Jay Brannan: Creatively Focused

Jay Brannan first came to people’s attention when he appeared in John Cameron Mitchell’s provocative film Short Bus, whether you remember him for his tender singing or his memorable threesome scene, Short Bus got Brannan international attention. The inclusion of his songs on the films soundtrack got him into our record collections and now his third album Rob Me Blind has been released. Jay spoke to OUTinPerth from his home in New York.

How has the reception been for the new album?

It’s been really good so far, it’s been exciting it has taken me forever to pull together a new album, so I feel like the wait has been substantial. It’s like having been pregnant for 3 years and now we finally get to enjoy it. It is so cool to be putting music out there and people seem to be responding really well so far.

How is this album different from your previous ones?

I wanted to make something that was very me, that was my style, my aesthetics and my tastes but without making the same album over and over again. So to me the objective with this album was to make something that sounds authentic but with a little bit more texture to it, I wanted to experiment…In the past most of my stuff has been pretty minimal, which I like, but there hasn’t been a lot of rhythm and drums because I have been afraid of big sounds…so I wanted to go there and stick my toe in the water.

You’ve also released a live album through iTunes, how did that come about?

I was trying to pull some stuff together for some bonus content for the TV and I had a couple of recordings from a show that I did in Atlanta in a really cool intimate venue with really good shows and when I got the recordings from the shows I thought I should really put this out and people asked me for a live album for ages but I have a really hard time dealing with imperfect performances that you get from a live situation so I’d been hesitant but I did put a little collection together with a couple of my covers and I do a lot of talking between songs because it makes me feel a little less nervous.

Are you a perfectionist?

I’m a little bit neurotic and a little bit obsessive so probably a little bit of OCD sort of thing I like to control every little aspect especially with something like music because you know it is going to last way longer then me so you want the sound to be good or as best as you can so that you can live forever.

With the covers, your take of Nicki Minaj has been the favorite in our office.

J: Ohh cool, thank you, I’m a huge fan of Nicki Minaj. I’m not like an enormous rap music listener but I think she is so talented and that album Pink Friday has been on high rotation for me, I think it is so fucking good, I really love what she does. So my next album is going to be a rap album

Time to cross over?

Yeah I started with rap covers so I think I’m going to start my own original rap, you think I’m kidding but I’m actually considering it…it’s like a new genre, I think it isn’t some that really has been done before so I’m going to do it.

Is there more acting for you in the future?

I really hope so, I definitely want to do more acting and television and I do try and take auditions when I can but I’m travelling so much because I’ve just been focusing on music for the past several years because it is something that I can be ahead on my own and kind of be president of the company. I think acting is generally a little more collaborative by nature there is certainly stuff that you can do stuff by yourself but I think making a film, unless you are a writer and a film maker, it is harder to do in the middle of the night at home by yourself which I can do writing songs and things for YouTube. It’s hard because music has to be planned like 6 months or more in advance and acting you kind of have to be available like ‘we have an audition for you tomorrow or we have a job for you this week.’ But I would definitely like to do more

Most people would know you from the film Short Bus, how do you look back on that film, 5 years down the line?

I look on it quite fondly. It was definitely one of the coolest parts of my life. I say that, but it was honestly an enormous chunk of my life because they cast the actors before there was even ever a script or character or stories and we developed all of that together of the course of two and half years before we even filmed the movie. So it’s a very long process and you know I made some of my closest friends that I have to this day working on that and it was an actor’s dream. Working with John Cameron Mitchell, it is like work and play are the same thing and it was so much fun and it was such a nurturing space, like an organic kind of collaborative environment, there was so much motivation. I think it was a really important experience for me as an artist to actually believe that I have something to offer because there was so much good feedback, it was amazing, and it was one of the most meaningful things I have ever experienced. It is a good film, I’m really proud of it.

How much does your sexuality play in the role of your creativity?

Maybe this is a boring answer but I don’t think that it does, I don’t think about it much. What I do is just my way of getting to the thoughts that are sort of racing around in my head all day every day out of myself. So to me when I express myself I do it without regard to gender or orientation, I don’t think about it, I don’t change pronouns one way or another, I don’t think about what people might want to here or how people might react, I just try to write authentically and serve the song and just be the most honest with the stories that I am trying to tell or the statement that I’m trying to make.

I don’t know, I’m sure that in some way it influences certain things or whatever but at the end of the day we are all people and we have the same experiences and emotions – pain and joy and all of that you know regardless of our gender or our orientations or whatever so I don’t know, I just don’t think about it that much

Of the tracks that you have in the new album which one had the longest gestation period? Was there one that was quick or some that took a long time?

I’m a super slow writer, I have a hard time focusing and honestly I run so many aspects of my own business, like I don’t have management and I don’t have an agent outside of North America. Even in North America I deal with most of my own bookings, I’m in control of a lot of my marketing and the creative content and making the albums and so I have a lot that keeps me busy. So it’s like there are times when I am doing the business and there are times when I am doing the creative. Unfortunately I’m a little bit slower than most people in producing materials because I need to be pushed and to be in a certain place and to have a certain amount of space to be creative and expressive, so it takes me the longest of times and I’m not the best focuser either.

Where did you grow up?

I’m from Texas originally, I also grew up in Oklahoma and Canada, I moved around quite bit, I lived in LA for 3 years before I came here. New York is actually the longest I’ve been in any one place for a continuous amount of time. It’s been 9 years I guess since I moved here

What is it about New York that captures you?

I don’t know, I mean it’s definitely the only city, I mean there is no city like New York in the world I think, I mean certainly in the United States it’s a very unique place it sort of has an energy, a mentality even an aesthetic that you kind find anywhere else in the country. I don’t know, something has always drawn me and I came here and now that I’ve lived here I’m not really sure even when I think about leaving, it’s not the easiest place to survive, it’s very expensive, it’s very crowded, it takes, it’s a gritty lifestyle but now that I have lived here I have no idea where I would go. I love it. I don’t know, I think everybody belongs in New York.

Rob Me Blind is available now from EMI

Graeme Watson

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