Jake Walden wants you to know that while he might be
bleeding love, he’s not broken. The Northern California
native is thoughtful, warm, and genuine, something that comes across clearly in
his frequent blog posts and intimate YouTube videos. His voice ranges between a
gravelly rasp and angelic falsettos, but it’s his simple, beautiful melodies
and introspective lyrics that really grab you by the heart and don’t let go.
On October 20, the out singer-songwriter released a new single
— a tender cover of Leona Lewis’s "Bleeding Love," recorded as a duet
— and re-released his debut album, Alive
and Screaming, with additional live tracks. But it’s another tune that
might soon be stealing the spotlight. He’s hoping one of his other songs will become
a marriage-rights anthem … and he needs your help to make it happen.
AfterElton.com sat down recently with Jake to discuss his
new album, his views on being a gay artist, the birth of an anthem, and whether
or not he’s available.
AfterElton.com: Hi Jake, congratulations on the new CD!
Jake Walden: Well, thanks, man! I’m pretty excited. It’s been a long time
coming to re-release the album with these live tracks and with "Bleeding
Love." It took us like a year to get permission to do it.
AE: How did the "Bleeding Love" cover
JW: It was literally almost a year ago, Bonnie [Somerville] and I had been doing some shows in L.A. and New York. She is an
amazing singer and songwriter in her own right. We were going to try to do some
shows, so she came over to my little apartment, and we worked on some
background vocals for "The Line" and "Wide Awake." Then she
said, "I really want to do a cover song with you. Don’t laugh, but I want
us to do ’Bleeding Love.’" It was a huge song at that time. And me being,
I don’t know, somewhat hippy pretentious, was like, "I’m not doing some
slick pop song." [laughs]
She left, then late that night, I sat at the piano and just
started to kind of figure it out and play it. And suddenly, I was just like,
"Oh my God, this is beautiful!" It’s really haunting. She came over
the next day, and sat on the piano bench next to me, and we just started to
sing. It was just one of those moments. It was like our voices were meant to be
together. We got to the chorus and started singing the harmonies and it was
like the male and female version of the same voice.
AE: Will there be a video for "Bleeding
JW: Yes. It’s out now. It was done by an amazing animator, graphic designer
friend of mine, Holly. It is the most amazing, beautiful, haunting piece of
work. I always talk about my favorite book being The Giving Tree, and one of the things I love about the book are
the picture Shel Silverstein had drawn, so the style came from that kind of
look. Very simple, but the story follows the two characters through many eras,
five hundred years of unrequited love. I think people will be blown away by the
AE: You also have a beautiful video for
"For Someone" starring Bevin Price of One Tree Hill. Now you’re an openly gay artist, but the video was
very heterosexual. Was that deliberate or just the artistic vision for the
JW: Wow. Interesting question. Yes, I’m openly gay as a person, but I’ve
never considered myself a gay artist, just because my work has nothing to do
with that. When I released the album, The
Advocate asked to do a piece on me. Honestly, that was the first time I’d
ever thought about saying whether I was gay or straight. It was just so not an
issue for me. It’s not a big piece of my life, especially if I’m not in a
When we made the video "For Someone," it’s not
that I was trying to hide anything. I’m just the narrator in the video. I
specifically didn’t want it to be about me. The song isn’t about me. As far as
videos on the future? I don’t know.
AE: Would you ever consider doing a more
gay-themed video, or would you avoid that to steer clear of the "gay
JW: I would be interested in making a video where there are obviously gay
people in it, but you’ll never see me doing a gay love story. In all my work,
in my blogs, and all the things I write, in all my honesty, in all the truth
that I hope to say about myself, there are some things that are mine, that I
don’t feel comfortable making my work about.
I don’t know what others will think of that. I would hope
the gay community would just see that as another form of expression, and the
truth of what it means to be a gay person at this time — just to be who the f**k
you are! This is who I am. If we’re to move forward and be embraced as full
people — not just who we have sex with — I don’t want to focus, like so many,
on the sexuality of our sexuality. I want to focus on all that we are as
I don’t know what the future might hold. Life changes every
day. I am a different person now than I was a year ago, two years ago. I never
thought I’d even be talking to you about being gay right now for an interview.
