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Greyson Chance: A Butterfly’s Journey from Holy to Hell and Back

A decade ago there was a boy made famous by a pop song and a viral video. Today, there is an artistic, powerful singer song writer

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Greyson Chance (Photo Credit: Broderick Bauman)

HOLLYWOOD – Many want to saddle singer Greyson Chance with the label “comeback” or having a “return from retirement.”  It is an understandable mistake as the “fame to disaster” narrative IS there. The real story is about one of the most exciting new artists of today.  One that speaks to not only the LGBTQ youth of today, but of their entire generation.

Over a decade ago, there was a boy.  The boy was very gifted at the piano, and at singing. He entered a talent contest and belted out a well known pop song by one of the trendiest artists of the day.  Of course, there was a video.  Social media was itself an infant, and as such, started launching like videos into the stratosphere.  His video was one of the first to be seen gazillion of millions of times.  Then there was the Ellen show, then the record contracts and a music video where he was Ariana Grande’s love interest.

Life would never be the same again.  It would not be the same as Greyson Chance would be forever entwined with Lady Gaga and Paparazzi.  It would not be the same as when his voice changed and it all came crashing down. “The second that the momentum stopped, you know, I truly was just sort of thrown to the curb when I was 15. I, all in the same day,  got dropped by my record label, my management, my publicist, and my agent.  It was the ultimate for me, as a child musician.” Greyson told me.

The real story however, is of a fantastic singer/songwriter who hit the industry in a big way with a debut album of his own work in 2019. He emerged then as a honed artist who had already been educated on the workings of the industry, and as a professional who knew how to walk in with his own vision and make it happen.

“It is a machine and, when I when I came on the scene originally, I had this huge viral video and with that, a lot of money coming around, and big players kind of involved in the industry,” he says.  He made music their way.  He did the songs they wrote, and played the part of the person they wanted him to be.

(Photo Credit: Broderick Bauman)

He learned how to be the kind of artist he did not want to be.  The young artist went back to Oklahoma and enveloped himself in the cocoon of normalcy.  He incubated there, fell in love, and had his heart broken by someone he thought he was going to hold onto forever.  At that point, he emerged from the cocoon, with a full self-written album in hand, a musical butterfly spreading his wings.

“I’m 23 years old right now. And I started off with my first record deal when I was 12 years old. There was so much of my adolescence, in my childhood in music, where I wasn’t given the chance to not only make music that I really wanted to do, but also to be writing. I was being forced to do records,  I didn’t have a huge artistic involvement in anything I was doing. So when I came back into music, I really wanted to finally show the world that I was a songwriter, that I had a unique voice. That I had some unique things to say.   I really emphasize authenticity. These are stories that are coming from the heart. These are things that are coming from my own life. It’s not even really a choice that I have anymore.  It is honest, from a place that’s true and genuine,” Greyson states.

Greyson represented not only with a new thematic “voice”, but an actual new physical voice as well.  “It was interesting, what I went through, they always tell you that when your voice changes, it’s going to be sort of a tough go and that is such an understatement. It was so hard for me for a few years to really kind of find comfortability in my physical voice again. I mean, I really struggled through my voice change. But ultimately, I learned as a kid when I was on the road that in a way, when you’re a touring musician, you’re sort of like an athlete. My muscle is, is my voice.”  Greyson’s new voice is far superior to his belting-out-broadway boy voice.  He has a harmonic high register, and a sultry deep one. It copies no one else’s, this voice is uniquely his own.

In 2019, Greyson came out with his launch album “Portraits”.  The stories of the album gave vision to the various personas he saw of himself as he navigated an ill fated romance.  One week,  he was looking at engagement rings, the next week, out of the blue, “the man of his dreams” left him without explanation.  Greyson works each personal portrait into the prism of a beautiful, musically shiny diamond. “Portraits for me was truly my reinvention piece. And what I mean by that is, at the time before I put out that album, you know, I couldn’t even get a meeting in LA with anybody. You know, no one wanted to touch me, no one wanted to be involved in in my project and involved in my music. So I told myself, You know what, I’m going to write a record, and I’m going to write a full album. I’m going to give this one last shot, and see, see what happens. And, fortunately, it went over very, very well.”

In 2019 he filled 109 venues performing the songs from Portraits.  He publicly came out as gay in response to a fan during a conversation about living authentically.  He has also been transparent about his personal challenges, including his on-going battle with anorexia.  “It was truly very, very difficult to diagnose it. I had come off of this really bad breakup that I wrote my album Portraits about, and I was developing habits of not eating and not taking care of myself. I blamed it on the sadness I was feeling at the time. Then, as things became a little more normal, and I became a bit more stable, I noticed that I still had had this issue and things that were going on. For me, I had to work through a lot of therapy,   to get a grasp on it. I brought it public because it was so stigmatized, and still is.   I like to think that I have my life together. But here’s  the deep issue that I struggle with, and I go through. I’m  on a road to recovery, it’s never ending when you are battling with an eating disorder, but I’m doing very, very well right now. I’m staying on top of it. Through my disclosure, there was such an amazing and beautiful dialogue that keeps happening, people reaching out to me and sort of sharing their own struggles and battles with it as well.   I’m working on trying to be the best version of myself that I can be.”

