Little mermaid on crack, voice of a fallen angel, a modern day twisted torch song singer, the sound of a sad angry woman, all various phrases that have been used to describe the talent that is New York based 28 year old actor, singer, song-writer Jay Brannan. Yet, all of them don’t quite hit the mark, for there is far more to the swoonsome singer than his pretty face, hauntingly beautiful voice and meaningful heartfelt lyrics!.
It’s fair to say this enigmatic boy first rose to the great public awareness when he appeared in the raunchy, provocative, John Cameron Mitchell move 'Shotbus’ in 2006. A movie so full of erotic and and in your face sex than sadly a great many people didn’t see past that and see the masterpiece it truly is. It “was one of the most amazing things I've ever been a part of” Jay tells me, “Being in a movie and having a song on the sound-track, expanded my audience very quickly, on a small, but global scale” He says with fondness, the song he speaks of is the quirky, twinkly and jolly ‘Soda shop’ and that audience, is truly global - fans from as far apart as New Zealand and Iceland. And, it’s an audience that’s steadily growing, over 23,000 fans on Facebook, 37,800 odd on MySpace, a further 14,500 follow his every word on micro-blogging tweeteriffic Twitter and almost an amazing 6,890,000 plays on YouTube.
Those numbers are only likely to get bigger as this talented handsome young man packs up his trusty guitar and hits the road, touring both in North America and Europe. Full list of dates and venues can be found below, but, you’d better act fast, tickets sold out fast last time, leaving a surprisingly large number disappointed and unable to enjoy his emotive far reaching soul pleasing sound.
I caught up with Jay last week, after months and months of trying to gain an interview with the shy entertainer. First of all, I know you usually shy away from doing such interviews, claiming you’re not that interesting, so really Jay, I think you for agreeing to do this one.
Haha, Jason, I don’t ever remember agreeing to do an interview.........
Let’s talk about your tour, you are just about to embark on a long list of live dates, what made you decide to tour now?
"Err, isn't that what musicians do?"
Well, yep, good point, it is what musicians do, although in the commercial pop world it’s all lip syncing and coat hanger smiles! What do you enjoy more, is it the live shows or perhaps the recording or the writing?
"Live shows. Writing and recording are frustrating"
So, for you, what’s the best thing about live shows?
"I just like singing! But it's cool that I show up in places I've never been sometimes, and there's a room full of people there who came to see me sing! And sometimes they sing along, or request songs by name...that's always a little surreal."
Which song is most requested?
"Ummm...I’m not sure. I’m always surprised by which song of mine people tell me they like the best. It's often not what I would expect."
So far, Jay’s tour includes a few dates in England and Ireland this autumn, I ask if he’s excited to be coming back this way over the Atlantic.
"Oh of course! I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to tour international. it's not easy!"
He’s no stranger to Europe, earlier this year he spent a few months travelling around, mostly mainland Europe, even giving a few impromptu open air concerts in city centre parks, much to the delight of the local fans. He’s enthusiastic in his reply to my rather weak and cliche question 'how was it for you’?’
“It was an amazing experience. Parts of it were awesome, parts of it were horrible. But ultimately I learned so much about myself, and got to see some new parts of the world.”
“For someone as inactive and low energy as me, 3 months abroad is a big challenge hahaha. I grew a lot I think.”
I knew when I was in America for three months, there were certain quintessential ‘English’ things I missed, and I wondered if there was anything you missed most while you were travelling?
"American clothes dryers!!"
No interview with Jay would be complete if we didn’t touch on the movie ‘Shortbus’ whist it may not have achieved the audience it should have, it remains one of my favourite and a rapidly becoming a cult classic. I asked Jay, who played a rather shy and giggly Ceth, if it was an enjoyable experience.
"Yup.......one of the most amazing things I’ve ever been a part of. I was very lucky to be involved in that project and to get to know such incredible people. It was soooo much fun, and meaningful at the same time"
Because of the publicity surrounding it’s original release, as one of the most erotic and explicit movies ever released, I wondered if it had helped or hindered his musical career, and you can tell by his words, he’s brimming with pride about the movie.
“I owe a lot of my "career" to that film. Being in a movie and having a song on the sound-track, expanded my audience very quickly. On a small, but global scale”
“It's brought me lots of opportunity”
Changing the subject a little and focusing on the music, your songs are so authentic and meaningful, where do you draw your inspiration from?
“My life ! Mostly pain, frustration, fear, anger. Those are the things that drive me to write.
“It's like my coping mechanism for life. Or like having a tumour in my brain that has to be drained every now and then, or my head will pop. Haha, that's kind of gross, isn’t it?”
It is kinda gross, but also the perfect analogy for having to get something out, out of your head, to let it flow free, to share it with the world. What comes first, is it the lyrics, or the tune, or does it just flood your mind in one big lump?
“I suck at playing guitar, so I have to write something on guitar first, cuz I cant write a guitar part to match something I’ve already written, after that I hum a tune and start piecing together the melody and the words”
You make it sound easy, do you find it easy to write?
No!! it never comes easy to me. Agonising, even yes......”
I’ve always thought your songs have a deep, meaningful, authentic quality to them, how easy is it for you to be so honest when writing?
“Being honest is one of the few things I'm really good at! Haha that's not difficult at all”
And, which one of your honest songs are you most proud?
“That depends on the day. Shockingly, I am proud of lots of them. Three years ago I would have told you I thought they were all horrible haha. But the response from other people has allowed me to believe maybe they're not so bad”
His slightly self effacing personality is all part of the charm and beauty that makes this singer so attractive to his audience, who are a pretty loyal bunch. What's the best thing about being Jay Brannan I ask, not really expecting a specific answer, but gratitude was the last thing on my mind.
“Haha I don’t know, I’ve been lucky to make a living from music for the past 2 years, and I’ve gotten to travel around the world more than once. I am very grateful for those things”
What's the worst thing about being Jay Brannan then?
“Probably the emotional & social dysfunction parts haha”
Talking of emotions, are you still single, or has love entered your life? Are you anywhere nearer to becoming that housewife making guacamole?
“I haven’t dated anyone in 8 years!!!”
I wasn’t anticipating such a long absence of date-able men, I’d have thought potential suitors would be lining up round the block for this handsome eligible bachelor, god knows if I’d been a couple of years younger, I’d have been one of them! But, what kind of guys does Jay go for?
“Ummm someone who makes me laugh and who likes me exactly the way i am”
Maybe, he’ll walk in to one of your shows, although I’m quite sure a flutter from those long eyelashes and searching eyes would have quite a few hearts fluttering in the audience you might have to fight ‘em off with a stick. But, apart from this the tour, coming over to Europe, what other plans have you got?
“Trying to figure out how to record my next album, and writing the songs for it. I'd also like to do more acting."
Our brief time is running out and I wonder if he’d like to leave us with a little bit of Jay Brannan wisdom?
“ummmm...follow your instincts and never let other people tell you who can or cant be, and what you can or cant do with your own life?”
Now, as any of my regular readers will know, I also end an interview with a request for a secret, for example, Jayden Grey told me he secretly likes chic-flicks, Joanna Lumley said she secretly liked chilling out with no make-up and jogging bottoms on and Christopher Dallman confessed that Lindsay Lohan thought he was hot - So Jay, tell us a secret.
“Oh My God! how weird, Lindsay Lohan thought *I* was hot, too!!"
Jay Brannan is playing the following UK date's this autumn -
American shows -
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