Early in Gregory Douglass’s indie music career, the most
famous drag queen in Vermont
took the singer-songwriter out for coffee – and advised him to keep his
sexuality quiet. “I feel like you have more mainstream potential than any gay
artist that I’ve seen,” Yolanda of Yolanda and the Plastic Family counseled
the then 19-year-old. “And I think that you should play your cards carefully.”
Now 25-years-old, Douglass says the music business was still
a big mystery at the time, and “I figured if a drag queen was telling me [to
play it straight] – than maybe I ought to listen.”
You’ve got to hand it to Yolanda: the woman can spot talent.
Douglass’s songs pour out like golden aural honey. With sublime echoes of Joni
Mitchell and Radiohead’s Kid A, cuts off his last CD – 2006’s impeccably
lush Up & Away – could nestle in comfortably alongside radio hits by
John Mayer and The Fray. And the music features that special rarity –
flawlessly composed lyrics.
“I’m a total musical snob,” admits Douglass between
mouthfuls of Chinese during an interview done off interstate 95 while touring.
“Even one little, cheesy musical decision will just drive me insane!”
With a broad open face, and short dark hair flecked with the
barest dusting of old-soul gray, Douglass is able to seem warm and accessible –
laughing easily – and at the same time remote as if he’s conserving the risky
and painful act of human connection for the intensity of his music-making. That
act is something so instinctive he confides it can feel like “channeling.”
Growing up in a “rough, rural small town” in Vermont, with an absent
and angry father, Douglass experienced alienation familiar to many queers
forced to tough it in the heartland. And it’s easy to imagine his radiant
emo-pop being a godsend to sophisticated teens in similar circumstances.
Big-time music business did toss Douglass some come-ons
early on – flying him to LA for a showcase in 2004. But neither that
one-night-stand nor any subsequent flirtations ended in a relationship with a major
label. So Douglass stopped chasing the industry dinosaur, got Pro Tools and an
Mbox, and committed to doing it his own way for the long haul on his
independent label Emote.
Now – with a growing and dedicated fan base, polished and
marketable recordings that are beginning to get radio play, and a killer live
show that spotlights alpha-wave thick emotionalism and serious musical chops –
what if industry called?
“I’ve released six records on my own, and have 100% creative
and business control over everything that I do, and want to do, and don’t want
to do,” Douglass explains. “Then giving all of that up, to have other people
tell me what to do? It just doesn’t appeal to me.”
And Douglass – who lives with his artist boyfriend – says
that desire to maintain control over his destiny comes in part out of his decision
to ditch Yolanda’s advice – and let all those gay sexual meat and potatoes hang
Three years ago a friend pitched Douglass as an openly gay
artist to OUT magazine, and that publication ended up giving Douglass’ 2005 CD Stark
a rave review. Douglass says the response he received from that single
mention in the gay press was overwhelming, and that the choice to be out “just
opened so many doors. That’s when it was obvious to me: ‘What am I waiting
And he says that being out has freed him in unexpected ways
as well, explaining he “was just fed up” with the restrictions that concealing
his sexuality imposed. Now, Douglass laughs, “I can be a lot more the diva that
I am musically!”
And ultimately, Douglass hopes his choice to embrace the truth
brings him more in line with his own musical heroes: “I have always looked up
to artists who are more rebellious and really do what they want and don’t care
what anybody else thinks. I think I’ve looked up to that because it’s been hard
for me. But – I‘m constantly striving for that.”
Curious about Gregory Douglass’ music? Check out two of his videos on the next page!
The following music videos from Gregory Douglass have previously been featured on Logo’s The Click List.
For info on Gregory Douglass’ tour dates and CD’s visit
his website: www.gregorydouglass.com