(Photo Credit: Broderick Bauman)

After a forced lockdown during the pandemic of 2020, Greyson is ready to move into the next phase of his butterfly trajectory.  He has released two singles off his next EP, Trophies, and he is in love again.  The songs on the EP will be in a thematic composition.  The two first released create a spiritual arc from the heavenly rich ballad-like Holy Feeling to the high-pop danceable hedonistic Hell Boy. 

He says of the new material, “My boyfriend and I just celebrated our one year anniversary yesterday.   Trophies, is really expressing the fear of now losing love, and sort of that fear that was created in the old relationships that I’ve had. It is the desire for my fans and queer people around the world to know what  truly being in love is. We’re constantly told as, as queer people that, our relationships are always going to be rocky, they’re never going to be sort of American Dream type relationships. Because we’re different, these relationships are going to be different, because we’re inherently different. That is just absolutely BS.   Regardless of how you identify who you love, you can totally have all of this stereotypical white picket fence, you know, dog in the backyard green grass type of thing. It is so within your wheelhouse. It’s not out of reach. This record is emotionally going through all those those things, and talking about them in the music.”

A decade ago there was a boy made famous by a pop song and a viral video.  Today, there is an artistic, powerful singer song writer who sings the authenticity of his generation.  The rush you feel is the wind from rainbow colored butterfly wings taking flight, and the knowledge that the most famous Greyson Chance is the one yet to come.

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Music & Concerts

“I know it can be hard to wake up to something so unreal-” Raue rocks LA

Feeling as though the venue was the Whisky a Go Go of the punk rock scene, the nostalgia found within Raue’s performance permeated the room

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Raue performs at the BlackRose in Los Angeles (Photo by Noah Christiansen)

LOS ANGELES – The phenomenon of teenage angst is one met with general discomfort and chaos: the phase that ‘isn’t just a phase’, the transition to adulthood, and worst of all… growing pains.

Yet, as the sound traveled through LA’s BlackRose, audience members embraced the feeling and passion of teenagedom as the two musicians on stage performed. In a culture where the space between childhood and adulthood is dissipating, the feeling of Raue’s sound is nostalgic. 

The Urban Dictionary defines Raue as a German colloquialism referring to strength of character, which this dynamic duo of teenaged musicians clearly display in their music and performance.

Raue (pronounced roo-ay), a band based in Santa Cruz, California is composed of two members: singer/guitarist Paige Raue Kalenian and drummer Jax Huckle – both of whom differ from the conventional teen we see today.

Raue performs at the BlackRose in Los Angeles (Photo by Noah Christiansen)

Kalenian released her first highly anticipated eponymous album titled Raue in 2021. The album contained themes of somberness, loneliness, and deja vu. Huckle joined the band a few months later where they collectively released the band’s first EP titled Erase and Rewind this year; the EP contained similar themes as the first album (albeit with more maturity and experimentation).

The BlackRose’s stated mission to provide a platform for all artists to perform their craft, highlighting all art forms including music, dance, visual arts, musical theater, burlesque, and beyond – well suited the performance.

Feeling as though the venue was the Whisky a Go Go of the punk rock scene, the nostalgia found within Raue’s performance permeated the room through the various aesthetics: Black sport coats riddled with pins in patches, floppy dyed hair, and skinny ties hung loose. Unlike typical teenage style today, the members of Raue dress as if they are a punk rock band in the 90’s.

Raue performs at the BlackRose in Los Angeles (Photo by Noah Christiansen)

In a cathartic homage to the sound of Nirvana, Green Day, and Alanis Morsette, audience members saw energy unlike any other performance. Kalenian defines Raue’s sound as “90’s grunge punk rock.”

It was obvious from the start what this band was, but when they covered My Hero by the Foo Fighters, it was clear that these teens had a rich music upbringing. Yet, it was difficult to truly label this band. Kalenian calls it a “Paradox of Ineffability” – a language that comes close to defining a sound, but not quite encapsulating all of what the sound has to offer.

The LA Blade had the pleasure to interview Raue after their performance. The band members took the Blade into a quiet, dimly lit patio in the back of the BlackRose. Quite the opposite space in comparison to where the performance took place.

After a discussion about the perks of touring from place to place to perform music, Kelenian described what Raue’s purpose is in the music industry.

