A young man comes out to less-than-accepting circumstances and is rejected by his family. We’ve heard coming out stories like this before, but they never lose their emotional impact.
Take Jonathan Allen, for example.
Allen came out to his conservative parents and was kicked out of their home but, thankfully for us, he’s since persevered with one of his natural gifts intact – his voice. Allen was a semi-finalist this past summer on NBC’s competition series America’s Got Talent where he shared his story and blew away the judges – Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Mel B and Howie Mandel – with not only his commanding voice but also his self-effacing wit and natural charm.
As Allen now embarks on a solo singing career, TheBacklot caught up with him to talk about his journey thus far, his Los Angeles show this week and, most importantly, if he’s heard from his family since sharing his story – and his voice – with the world.
Tell us a little bit about the decision to go on the show and also be really open about your story and being gay and your background and everything. Was it a big decision?
Jonathan Allen: I don’t think it was a very big decision to out myself on TV. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I just felt like I had to. I had to get my story out there just because there are so many other kids, so many other people that have had the same similar story that I have and need to hear that. To hear that they’re not alone, and they’re not the only ones that are going through what they’re going through. So it’s cool why I did it. My boyfriend, he was definitely a factor in that as well. He told me I should definitely audition, and so I did that.
Tell usa little bit about your boyfriend.
Well, we have been together a total of about two years, but officially, I guess, a year and a half. It’s fairly new, not like we’ve been together for like 10 years.
Some would say in gay years a year and a half is like 10 years!
[laughs] Isn’t that the truth?
Allen performing on America’s Got Talent earlier this year.
How have you adjusted to living in Los Angeles?
It’s a lot different than Albuquerque or Nashville. That’s for sure. It seems a lot more open-minded. It wasn’t very much of a culture shock for me like it would be to someone else, I don’t guess, but I really love it here. It’s just a great place. I can be my total self, and it’s pretty great.
When did opera come into your life?
I have always been a fan of classical music and opera. I just love to listen to Pavarotti or Renee Fleming and just sitting in my room listening to it. I always thought I would be good at it so I had this opportunity to attend the Tennessee Governor’s School For The Arts, where they just teach classical music, classical voice. And I was not ready for that. I came prepared with a Josh Groban piece, even though that’s not classical. So I come in unprepared for it, which opened my eyes to new music, and that’s where I kind of got hooked on classical music and opera.
Since Josh Groban’s name has come up as far as comparisons for you, is he somebody you’ve modeled yourself after or is it just more of a coincidence?
Early on when I first started singing I would try to imitate Josh Groban a little bit. From there it was just like my voice started to become even bigger. Something classical, not pop like Josh Groban. Something more heavy like Andrea Bocelli. But I’ve always listened to Josh Groban and still love his music today.
What is your career trajectory now? I know you have a show here in LA…
I’m definitely booking gigs around LA. I have a Christmas show coming up at Rockwell on December 18th.
What will your show be? Is it focusing mostly on traditional Christmas music or are you going to throw some other things in there?
There are some things that people may recognize from the show, and some great Christmas songs like “O Holy Night” and some of my personal favorites. So it should be a good show. It should be a good mix of everything.
Do you have to kind of tailor your voice for each venue that you do? The Rockwell is not the size of, say, Radio City Music Hall.
I just go in and do my thing. I really haven’t been at a venue where I have to completely change my voice or lower it any time. So I just still go on and sing, you know, do my thing.
Talk to me a little bit about the YouTube experience because I know that’s definitely helped spread the word on you.
The clips from [America’s Got Talent] are definitely on YouTube, and I have read some of the comments. I’ve been told, ‘Never look yourself up,’ or ‘Never look at the comments that people say.’ I’m trying to keep myself from doing that, but I’ve heard nothing but real good, positive things from people.
Has there been any contact with your family at all just since you’ve been on television and this has happened? Any contact at all?
Well, my parents haven’t reached out to me yet, but my grandparents and several other aunts and uncles have reached out to me and stuff. So that in itself is pretty great.
You’re also working with some charities, right?
Tell me about the Personal Stories Project.
The Personal Stories Project, it’s a social media-based organization and it’s pretty much the power of how our sharing stories and all that can impact people’s lives. And so we’re about to launch that, and we’re excited about it.
How do people find out about that?
There’s a Facebook page now and it should be on the Web very shortly. So we’re really excited about it.