuring an android into guys
Violence, gore, sex, and artificial intelligence: all these are stock elements of the sci-fi action genre. But after a major boost from a Kickstarter fund, some of that sex is about to get a whole lot gayer. Writer Alex Woolfson and artist Winona Nelson unveiled their stunning new graphic novel Artifice is about a prototype android named Deacon who, after failing his mission, is emotionally dissected by a corporate robopsychologist. The twist? Deacon is into dudes.

The project blasted past its $7,000 Kickstarter goal in under 48 hours and people really started with their browsers and with their wallets. Kickstarter.com is an online fund where people pledge money to creative projects. With more than half the time still on the clock and over $20,000 in donations so far, the time may have come to put a little gay action in our action adventure. Out.com caught up with the two creators of the viral comic sensation to ask them about their beginnings, their work, and their advice to those who might follow in their footsteps.

Out: Since action is often viewed as the bastion of heterosexual entertainment, did you consider making Deacon, the your lead character of Artifice, straight?

Alex Woolfson: Never. The whole thing that motivated me was that I love action films and I love sci-fi films; these kick-ass genre stories but where guys just happen to like other guys… read the full interview on Out.com.

A*M*E

The London-based singer on war, rubber duckies, and the Golden Age of Pop

You could describe A*M*E (pronounced Amy) as effortlessly cool; she doesn’t try, she just is and the result leaves you whip-lashed, thinking, “Why hasn’t anyone else thought of that?” And her look is wild to match; her style unapologetically slaps you in the face,

When you hear A*M*E’s music you’re immediately overwhelmed with both freshness and nostalgia. Her sound is as if Nicki Minaj crashlanded into early 90s club. And while you could easily overlook the 17 year old as another kid trying to make it big, you’d be missing the mark. Born in Sierra Leone, A*M*E’s life has been anything but ordinary: it has been a life of drive, drama, and music. Below, we find out the dirt about the singer, whose debut album is set to drop May 7.

It had to be hard living through a war.
It wasn’t until my mum’s salon was burned down that I really realized, Oh my god, I’m in a war. I love my country. I wouldn’t say anything bad about it, [and] even with the war it’s still my home. There was six months to a year that was the longest period in my life when my mum and dad [moved to London]. I don’t think I had a system of coping. I just did whatever came that day and got on with it.

After everything you’ve been through do you still feel like a kid?
I am still a kid. I totally am. I still have a bathtub full of rubber duckies… read the full interview on Out.com.

Bright Light, Bright Light

In 2006 Rod Thomas stepped into the spotlight with the song “Good Coat.” Recently he has reinvented himself and unleashed a new electro-pop sound under the name Bright Light Bright Light. With only a handful of songs from his upcoming album circulating the Internet, he may be a glimpse at pop music in the post-closet world.

Out caught up with Thomas to discuss his stage name, songwriting an just why he can’t meet a nice guy.

You grew up in Wales, what was the child version of Rod Thomas like?
Oh, God, probably quite weird. I grew up a bizarre child because I grew up really rurally. I was helping out with my grandad’s farm as well. I spent a lot of time outdoors very different from spending all this time in a studio. I’d say I was very musical but very outdoors as well.

In 2006 you started Self Raising Records, what incited this divergence from the mainstream music industry?
I used to work for a music distributor, so when I was working there I learned quite a lot about independent stores and how artist’s records were sold in the shops. To save all the time taking a record around I just used the knowledge that I’d learned from working in that part of the industry to make my own record and put it out… read the full interview on Out.com.

Christopher Rice

Christopher Rice is author of A Destiny of SoulsThe Moonlit Earth, and others. He is also the co-host of the The Dinner Party Show.

The Advocate: Why did you decide to get involved in The Letter Q?
Christopher Rice: I wanted to speak to the dead ends I felt I took socially immediately after high school in response to the pain and sense of rejection I felt in high school. I wanted to address the false idols that I ended up worshiping.

You’re referring to substance abuse and the party scene?
Yeah. I think it was an awakening process, and I think a lot of gay people go through it. To be more specific, the gay people who run right out into the bars the minute they come out and plant themselves on a barstool like I did. For those of us like that, it might take a while to realize that the bars don’t deliver on everything they appear to promise.

What was your first thought when you were asked to do the project?
My first thought was that people would think I was too hard on myself. When they didn’t send me a letter saying, “Can you lighten up on yourself?” I was kind of relieved. I personally would like to see in the book how the stories vary according to the age of the author. Because, speaking back to yourself in 1996 is different than speaking to yourself in 1954… read the full interview on Advocate.com.

Emeli Sande

The songwriter beloved by stars from Adele to Simon Cowell shows off her pipes on her gorgeous debut album.

