Done With His “Unapologetically Slutty” Phase, Jake Shears Is Having A Creative Renaissance

As he readies for a new album, a new memoir, and his Broadway debut in "Kinky Boots," the out performer says being super-focused on work has made him happy.

This coming year is going to be big one for Jake Shears: In January, the Scissor Sisters front man will join the cast of Broadway’s Kinky Boots playing beleaguered shoe-factory owner Charlie Price. The following month, his memoir Boys Keep Swinging drops, full of juicy tales about the Sisters’ rise, his experiences as a go-go boy, his celebrity pals, and even his romantic life.

Ivan Bideac/Atria Books

Later in 2018, Shears will also release his first, as-yet-untitled solo album: he leaked the first track, a glam 1970’s-style groove called “Creep City,” over Halloween.
 

“’Creep City is a pretty theatrical jam, with quite a few twists and turns,” the 39-year-old wrote in a letter to fans. “It has all the touchstones of the sound I’ve been conjuring. It’s a song about being in a literally scary transition, reflecting a moment of my life when I found myself without my long time cohorts, without New York City, having to reassess my surroundings.”

As he returns to the Big Apple for Kinky Boot rehearsals, Shears chatted with NewNowNext about new music, past affairs, and getting used to wearing heels.

How did you get cast in Kinky Boots?

They contacted me, actually. My heart kind of stopped when I got the phone call and I was immediately like, ‘Absolutely!’ The timing couldn’t have been better: I’ve been tucked away the last couple of years working on music and my book, and I just finished those things up.

I came to New York and met [director] Jerry Mitchell, and it seemed like a great fit. I found out the next day it was a go. I’m really excited. I’m ready to get my hands dirty with this.

Nathan Johnson/Kinky Boots

Are you excited about getting to play the show’s “straight man”?

One of the fascinating things about this role is, first, Can I pull that off? (laughs). And the fact I haven’t done anything like this before. While I’ve been preparing for the rehearsals, I’m asking myself, ’How well will I be able to do this?’ I’m excited—and scared—to see how it’s going to be.

You claimed this is your first time in stilettos. How are you managing?

I just tried the boots on for the first time the other day. They’re really comfortable and everyone was very pleased with how easily I walked across the floor. I don’t think I’ve ever worn stilettos before. I did Frank N. Furter for Halloween years ago, but I think I was in more like platform things. I haven’t taken them down to New Orleans to stomp around, because I’m sure everyone would be upset they’d get real nasty really quick.

“Creep City” is like a collage of everything good about 1970s music.

It’s a real indicator of what the rest of the album sounds like, too. It pulls all those influences I’ve had over the years and hones them down a bit more. I was very specific with the production, and the whole record has a very ’70s sound because we really didn’t use computers.

The whole thing was played live—every song is one take. There are overdubs, but there are seven people playing each song from beginning to end. That’s not really done anymore, and it’s a really exciting challenge and record to create.

Chance Yeh/WireImage

Will we ever hear the unreleased album of Kylie Minogue-Scissor Sisters music?

There’s so much music laying around that’s really cool, but it’s gonna be a little while. I’ve got stuff to do, she’s got stuff to do. Eventually you will hear it.

In Boys Keep Swinging you described yourself as being “unapologetically slutty” at one point. How would you categorize yourself today?

Oh god, definitely not unapologetically slutty. I’ve had a sweetheart [recently] and I’ve been super low-key. I did some shows in June, and I was having so much fun getting back on stage again, it really felt like I had found myself and this kind of happiness I hadn’t known for a long time.

I’ve been stoked on getting work done and super-focused on working and that’s made me happy. I’ve not been looking for that in other people necessarily.

You recently learned that you and Dolly Parton are related. Has she had you down to Pigeon Forge yet?

I met her years ago, and I wish I’d known that then! It’s a funny fact. My whole family is from that same part of the world, on my mom’s side, and everybody had ten bothers and sisters, including my grandma and her grandma—these huge families. We share some great, great, great, ad infinitum grandfather. I was delighted.”

Jordi Vidal/Redferns

You worked on some songs for The Greatest Showman that didn’t end up getting used. Would you ever do a Scissor Sisters jukebox musical?

I don’t know about a strictly jukebox musical, but I would be into a show with Sisters stuff in it. There’s a woman who had a really good idea that she brought to me, which I loved… I always feel a strict jukebox musical is really hard to make good, because it’s tough to shoehorn songs into a narrative, but if you were able to use songs that had already been written and then write more, I would be into that. I’m open to a lot of stuff.

Are you still working with Elton John on an original musical?

Yeah, these things take forever but it’s in process. I really cannot wait to get back into moving [it] forward. Doing Kinky Boots now, has given me a new kick for writing musicals.

Michael Kovac/Getty Images for EJAF

Can you tease what its about?

No, I can’t. I wish I could!

It’s the holiday season: what would you like for Christmas?

I would wish for unity in the world and especially this country. I would love to see people coming together more. In peace.

Any New Year’s resolutions for 2018?

I have this little spare tire right now that I’ve really got to work off for this show. I’ve got to be in the greatest shape for the next few months. And I would like to be a better listener—that’s something I want to work on.”

Jake Shears appears in Kinky Boots on Broadway from January 8 to April 1. Boys Keep Swinging is out February 20 on Atria Books.

Lawrence is a New York-based travel and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Time Out New York and The New York Post.
@LawrenceFerber