The one thing I have always loved about NYC is the music scene. As a matter of fact, the reason I started blogging about ten years ago was to highlight musicians I met around the city. Brett Gleason happens to be one of the first people I interviewed. Since then he’s become a great friend and I’ve seen him perform numerous times over the years.
The thing I’ve always loved about Brett is that his music is truly an extension of who he is. When I first heard him, it was very unique to me because I was going through a mostly pop and R&B phase. His lyrics were and are like poetry, but not the everyday kind, they remind me of deep literature class poems.
Besides being a wonderful musician, Brett is also a very vocal advocate for the LGBTQ community (He’s written for HuffPost) and he advocates for mental health. As you’ll read, it is very inspiring that a boy who was mostly shy as a child because of a speech impediment became such an advocate and performer.
Getting a chance to interview Brett is always a treat and a pleasure. He’s got so much going on, like adding a band to his performances, changing up his sound a little, AND this amazing Patreon community he is building (if you aren’t part of it yet, you will want to join to keep up with him). I invite you to join our conversation to learn more about him, make sure you follow him on social media, and reach out to say HI to him (and to me too). Check out his videos for Expiration Date and Alive at the end.
Q: For those who don’t know all about you, tell us a little about Brett Gleason’s beginnings and Brett growing up. Was music always a part of your life?
Brett Gleason: Hey Tommy, thanks for asking. I’ve always played music but the role it played in my life has varied – as a kid, piano lessons started as just one of my many activities, my main one being gymnastics. As I grew into my teens I was a seriously competitive gymnast but as I developed emotionally and dealt with injuries, I took to music more personally and started listening to Tori Amos and the Smashing Pumpkins and realized music was something really important to me and was going to be my life’s path and I started writing songs.
Q: I’ve known you for a long time and I’ve always said your lyrics are very intellectual, kind of like musical literature. Will we ever hear a pop song from Brett?
Brett Gleason: To be honest, I think that my music isn’t too far from pop, especially my new songs, which I guess are still to be heard by most. My sounds are more rock, or even folk sometimes but my structures are getting more simple as I’m trying really hard to get my message across. I used to write more complex songs but I think I was just hiding, or even showing off. I’m using more simple song structures now which is kind of what pop is. It’s not obvious mainstream but it’s simple & heartfelt.
Q: How many instruments do you play? And did they all come naturally to you?
Brett Gleason: The piano is my main instrument but I’m also a fairly accomplished guitar player, a proficient bassist, and an intermediate ukulele player. NONE of them came naturally to me, it was all work. Most people think musicians were just born with ‘talent’ and it may be easier for some but it’s been a long journey, I’ve been playing for 25 years and I still have a lot of limitations but our limitations are what we work around and that’s how ‘style’ is born.
Q: The definition of Indie Artists has become a bit misunderstood by many. What does it mean to you to be an Indie Artist?
Brett Gleason: The phrase ‘indie’ has been co-opted by corporations to mean ‘rock’ music these days so now I say DIY. If you’re on a label, have funding, you’re not ‘indie’. I know there are ‘indie’ labels but some of them are pretty damn big. I’m DIY. I do it myself with the support of my fans. They support me financially and emotionally and I make the decisions that I think are best for the music & them. It’s a really slow process but I’m thinking big picture. A label could help me blow up fast but they’d own everything and could quickly abandon me if things go wrong, take all my music and leave me with all the debt.
Q: You recently added a band to the Brett Gleason experience. How did this come about?
Brett Gleason: My recordings have always had a ‘band’ but as a multi-instrumentalist, I played most of the instruments which has been tricky to pull off live. I don’t play drums so I’ve always had a great relationship with my drummer and often play live together but it hasn’t been financially feasible to consistently hire a full band. However, I’m stepping things up this year and now that I have some consistent support through my Patreon and new music that really calls for a special sound, I think it’s finally worth it.
Q: You have said that you had a solitary childhood because of a speech impediment. How did you overcome that and what/who helped you to get through/past it?