It had just never crossed my mind. I’m still finding my way like everyone else.
AE: You’re definitely something of a
philosopher, both with your songs and your blog. Let’s talk about "We
Are." Earlier you called it an anthem. What did you mean by that?
JW: "We are, We are, We are not broken" became a line that would
get people every time when I performed it, and people would start to sing
along. And then it became stories of why they are not broken. No matter what
circumstance come into your lives, there’s hope. It’s not going to break you,
just make you stronger. It’s the oldest cliché in the book, I suppose, but it’s
one of the things that we forget most often.
It became kind of an anthem because people would sing along,
and I realized the magnitude of this simple line, this song. When I went to Las Vegas in April for
the AIDS Walk, and I sang that song in front of ten thousand people, I asked
people to sing along. We knew that "We Are," in that particular
moment, could mean something very specific. It started to relate to me in a gay
I don’t think anyone can deny that being a gay person at any
time, even now, adds a lot of dimensions to our lives that are difficult. But I
realized for these people who were fighting AIDS, this is real shit, that this
song could mean something greater than myself in that moment. And it really
did. It was a life-changing moment.
So now what we’re working on, we just re-recorded "We
Are," and we’re approaching mainstream singers like Rob Thomas, Natalie
Maines, Dave Matthews, John Mayer, and we’re trying to get them to record it as
a kind of group song, then release it and give all the proceeds to a charitable
organization which is yet to be determined — hopefully HRC — who we can stand
beside in our fight for marriage and all other forms of equality.
All of a sudden, I’m becoming political, which I never
thought, but like I said, it’s just the truth of where I’m at right now. I
really believe in this cause. I sat a year ago in the redwoods with my family
as my aunts got married, these two women, and it was the most normal and
beautiful thing ever. I want that. I’m not afraid to say that.
"We Are" has the potential, if everything works
out as I hope, to raise a lot of money for a cause I truly believe in. As in
any civil rights movement, all of us gays can go out on the streets and say,
"Give us our rights," but until people who aren’t gay get out on the
streets and say the same thing, we’re not going to get there.
AE: These are all
artists who are really supportive of our cause, so I could really see that
coming together. That’s really amazing.
JW: Did you read Rob Thomas’ article in the Huffington Post? It was
amazing! That straight man changed my view as a gay man on gay marriage. He
really did. That’s how this whole project came to be, because of how succinctly
and beautifully he stated what needs to be said by people like him and by myself and other gay people. I’m
not excluding myself. I think it could be amazing. We’ve been working on this
for a couple months. I feel so passionately about it, and I really believe it’s
going to come together.
In fact, if your readers really want to help with this, they
can Twitter or Facebook Rob and the rest of our wish list and encourage them to
do it! Tell them, "Do it! Do ’We Are!’"
AE: Are you single or taken?
JW: I am very single … and almost available. [laughs]
I don’t know how to be with someone. I’ve been alone for so
long now, not just not having a boyfriend, but always being alone. It’s like
coming out of jail almost. I’m still learning how to relate to people again. I’m
the biggest romantic in the world. There’s nothing more important in the world
than finding love and giving love.
AE: What’s next for you? Is there a new album?
JW: I’m about halfway through the composition of a new album. We’re hoping
to record in February. What we’re doing — and this is an exclusive to you — in
about six weeks we’re starting a new model: to make an album that’s funded by
fans. We’re creating this whole thing called The Giving Tree. I’m writing a
book, doing a journal, all these different things, people can get private house
parties, I’ll record a song just for you, people can preorder the album, and
I’m also going to document the whole making of the album. Hopefully, it will
allow people who have been so dedicated and have contributed so much to me
creatively and as my friends to make this album together, in a way.
I can’t make the album I need to make on my own again. I
just can’t do it. So it’ll be really interesting to see if people are willing
put their money where their mouth is. It remains to be seen. We need to raise a
lot of money. We’re offering people a lot of interesting things in return, but
AE: When will the Bleeding Love EP and deluxe edition of Alive and Screaming be officially available?
JW: We just got word that it’ll be available on October 20th. It will only
be available digitally. I’ve never been more proud of a recording, and it’s
funny because I didn’t even write it. I have really high hopes for it, to be