“Our message is to spread love unconditionally,” Kalenian explained. It would be an understatement to call this band inclusive as inclusivity feels all too general. In fact, Raue’s sound queers the space that its in – not queer solely in the aspect of sexuality, gender, or identity, but in the sense of transformation. A true political praxis that manifests a radical queerness that seeks to envelop spaces with kindness, love, and difference.

Raue performs at the BlackRose in Los Angeles (Photo by Noah Christiansen)

Kalenian isn’t the only member of Raue who feels this way – Huckle also opened up with his discussion of the pertinent aspects of vulnerability both on and off stage. “I feel like it’s a matter of showing the crowd that you’re vulnerable,” he says, “that’s the first step to having the crowd open up.” He’s not wrong. In the beginning, the crowd was stiff. At a usual concert venue, audience participation is always optional. But, when Kalenian jumps off stage with her guitar, just feet away from the audience, it’s impossible to not move with the music. “She’s all around,” Huckle says, “She likes meeting everybody.” 

With deep messages in the music, there is a sense of closeness between the band and the audience. As Kalenian instructs the audience members to sing the chorus to a song with themes of loneliness, people have a sense of relationality to the music. I mean, who can’t relate to these lyrics: “Sitting here by myself and I feel lonely / Does that mean anything to you?” 

Although the singer gets a lot of attention naturally, there is no doubt that the eclectic personality was shown through the drummer’s performance. With the waving of drumsticks like a magical baton constructing the audience that is the orchestra, the character of Huckle was brought to life among the loud drum licks. When asked about the meaning of punk rock, Huckle responded by saying, “All punk rock has a deep message. Even if it’s loud and messy – it’s human expression.”

When the show was coming to an end, Kalenian turned around to show the crowd what was on the back of her coat: the words “I LOVE YOU!” with a picture of a screaming cat underneath the letters.

Raue performs at the BlackRose in Los Angeles
(Photo by Noah Christiansen)

As Raue makes their way to release more music and continue to perform across the states, it is no question that this band mixes the ubiquitous flare of teenage angst into their sound – not something to be criticized, but to be embraced.

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Music & Concerts

Bryan Ruby, Out baseball player & Out Country Music star: 2 icons in 1

“Music has always been a safe refuge for me. It has become a second passion of mine and it’s sort of almost taking over”

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Bryan Ruby (Photo by Kristen Lucas)

NASHVILLE – We know the theme: “Be your authentic self.”  Many trail blazers in different genres embody it. They stand up, and publicly declare themselves to be unique, real and visible. They awaken the public to the fact that human diversity is the norm and embracing it is not only a badge for them, but offers everyone who observes them a chance at a similar freedom. Most trailblazers pick a single lane in which to challenge misconceptions. 

Bryan Ruby has done it in two, neither of which have appeared to be very LGBTQ friendly until now. Not only has he broken the barrier of being the only out gay baseball player in any professional league, but he has also just launched a new single as an out gay professional country music singer/songwriter.

His image on his music releases is sultry, sexy and thirsty. For baseball, his long brown locks are tucked back and his pumped muscles outline his baseball uniform. In either case, he is beautiful, not just for who he is, but because of what he represents, and his generosity to make it available to boys who cannot see anyone like themselves in the world today.  

He remembers coming to terms with his sexuality. “It was scary. Growing up I played baseball since I was 6 or 7 years old. My dad was the ballplayer. He was a pitcher and is a current baseball coach and I was that kid who had that little tee ball bat, throwing in the driveway at home and played for years. Before I knew anything about sexuality, I was a ballplayer.  At 14 or 15, the guys on my team started talking about girls and pressure came in. Oh, you’re a jock. ‘Where’s the girlfriend?’ type thing.”  

“Not being able to look around and see somebody who was gay, that was like me was really kind of crushing. They say, if you can see it, you can be it. What happens when you’re that kid, and you have that dream, but you can’t see anybody like you?”

Instead of his passion for other guys, he focused on the passion for the sport. He loved travelling, being transported as a pro-ball player to places like South America. He remembers the thrill of a stadium there where the whole town had shown up, and the stadium was filled, and the wild and enthusiastic response when he hit a double in front of this crowd of strangers. “I love this, I am a baseball player,” he confirmed to himself.

Bryan busted past the paradigm that if a pro-ball player comes out that he won’t play pro ball ever again. Coming out took “a weight off his shoulders” and he played better than ever.  He got offers after he came out from three leagues, more than he had any year previously. He launched the Proud to be in Baseball organization, which is paving the way for gay kids to play safely and proudly. They have something Bryan did not. They CAN see someone who is gay, like them. They can see Bryan. They can see their future, one where they do not have to pretend to be someone else.