Things haven’t always come easily for Emeli Sandé. While the 24-year-old Scot, famous in the U.K. for her soaring voice and a blazing white coif that ascends skyward, has found fame, the public eye is a strange place to be for a girl who never felt accepted in her hometown, let alone the limelight.

Sandé recently won the Brit Awards “Critics’ Choice” trophy, the same honor bestowed upon Adele in 2007 and Florence and the Machine in 2009, and her songs, including the trip-hop tearjerker “Heaven,” have gone to the top of the charts. But, having grown up in the only non-white family in a sparsely populated northeast Scotland town, Sandé says she was aware she stood out from an early age.

“I felt very different all the time,” she explains. “There was no possibility of ever fitting in, and I realized that quite young.”

Although Sandé won early validation at seven years old, when her parents encouraged her at-home renditions of Mariah Carey songs and later enrolled her in clarinet lessons and choir, it wasn’t until she was a teenager that her differences began to work in her favor… read the full interview in the June/July issue of OUT Magazine.

Jasika Nicole

Jasika Nicole is known to most as Astrid on the Fox Television series Fringe. Nicole is also the illustrator and writer of the online web comic High Yella Magic.

The Advocate: How did you get involved in the book?
Jasika Nicole: We shot the first season of Fringein New York and, in our studio lot, Ugly Bettywas shooting. There was this girl on that crew and we became Facebook friends. After a few years that I’d been living in Vancouver, she messaged me and said, this girl named Sarah Moon is working on this book, I know you do some illustration, would you be interested in me passing along your contact information? So, it was this happy accident all thanks to Ugly Betty.

In the piece you illustrated, we see an image of you as a kid. How would you describe yourself as a kid?
I was shy. I was solitary. I wrote and I drew and I sang in my room by myself. I spent so much time by myself that my mom had to make me go outside and play with other children. Then when I got into middle and high school I threw myself into extra curricular activities; I was in show choir, I was a cheerleader, I was on the dance team, I was in theater. I did everything I could possibly do because I wasn’t in a place where I could comfortably deal with all these ideas about who I was in the world and what I wanted to be… read the full interview at Advocate.com.

Liz Margolies and Scout

The Backstory Behind the Gay White House Proposal

The couple shares the story of how they fell in love, and how the wedding proposal almost didn’t happen.

The couple who got engaged during the annual White House LGBT Pride Reception went on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Show this weekend to share their story. But it was Harris-Perry who offered up the big idea of a White House wedding. (Video below.)

For their part, the couple isn’t even sure when the date will be. If the anchor gets her way, though, the White House might want a little more background on how their love unfolded.

In her own words below, Liz Margolies shares the story of how she and Scout met, and how it all played into her decision to say “yes” when he got down on one knee at the White House of all places and proposed:

I met Scout at the annual meeting (November 2008) of the National Coalition for LGBT Health.  We both run national LGBT health projects; his embedded in the huge Fenway Institute, mine a tiny organization of its own. It was my first time there.  I was introduced to him by a mutual friend and, while he was clearly interesting and attractive, I dismissed him immediately as a “player.”… read the full story on Advocate.com.

Melanie Amaro

The first season of the U.S. X Factor was full of surprises and suspense. Melanie Amaro, a young girl from the Virgin Islands was originally not chosen for the competition but, after a change of heart, Simon Cowell reversed his decision and brought the shy girl with the big voice back. In the end, it was Melanie who took home the $5 million prize and a record deal. In the few months since her big win, she has been getting her debut album ready, appeared with Elton John in one of the most talked about Super Bowl commercials of the year and had her cover of “Respect” climb all the way to #3 on the Billboard Dance Charts. Out caught up with this rising star as she prepared to take the stage again at the White Party in Palm Springs.

OUT: Even after getting onto X Factor, you hid part of yourself. What lesson have you learned about uncompromisingly being yourself?
Melanie Amaro: The lesson for me is that, when you hide yourself for a very long time, you get used to hiding yourself and you hide yourself all the time. The lesson for me is that, ever since I was younger I used to hide my accent to hide the real me. I got so used to hiding that it became natural. The lesson I’ve learned: if you don’t hide from the very beginning, you won’t have to reveal anything in the future.

You’ve sung for both Elton John and for Simon Cowell. Who was more intimidating?
You know, after getting to know Simon, really getting to know him, he wasn’t intimidating. He was like big papa bear. It was always like, I get to sing for big papa bear. I think that Elton John was more intimidating. I was nervous and kept thinking, “I really hope he likes my voice,” and “I hope he doesn’t think my song is terrible.”… read the full interview on Out.com.