Brett Gleason: Kids are amazingly resilient and I was so young that I just rolled with it. My parents were smart and kept me busy, they put me in gymnastics, music lessons, lots of individual things that I could do alone to build up my confidence. I had speech therapy, worked on creative writing – it definitely affected me socially but that’s where art comes in.
Q: You have been so open about your own struggles and mental health. What advice can you offer to those who are struggling and especially to those struggling in silence?
Brett Gleason: Open up to someone. And if they don’t listen, open up to someone else. The sooner the better. I waited way too long until I was in crisis because I didn’t think it was serious enough but it usually doesn’t get better until it gets worse and there are so many resources out there but you can’t access them alone, especially as a kid. I needed help when I was 13 but I didn’t get it until I was 19 and then I had to drop out of college and get hospitalized but still, at least I did that then.
Q: There’s new music coming! Tell us a bit about it. Will these songs reflect the changes like the band and the work you’ve been doing on you?
Brett Gleason: Thanks for asking! I have a new single coming out on June 7th called, ‘The Strong & The Silent’ that will kick off a new sound for me. It’s about a proud man who uses his strength as a shield against vulnerability…
Q: What’s one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?
Brett Gleason: I really can’t live without coffee but I wish I could. This sounds very idealistic but I wish the world could live without borders dividing and defining us.
Q: You’ve also been vocal and open about your sexuality. What does it mean to be an out artist, especially in today’s climate?
Brett Gleason: I really don’t know anymore…I’m very open about being gay and bipolar as I like to be transparent and give my music context but I don’t call myself an out artist anymore because my music doesn’t really vibe with the ‘gay music community’ very much and as a cis-white gay man, music mags that focus on queer content aren’t interested in posting about what I do so its kind of pointless to promote myself as such. I just like sharing who I am, looking for nothing in return other than connecting with other people.
Q: What would you tell your younger self about being gay and what would you say to the young people who are having a hard time that is being made worse by all of the political stress going on now?
Brett Gleason: I would say to my younger self that being gay is like the 3rd or 4th thing that defines you. I spent much of my 20’s trying to find where in the gay scene I fit in and it tortured me because I never felt like I belonged. Now I spend my time in the music community specifically and meet lots of cool gay musicians and non-gay musicians who really don’t care whether I’m gay or not.
To young people stressed out by the political times happening now, I really don’t know what to say other than to tell them they really need to educate themselves on the last 5 decades of gay struggles to see the overall arc of progress and to see that people have been fighting hard for their rights and that there is always a push and pull. There will be more progress, things have been worse and things will be better. But you need to educate yourself, be grateful for those who came before you and advocate for your future.
Q: You have been using Patreon to connect with your fans. What has that been like and what can people expect when they join you there?
Brett Gleason: Patreon is the future of music. It’s a fan club for artists to connect with their fans. It’s a semi-private site/app where I post all my work in progress and more personal, substantive blogs that I wouldn’t put publicly online. In return, my fans choose a monthly amount to support me with, anywhere from $1 to $100/month. This has changed my life – allowed to consistently create new music, explore new sounds, work in a proper studio and hire a band, mostly from small donations. It has also helped me connect with people who really care about my work as opposed to people who just click ‘like’ on my photos but never listen to or support my work. It’s deeply changed how I view myself as an artist in the most profound ways. I highly recommend checking it out, there’s no contract or anything.
Q: Where else can people find you and your music online?
Brett Gleason: Google me! I use social media a lot and would be grateful if you’d follow my Spotify for when my new music comes out.
Q: What’s up next for Brett Gleason?
Brett Gleason: The ‘The Strong & The Silent’ comes out on June 7th, I’m doing a release show in NYC on June 20th at Berlin and then a Northeast tour in August. I’ll be following that up with another single in the Fall then a new album in 2020. Hit me up, shoot me an email. Say hi! Thanks Tommy, love you!