After he came out, it took the assurances of his teammates for him to understand the depths of his safety.  He was dating his boyfriend Max, but never had Max to a game. Max had not seen him play, nor had he ever sat in the designated “Wives and girlfriends” section. That changed one day when Bryan was confronted by his team. They were having a big party for the playoffs and asked if Bryan would be attending.  He said that he would be. They looked him straight in the eye and said, “We just want you to know, that if you are going to be there, your boyfriend sure as hell better be there with you by your side.” Home run.

Recently, Media outlets turned to him as a spokesperson when controversy hit the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. The Rays were holding their 16th annual Pride Night and had given their players a rainbow themed insignia to wear. 

Team insignias are not optional. Several team members refused the LGBTQ laced insignias, however. Usually refusing to wear the designated insignia is an insubordinate stance for a player to take and comes with fines from the team organization.  No repercussions happened in this case however. The players claimed religious beliefs as justification and the team allowed their behavior.  

When asked by the media what he thought, Bryan replied, “We get one night at the ballpark to be ourselves all year, and it just was an indication that a lot of people still believe that we just don’t belong there and that we are not welcome and, even on Pride Night, we’re still second-class citizens.”

For that, he received both praises, and a ton of hate mail. “I was inundated, pretty vile stuff.” 

The most poignant feedback was from a single communication, however. “I got a message from a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. An emotional message. It was one of their players who tracked down my number texted me after Pride night. There are people like me in the sport. There is one hidden on the Tampa Bay Rays team, afraid to speak up. It gives me purpose for the Proud to Be in Baseball organization. We can connect with other players who have nowhere else to go. Teams will do Pride events which is nice but in terms of the actual stuff that helps the players, it is uncharted territory.”

Bryan Ruby (Photo courtesy of Ruby)

Country music is also uncharted territory for most LGBTQ people. Not only is country music not a typical environment for gay men, but it is also not one usually associated with baseball players either. Bryan observed, “It does kind of go counter to the macho type of mold that we are sort of expected to have as male team sport athletes. Whether it’s baseball or football or hockey, but music has always been a safe refuge for me. If I have a tough game if I don’t play well, I just put my headphones in listen to music and chill out and that has always been there. It has become a second passion of mine and it’s sort of almost taking over.”

Taken over it has. He has written numerous country songs that have hit various country charts including iTunes Top Country. He won Season 7 of the talent-search competition Nashville Rising Song.

He just released his first single, a rocking country anthem destined to be a hot dance and chart hit, Left Field.

 Left Field infuses the listener with a beat that dares you to try not stomping on the dancefloor. It is an inspiration to be your real self and allow your best life to emanate from “left field.” Bryan’s voice reverberates classically country with a deep sexy lower register.

Bryan Ruby (Photo by Stasi Photography)

The proceeds from the sale of the single go 100% to the Proud to Be in Baseball organization. “After I came out, I didn’t come out just to get attention in the media. I asked myself what can we actually do to help younger people like me who don’t think they can be themselves?   They shouldn’t have to get to the point that I’m at and feel like they’re the only ones that exist which is totally, totally not true. Whether they’re in Nashville or they’re in Laramie Wyoming or they’re in Venezuela or whatever. No kid should have to feel like there are no adult versions of them and that they’re alone playing their sport in the world,” Bryan emphasizes.

In the United States, our ballplayers are our heroes. Our country western singers are our consciences.

With Bryan Ruby, gay kids now have one of each.

*********************

In the House & at the Mic: Singer Bryan Ruby, First Out Pro-Baseball Player

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Music & Concerts

CMA bans display of ‘Confederate’ flag at major music festival, CMA Fest 

The CMA stated that its goal was to embrace a safe and inclusive environment for fans of Country Music and the artists who will be performing

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Graphic by CMA Fest

NASHVILLE – The Country Music Association has joined other organizations in banning the so-called “Confederate flag” from being openly displayed at its upcoming CMA Fest this upcoming week.

The four-day festival, which runs from June 9-12, is based in Nashville and billed as one of the largest country music gatherings in the world. Although the CMA Fest event rules published in April when the music festival was first announced, in the light of recent events the CMA wasted to ensure that attendees were well versed in the policy that “Confederate flag imagery of any kind” are prohibited items for the 2022 event.

The CMA in a release stated that its goal was to embrace a safe and inclusive environment for fans of Country Music and the artists who will be performing.

“This year’s CMA Fest is our first major fan-facing event in nearly three years. We have always had policies in place that protect the safety of our fans and ban discrimination, but we felt it was important to further refine our language to explicitly outline what will and will not be tolerated,” said a statement from the Country Music Association.

The statement continued, “In line with our first CMA Fest lineup announcement in early April, our event policy was published on our website, which states any behavior that causes one of our attendees to fear for their personal safety will not be tolerated, and that is inclusive of any displays of the Confederate flag.”

This ban by the CMA is in line with other music festivals around the nation which have also banned display of the “Confederate flag” and follows a ban by NASCAR in June of 2020 which read; “The display of the Confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.” 

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