Nire Alldai

Meet the woman behind some hard-hitting dance R&B who thinks, ‘normal is overrated’ PLUS: Exclusive

NiRé AllDai has been writing songs since before she knew how to write sheet music or do just about anything else. Her song “Shut Up and Party” was a viral hit—but was inaccurately credited to artists like Britney, Ke$ha, and even Mylie.

She has already worked with artists like Timberland, Dr. Dre, and Starshell (the protégé of Mary J. Blige). Just as addicting as her hard-hitting dance R&B sound is her look, which can easily be described as bold and fierce. Her eyes flash with brilliant colors, her nails are striped with a collage of patterns, her clothes are tight and boldly printed, and her hair is, er, architectural.

But the moment you get comfortable thinking she’s just another post-Gaga popstar, she smacks you with her intellectual side.

Out: Where did you grow up?

Niré AlldaiI grew up in West L.A., and then I lived in South Bay, then the Valley, San Francisco. All over.

What was the little NiRé like?

I would say she was not too far from NiRé now: super bubbly, colorful. I’ve always liked to dress myself since I was 4. I was always playing with random colors and stuff together. My mom would be like, “Are you sure you wanna wear that?” and I’d be like, “Yes.” My mom said taht, before I was talking, I was a comedian. I would try to do anything to make somebody laugh. So, I’ve always been an entertainer, even before I realized I wanted to do it as a career… read the full interview on Out.com.

Renee Graziano

At the annual Out magazine Pride Party, a flurry of flashes went off as Renee Graziano from VH1′s Mob Wives dropped in to show love for her favorite people — the gays. The Advocatecaught up with Graziano while lounging on her couch on a day she took to herself to “relax.” But even during the interview, Graziano’s life buzzed onward around her with the whirlwind of family drama and shouting we’ve come to love from the show.  Graziano talks about always being herself, her disagreement with the Pope, and her crush on Ellen DeGeneres — who she says could teach the men in her life a few things.

The Advocate: Season 3 of Mob Wives starts filming in July. Are you excited?
Renee Graziano: Very soon. Very excited. Not so excited to deal with the bullshit, but it comes with the world of “reality.”

How different is your life during filming?
My reality is so real. I don’t change when the cameras are on or off. For me, it is what it is. I say, “Renee is reality.” read the full interview on Advocate.com.

Reza Farahan

Bravo audiences weren’t sure what they were getting into this year when the channel announced its newest reality spectacle Shahs of Sunset. The show created uproar with its unapologetic displays of wealth, drama, intrigue and, of course, a lot of gold and marble. And wouldn’t you know it, the razor sharp wit of openly gay cast member Reza Farahan quickly made him the show’s “fan favorite.” We caught up with the “Mustached One” after the smash success of the show’s first season.

What were you like as a kid?
Just like big Reza with less access to cash; unable to drive or consume alcoholic beverages.

It seems your closet is full of everything but you. What’s behind your fashion obsession?
I’m very into finishing touches and details. You get to see my passion for pocket squares, belts, shoes, cufflinks — I love presentation. I’m very aesthetically oriented.

What do you have to say to critics who think Shahs of Sunset is racist, exploitive, and perpetuates stereotypes?
I couldn’t care less. It doesn’t mean anything. I’m using the show as a platform to bring awareness to homosexuality. They can kiss my Persian ass. Let them put themselves out on the line and see how much they can take. My stereotype is a hard working, fun loving, family-oriented person who likes marble and gold. What I’m doing is humanizing. I’m highlighting the beautiful aspects of my culture.

Do you feel you’re accurately portrayed on the show?
I don’t think they portray me. That’s how I am in life. The exact person on screen is the exact person in real life… read the full interview on Gay.net.

Sarah Moon

Sarah Moon is the high school Spanish teacher and writer who came up with the concept for The Letter Q.

The Advocate:Why did you set out to make this book?
Sarah Moon: I’m a teacher, and I have had certain students who’ve been going through things. And, there are things I’ve wanted to say to them in a way I never would inside or even outside of the classroom. I was talking to my girlfriend and I said, “I wish I could just write a letter and have that be a book.” And she said, “You can’t do that, but you could write a book of letters.”

What makes this book different than the last “It Gets Better” book?
I spend a lot of time with teenagers. The thing I notice is that they listen when I tell them, “This is how I learned to do that.” Then they’ll start doing it that way. If I say, “Do this,” they say, “Whatever.” When I explain that I had trouble with this too, this is why I do this, then they go home and practice because they believe that what you are telling them is true.

Do you think the child version of yourself would take the advice in your letter?
Yeah. I mean, I think it would take her a while to put out the cigarette, take out the earphones, stop rolling her eyes. And then it would be just this puddle of tears and anger… read the full interview at Advocate.com.