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Be real to make it big

Speaking from experience as singers and songwriters, New York-based out and proud gay musicians Nick Deutsch and Chris Blacker recommend for up and coming artists to be real if they want to make it big. As Deutsch says, “People respect honesty. People will know when you’re fake.”

This is part of the author’s LGBTQIA encounters in New York City (and beyond), where he works with The Brooklyn Community Pride Center (BCPC) as a State Department Fellow/Community Solutions Leader of the Community Solutions Program (CSP), a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State, and implemented by IREX.

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Artists should be themselves if they want to make it big. That – in not so many words – is the lesson shared by two openly gay indie singers/songwriters to budding artists who want to break into the music industry, considering the continuing changing climate for LGBTQIA people, here at The Brooklyn Community Pride Center (BCPC) in New York.

There have always been LGBTQIA artists, of course, including the likes of Elton John, Village People, Sylvester, Tom Robinson, Boy George, Indigo Girls, kd lang, Dead or Alive, Queen, David Bowie, Little Richard, Marc Almond, Culture Club, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and Pet Shop Boys. It helps, too, that LGBTQIA community allies – including Cher, Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Christina Aguilera, P!NK, Adele, Lady Gaga – continue to openly profess not only their support of the LGBTQIA community, but how some of their songs were inspired by LGBTQIA people.

But – as is usual in entertainment, the umbrella industry where the music industry belongs to – trying to make it big remains prohibitive.

No wonder the need to use codes to hide LGBTQIA-related messages (e.g. “Relax” of Frankie Goes to Hollywood was actually about gay sex, but had to be promoted as a “motivational songs”); and the need of members of the LGBTQIA community to hide for years, else jeopardize their shot at fame (e.g. George Michael).

“It’s really changed within… the past 10 years,” Nick Deutsch, 27 year old singer/songwriter, said. “We’ve seen tremendous gains in terms of the music industry being really supportive (of LGBT artists, including) Adam Lambert, Sam Smith…”

For Deutsch, when speaking of the entertainment industry as a whole, “I think music is different than acting. I think they (i.e. actors) kind of get a lot of crap,” he said. “But everybody loves music so much that if you’re making good music, it doesn’t really matter (if you’re LGBTQIA).”

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Deutsch – who was born on December 8, 1986 – is a New York based singer/songwriter who originated in Wilmette, Illinois. He started singing when he was 10 years old, eventually beginning to write songs in his early teens. While at the New York University, he met Tina Shafer, CEO of the New York Songwriter’s Circle (she worked with Avril Lavigne, Taylor Swift, Vanessa Carlton, Gavin Degraw, and Norah Jones), who helped him to book shows at CBGB’s, The Bitter End, Rockwood Music Hall, Café Vivaldi, Ella Lounge; and work with producer Joey Auch. Deutsch already shared the stage with more established singers/songwriters like Ian Axle (Great Big World) and Jillette Johnson, as well as recorded with American Idol finalist Marissa Pontecorvo. His album, “Crazy Ride”, gave him nominations for Best Pop Male Vocal (2013 IMEA Awards), and The Great American Song (2013 POP Category). He was also the recipient of a 2011 Philadelphia Songwriter’s Project Award, 2011 New York Songwriter’s Circle, 2014 American Songwriting Award, and his lyrics (Crazy Ride) have won nominations and been printed in the nationally published American Songwriter Magazine (May 2014). He was featured in Pop Vulture Magazine.

Chris Blacker, who has been performing professionally for 10 years now, agrees with Deutsch

“It’s gotten so much easier,” Blacker says. He acknowledges, however, of the privilege that goes with working at least in New York City. “We’re very fortunate to live in such a diverse city. But I know there are parts of the country where it’s harder (for LGBTQIA artists), definitely.”

Blacker, who moved to New York City in 2010, has worked at – among others – Studio 54 Theater on Broadway, The Laurie Beechman Theater, The Broaway Comedy Club, and the Duplex. He appears with Chicago City Limits, and he performs every Tuesday at Uncle Charlie’s Midtown. In Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, he’s performed at Rockwood Music Hall, the Living Room, Caffe Vivaldi, and Spike Hill. He was a 2006 recipient of the ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composer awards. He released an EP called “The Storm and The Seed” in 2013, and is currently writing his first full-length album of original songs.

BCPC provides support and services to the LGBTQIA community of Brooklyn, alone or in partnership with other organizations, with the center’s services including legal clinics, financial planning forums, peer support services, and social events.

Deutsch and Blacker participated in BCPC’s Intergenerational Pride, a once-a-week gathering of elder (LGBTQIA people aged 65 and over) and younger LGBTQIA people, which Deutsch said “is always a welcome move – to give back to your community.”

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Blacker’s music may be classified as chamber pop, “and it’s not super mainstream, but people connect with it,” he said.

Blacker believes that LGBTQIA musicians should “keep at it. Keep at everything. Keep working at your craft. It’s something you do because you have to do it. If you need it, you will keep doing it. and if you keep doing it, things will come to you.”

“In general, there’s so much positive stuff that makes me keep going,” said Deutsch, who classifies himself an “indie pop singer/songwriter”, pulling inspiration from country music. “(I draw my inspiration from) life. The thing I love about songwriting is that you have to live in order to write. If I’m not inspired it makes me feel I need to have an inspiration – it can be as simple as hanging out with friends… you can pull (inspiration) from everywhere.”

And in the end, “definitely just to be yourself. People respect honesty. People will know when you’re fake. That’s what you expect from artists,” Deutsch said, adding that “you don’t have to please everybody. Ultimately, we listen to music we like because those artists (who gave the music) are being themselves. If people give them crap, they just brush it off.”

For more information on The Brooklyn Community Pride Center, visit http://www.lgbtbrooklyn.org/.
For more information on Nick Deutsch, visit http://www.nickdeutschmusic.com/.
For more information on Chris Blacker, visit http://chrisblacker.com/.

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